How well do you watch your language? Does it give away the inner view of your self-worth? Is it indicative of your current station or already reflect the next level you are shooting for?
Watch your language (Audio)
Do you “wear your heart on your sleeve”? Does your language reflect that? Is your language a reflection of “what’s going on inside? Or are you in control of always “masking it”? How well do you “watch your language”? Do you sometimes regret having said something? Or does that perhaps happen quite often? Are you aware how much your internal and external language influences your outcomes? How well does your language allow others around you to see “where you are at”?
I have learned that apart from what we eat, (and who we hang out with), we are what we think and speak. I’m sure we can all remember a parent or teacher having chastised us and used that phrase: “watch you language boy….” usually in the context of having used foul or colourful or inappropriate language, right?
Whilst we could have a long conversation about whether and when profanity is acceptable, that language connotation is not what I wanted to talk about today. I recently experienced similar situations with a few clients that highlighted for me how much the language we use can be an indication of how we really see ourselves; an outer indication of an inner view of our self-worth and how much of a bearing it can also have on how we are perceived.
One of these clients had grown from a GM into a vice president role in the two years since the completion of our last coaching program and we were now working on a new program looking at positioning him for putting his hat into the ring for a president’s role in his organization in the next few years. After a while in our first conversation I noticed how much his approach and his language was “operational” and focused on delivery and deliverables, and KPI’s – all with an immediacy, rather than a longer term big picture development and growth or leadership orientation.
Also, we noticed that it was “second in command “language. That he was doing the Managing Up thing really well in making his boss look good however too often speaking about “recommending” and “assisting” the boss get the required outcomes rather than driving things himself. Going back to his pre-coaching questionnaire, we both realized how much he had been using this kind of “assisting” or “helping” type language back then already. That gave us both a great signpost that there was a pattern playing out here that required some work. We challenged whether he might not still be harbouring some personal “self worth” obstacles?
What’s your language?
So if I asked you to reflect on your “leadership” language at work in and around your bosses, customers, peers and subordinates for a while (which I am) what conclusion might you come to? Would your language signpost your “taking leadership” and driving the required outcomes? Would it be indicative of you having taken or being in control? Would it have others acknowledge your “big picture” thinking and your vision of where you are known to want to be driving towards, personally, for your department or division or company? Does your language reflect that you have the right attitude and behaviour to “make that happen” for you? Or are you still overly caught up in “the details” and the operational aspects of what you have been doing in your last few roles and are perhaps still overly doing now?
Bring and fetch
In one of my first few blogs I asked the question: Are you a “fetch” person?. Think about your attitude towards your career and ask yourself whether you are doing the right things to “fetch” what you expect from your career, or whether you might have become a little complacent, perhaps expecting or depending too much on your boss or the organization “bringing” the next opportunities to you?
I have learned that leadership has to be taken. Whilst a role might designate you into a leadership position and confer certain responsibilities, leading doesn’t just happen – you need to make it happen, don’t you? That’s right, it has to be taken and made to happen.
Making yourself eligible
So how well are you (and your results) positioning your ability and growth and visibility and placing yourself in the right light and into the right circles for your next role? In my last blog Putting yourself first I spoke of the success pyramid which was built on Discipline helping you to form Habits around doing the many little things right that most successful people know how to and how that generated confidence “that came out of your eyes” and ultimately resulted in presence, remember?
Well it is this Presence that I believe is also manifest in the language you speak and are acknowledged for. Real leaders just seem to “have” this kind of presence I’m talking about, don’t they? And in the blog of that name I suggest that it is something we can develop.
How? Of course a solid track record of consistently delivering top results will be a pre-requisite for such eligibility. This and the previous article’s focus is a very important part of that. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any “wrecks” along the way, provided we are acknowledged from having learned the right lessons from them. I have yet to find a successful career where there wasn’t at least one significant “smash” and usually people are grateful that they had the opportunity for that learning.
My client and I agreed that if those in his organization that would need to agree that he was ready for a president’s role (as in become one of them), he would have to be seen by them to be “ready”.
How? By displaying that he is “independently” capable of thinking, strategizing, orchestrating, leading, acting, presenting, negotiating, influencing, marketing, promoting at the level expected by such senior leadership roles. Apart from his results, that his language would form an important part of that realization (for him and for them).
Speak it into existence
Our language, particularly our internal language plays such a vital role in our belief in ourselves and who we are. If our internal language is negative and derogatory of ourselves, I believe that it is quite hard to consistently “fake” a different picture on the outside by trying to mask that by our external language. It is exhausting and I’m sure you will agree with me that it isn’t sustainable, right? We can’t live our life living and speaking a lie. The truth will always set you free.
And so if our objective is to make ourselves eligible for promotion into the next level, our external language needs to reflect our internal language and both need to be positive, supportive and indicative of our confidence and our belief in ourselves and our ability. That is the first level necessary for our “presence”. And as I said in Self Talk, this can and needs to be spoken into existence.
Speak as if it already were
The next level then is to be acknowledged for speaking a “business” or “leadership” language that is indicative of your firm and confident grasp of the senior business leadership domain. This necessitates comfortably talking in financial, economic, trade, supply-chain, sales, political and market language as well as the more internal management, audit, policy, people and resource development language.
I don’t know how anyone that doesn’t believe that “leaders are readers” can confidently develop such language. I don’t see that coming from an MBA for example. I see that coming from an innate curiosity and lots of reading and solid networking exposure to lots of people already competent and already successful in those areas. I see it coming from finding and pursuing the right mentors and being introduced to the caliber of people we want to emulate.
As an experienced executive and now executive coach my clients and I work through a bunch of additional strategies and tactics including the right levels of internal networking and politics which I won’t go into here.
So let’s go back to where we started with this blog. I asked how well does your language allow others around you to see “where you are at”? Are you speaking in a language that indicates your preparation or your preparedness for being where you want to be? Or does it still overly indicate where you have been for a while? What are you doing to change that (assuming you are wanting to grow)?
What if you were to spend the coming week “watching your language” and perhaps having some people you know well and trust helping you with some feedback, so that at the end of the week you might have a reasonably good picture of where you are at with this compared to what would be your preferred expectation or intent?
What if it highlighted for you that you still had some way to go? What if that had you figure out a plan on what you needed to do to get yourself there? What if you mapped out a plan for the rest of this year so that you could confidently put yourself on that path to get you where you deserve to be?
What if you could?