Magic and Motivation: remembering that words have power

20 Feb 2019

Our MD’s latest article had just been published  in the latest issue of Business Direction.

In it he explores the effect certain words can have on your team and how you can use these “magic” words to better manage and motivate your team.

Click (or scroll down) to have a read.

This post also appears in the latest issues of Business Intelligence and Business Comment.

Just finished reading “Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage, and Influence” by Tim David and it really got me thinking about how much impact my actual words have on the people around me.

Tim David’s basic argument is that the words you choose to use and the way you structure your sentences can make a huge impact on the responses you are going to get out of the people around you.

He says there are certain key “magic words” that, when used correctly, will not only make you a generally better communicator, but will actually help you motivate your team more effectively.

“Magic words motivate others, and thus make you a more effective communicator.”

The key word here being “motivate” – not force. He isn’t arguing that you can trick or force people to do what you tell them. But rather using words to make them really think about what you’re asking, giving them agency in the decisions, and making them feel more included.

I’m going to go through a couple of Tim’s magic words and then talk a little about one that isn’t in his book, but that I’ve found has the same effect.

Ask questions that people can answer “yes” to

When you are asking an employee to do something for you, maybe it’s asking for their help on a project or directing them to tidy their workspace before a client visit.

Instead of telling them to do it: “I’m going to have you pick up this work” or “Clean your desk, we’ve got a guest today”

Try asking them a question that they can say “yes” to:  “Would you mind helping me on this project?” or “Do you have time to give your desk a quick tidy?”

They may say no, but instead of your request being an order to be followed, it’ll be a job they’ve agreed to pick up.

This will motivate them because you’ve given them the opportunity to really take ownership of the task.

(The same works with kids, by the way, done that for years with ours.)

The reasons behind “because”

Along the same lines as asking instead of telling, David writes about how giving someone a reason for what you’re doing will motivate them better than simply doing it.

“…you can’t force someone to feel motivated. They have to find that motivation on their own.”

And that’s not just for you, getting people to tell you their reason behind what they’re doing or why it is or isn’t working gives you information, but also gives them a motivator of their own. It may be something they can be proud of or it might be a focus that they can use to improve their work.

So for example, you might need to take a project off their desk. Instead of saying “I’m giving this project to so-and-so” you’ll get a better response if you say “I’m giving this project to so-and-so, because they’ve got some free time today to look at it.”

You aren’t asking permission, but you are telling them that all important WHY. It will also stop them wondering if they’ve done something wrong.

A word of my own

The book goes on to discuss other “magic” words, like “help” and “thanks”–all of which can have an important impact on motivating and encouraging people.

But I’d like to add a magic word of my own…actually, it’s more of a phrase…and that is “what do you think?”.

Asking people for their opinion on something and actually listening to it is a great way to motivate someone.

It gives people a sense of ownership in their work and, at least in my experience, gives you an insight into how they’re feeling, how their department is doing, and might give you a better idea than what you came up with! (That’s the benefit of hiring great people.)

The point of this article (and David’s book) is that the way you communicate matters, from your body language to the word choices you make. You can make people feel like a valued team member or an unimportant cog depending on how you speak to them.

Remember that the next time you are giving someone a bit of a crap job to do.


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