How to Change Your Language—and Mindset—To Find Productive Outcomes

“I’ve told her to complete this task a million times . . . why hasn’t she done it yet?!” As a manufacturing leader, have you ever asked yourself a question like this? On the floor, all leaders experience communication issues from time to time, and it’s all too easy to blame the team member who doesn’t seem to hear a single word you say!

But could you and your language be the problem? The language of leaders was the topic of my recent Mindfulness Manufacturing podcast with guest Phil M. Jones! As the bestselling author of Exactly What To Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact, Phil is the expert on improving language, and offered some great tips leaders can use to find the fuel for productive conversations with their team.

Tip #1: Focus on Clarity, Not Answers

As a leader, you probably get asked a ton of questions on a daily basis—and of course, you want to provide the right answers! But instead of focusing solely on finding an answer, shift your mindset to include clarity. Instead of rushing to provide the first answer that comes to mind, sit with the question and think about how to answer in a way that will actually help the other person understand. Oftentimes, the person asking the question may already have an idea for a solution, but they need more clarity or a bit more explanation before they can really get the job done.

Tip #2: “Help Me Understand . . .”

When you have a team member who keeps putting off an important task, your first instinct might be to get defensive. But instead of asking them why they haven’t done it, change your language to include phrases like “help me understand . . .” For example, imagine a team member hasn’t completed a safety check. Instead of jumping to “why haven’t you done this safety check?” consider phrase like “help me understand why it’s so important for us to complete these safety check.” This allows you—and your team member—to approach the issue from a more conversational direction, and will help you find solutions without creating conflict.

Tip #3: Find the Context

Before you add more content to someone’s day, find their context! When you’re trying to give someone directions or get them to do something on the manufacturing floor, it’s important to understand their situation and mindset first. To find a team member’s context, ask open-ended questions starting with phrases such as “when was the last time . . .” or “how do you think that made us feel . . .” By understanding someone’s context, you can find a way to get right to the solution without adding unnecessary noise to the conversation.

Tip #4: What You Want to Say Vs. What They Need to Hear

When you go into a conversation, your focus is probably on what you want to say. You might want to get straight to your point, and might not put much thought into what the other person needs to hear to understand or feel motivated to complete the task. To get more productive conversations, spend some time thinking about what the other person needs to hear. Then, tailor your language to really help them understand and come to a solution.

Learn More on the Podcast

To learn more about using “magic words” to create meaningful and productive conversations on the manufacturing floor, don’t forget to listen to my podcast with Phil M. Jones! You can find his episode of Mindfulness Manufacturing here.