Choose Your Words Carefully.


As the leader of sales within a company, you often endure a daily beating. Hero or zero. I’m either on top of the world for good numbers or being treated like revolting fungus if numbers decline.

It’s a battle I’m used to being in and have built a callous-of-sorts against. But I’m still a human.

So, after a series of lower sales weeks (completely predictable for this time of year), I began to diminish my own feelings of success and value. While logically I knew I was doing the right things, the daily/weekly questioning began to take its toll.

After seeing the sales numbers this week (which are coming in exactly as I predicted), a fellow non-sales colleague replied to my email: “Good to see the numbers move. Let’s keep it rolling”.

Yes, because that kind of statement is helpful and motivating.

My sarcasm is intentional because that type of statement is better left unsaid. It’s almost patronizing, really. Obviously, the goal is to always keep sales “rolling”.

As I sat in irritation of what I viewed as an annoying comment by someone who clearly knows nothing about motivating sales efforts, I realized how often we can do that to our own teams (sales or otherwise) and those around us.

Back in my naive management days, I painfully wince at the ways I chose to recognize my sales teams. We think recognition alone is the formula because we’re told it works. So, we obnoxiously chirp: “Good job! High Five! Keep it up! Woo!”

We are creatures who crave attention, recognition and acceptance. We’re a culture that’s starving for spotlight, validity, and kudos. Look at every TV station. Look at your FB feed: “Hey, look at me, look at what I did, look at this person I know and the awesome thing they did!” Look at your Twitter: “Hey, I just re-tweeted some nice thing someone tweeted at me so I can show it to you all!”

Look. At. Me.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting recognition, but the lengths I see people go in order to achieve it highlight just how famished we are of words that make us feel validated.

Because we don’t get enough. Because the recognition we got wasn’t wholesome, helpful, or genuine. Because we long to feel worthy.

So rather than a “Let’s keep it rolling”, think about the opportunity you have to impact a co-worker, a direct report, a friend, even a significant other.

The power we have to make a monumental difference with just a bit more effort and care with our words and interaction is a responsibility we can choose.

“I’ve noticed the momentum the sales team has been gaining…I know you’ve been working hard for that. If somehow I can support, lemme know. Send your team my congrats.”

How different does that feel?

Instead of telling your top salesperson “Hey, good job”, think of what the words “The way you have stepped up in your results this week is being noticed and is inspiring to others on the team. You’re making a difference here, and I want you to know I appreciate it” can do for them.

Because recognition that empowers isn’t:
Exclamation points
Feigned enthusiasm
Higher octave voices
A half-assed “Good job”

Re-evaluate what you define as “recognition” and look at the opportunities to express more meaning and ignite the spirit of those around you.

Think about the last time you interacted with your significant other when something exciting happened to them, “Good job, baby!” I’d almost rather receive no recognition than generic phrases that feel forced.
Instead: “This is a big deal, and it makes me so happy to be able to share it with you. You worked to deserve this, and I’m proud of you.”

This takes more effort, but the results and responses you get in kind are worth stepping back to lovingly formulate meaningful thoughts. The impact you will have on someone’s day or mental state can carry someone those extra miles and make them shine.

Next time, think about the words you use. Think about the power they have to condemn, to uplift, to crush, to inspire. Choose them carefully.

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  1. Jean – I love this article! And I couldn’t agree with you more on this topic. I’ve always been annoyed by those half-asses “good jobs” and it’s actually a huge pet peeve of mine.

    I can think of many occasions where I would have preferred a thoughtful, personalized approach as you mentioned above — and this is a great reminder to that myself when talking to colleagues, clients, friends, whoever…

  2. Hey Jean!

    This article is so great and reminds me of a time where after my quincenera (sweet 15) I had to write 200 thank you letters and well I just wrote the same thing in all of them “Thanks for coming to my party and for your great gift, it was awesome seeing you. Love Liz. SO many people were annoyed by it, especially family members who I’m very close with, and I didnt understand why. I figured they knew how special they were to me so why did I have to write a personalized card? But it really is those little things, and I think a common mistake is thinking people know how you feel about them. People arent mind readers and I am definitely learning more about needing some kind of personalization now that im working in this big corporate world where you can get lost in the crowd. I am now going to go call my grandma and tell her shes awesome 😉

    1. Liz, what I great example! I love this. We get used to being on autopilot and thinking the effort is enough. I used to bring back freebies when I’d travel, thinking people in my team would appreciate the sentiment. But because they ultimately were just a “freebie”, the intended thought came across patronizing. Now, instead of doing it more frequently, I only bring thoughtful things targeted to specific people on occasion. It’s amazing the things we don’t realize until we realize them. 😉 Thanks for your comment, and hope Grandma is well.

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