The Power of a Word
I recently reconnected with a friend and mentor, Greg Hiebert, who also happens to be an executive performance coach and the author of You Can't Give What You Don't Have: Creating the Seven Habits That Make a Remarkable Life. Greg is a wholly-realized human, who is both a high achiever (West Point undergrad; Harvard MBA; former McKinsey consultant ... you get the picture), as well as a generous and kind individual. In a conversation with Greg, you feel as if he is truly present and interested in what you have to say, and that is a gift in and of itself. I reminded Greg of a word he shared with me a couple of years ago that has made a big difference in my life, and dare I say in the lives of those close to me, both personally and professionally: that word is CLARITY.
At the time Greg shared this with me, my boss and I were not seeing eye-to-eye. In fact, it had been a long and frustrating two years for both of us. We were from different generations, different cultures and educational backgrounds...and we were worlds apart in our dispositions, as well as in our personal philosophies. This conversation with Greg took place on a starry fall evening by a campfire at a company retreat at a ranch in the North Texas Hill Country.
He asked, "What do you think the problem is between you and her?
I immediately replied, "I think it's a lack of trust."
Greg said, "I don't think so. I believe it's a lack of clarity."
That was unexpected food for thought. The emotional baggage that comes with a lack of trust is fraught with peril, but a lack of clarity is a surmountable obstacle...an opportunity even. I went straight to work on my effort around providing clarity. As a communication professional, I thought I'd had that in spades, but upon closer examination, I could see the gaps; so I got to work on closing those gaps. A former colleague shared with me his definition of communication as, "a shared understanding;" I love that. I took stock and saw where I had taken understanding for granted with my boss, and then I made an extra effort to understand her, as well as an extra effort to be understood.
It worked! Our professional relationship steadily improved; with that improvement came the trust that had eluded us, and we knitted together a personal relationship of mutual trust and admiration as well. As it turned out, Greg's "clarity" salvaged our relationship just in time. Sadly, my boss passed away the following summer. I will be forever grateful to have been able to work with her, and to part with her, on good terms.
Whether you speak the average number of 15,000 words per day, or more or less, remember to be intentional with them. Your words are powerful. And if you're not sure what the one word is that will make a difference today, try clarity on for size. Or the big kahuna of them all: Love.