By guest contributor Bruce Hazen
We live in a word-based reality and psycholinguistics is the psychology of language – how we acquire, use, produce and comprehend the use of words. Try thinking about something for which you have no words. Trick – sorry. No one can do that. Conversely, if I give you a description and name for a complex and opportune economic situation, you’ll see the whole market reality differently for the rest of your life.
Sounds good, but here’s where it goes off the rails for leaders
Many over rely on words and come to believe in three naïve propositions:
- I’m articulate and well-educated, so when I use words, everyone will understand me and share that same meaning that I have for my words
- People will take actions based upon hearing my words
- The actions they take will be the ones I intended for them to take
….and we all live happily ever after
NOT. You’ve just experienced the promise and the disappointment of linguistic-based leadership.
In fact leadership is cognitive, emotional and behavioral. Clearly words are not the same as behaviors. How will you bring your leadership alive beyond the words you use? How can you use symbols, emotions and behaviors to make your leadership live in the people that only hear or see your words today?
Move your leadership beyond the naïve level of psycholinguistics:
- The goal of communicating is the creation of shared meaning. Use more dialogue with people to check for understanding. Speak with them, not to them. Survey people after a speech or presentation to see what they perceived about your message. Ask more questions.
- Defeat the knowing/doing disconnect by checking for fear of making mistakes or fear of misunderstanding your meaning (see a). If your reaction to mistakes is worse than your reaction to inaction, guess which one most (though not all) will choose. Fix that with open discussions about the learning that comes from mistakes more than the blame.
- You, as a leader, may know that there are circumstances that dictate a limited range of actions people can take. Or you, as owner of the company, may be willing to entertain only a certain range of actions be taken in response to a problem. Fine, be insightful enough to recognize that and communicate that early. Stop the guessing games.
These suggestions may appear logical, but they’re not easy. Ask for help as you begin to experiment with behaviors that get you beyond the Psycholinguistic Theory of Leadership.
Bruce Hazen is President of Three Questions Consulting. As a career and management consultant, Bruce combines business systems experience with clinical training and understanding to address the needs of individuals, in a range of different professions, who are managing other people, organizations, and their own career development. www.threequestionsconsulting.com
© 2013 Bruce Hazen – All rights reserved.