Everyone hates a phony, so are you what you say you are?
Words are encapsulated vessels of emotion and fact. If the news wears you out each evening, then you know firsthand how feelings are generated by stringing together words in a message.
You can make sure your workplace is motivating and energizing by using words to develop a culture of authenticity and excellence. Start with this language audit:
- Spend time in a meeting and write down each adjective. This will give a true reflection of your company culture. Are they positive or negative? Fluffy or concrete? Accurate or hopeful? Scribble these words on flashcards or post-its.
Read through company materials and circle the words that are repeated.
- Put them on flashcards or post-its, too. After a couple of months of documenting your company’s lexicon,
Spread the flashcards or post-its on a table.
- Pour yourself a whiskey and start asking hard questions: “Do the verbs actually mirror what we do?” “Are we accurately describing ourselves?” “Could I be talking about a competitor?” Pull out the words that don’t work and put them to the side. Go back and look at the words that are left and
Ponder them the way you would a university linguistics class.
- Drill down on the meaning, and if relevant, the multiple definitions. Is the essence absolutely clear? For instance, when you say “disruptive,” — are you truly transforming industry or is that wishful thinking?
Watch out for hyperbole.
- If your language feels overstated, your promises will ring hollow. You’re also subconsciously teaching your employees that over-reach is okay.
Do the words in your pile that speak to vision or inspiration?
- Are these words markers of excellence? For instance, if your meetings generated words like “awesome” or “learn,” you’re probably on the right track. If on the other hand, the words are “trust me” or “should,” there might be a problem with credibility or motivation. “Should” is not the same as “are.”
Check for tone.
- Sound generic? Inclusive? Brusque?
Are you original, or clinging to buzzwords?
- (If I had a dollar for every time someone called themselves innovative or transparent…) And how does it make you substantive if you sound like every single other company? Besides, hiding behind marketing schtick obscures our souls. People prefer the real; they don’t want to buy from/interact with voids or droids (you know that to be true anytime you landed in voice mail hell).
Once you have performed an audit, write the authentic words you want to be, become or emulate in every place you can. Taglines, sure, but also use them in meetings, in messages or conversation.