“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

– Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

At a recent Sunday at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, Reverend Adam Hamilton began his homily with the above quote from Robin Williams’ character John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society. Those words hit home, and not just because of the death of one of the best comics ever. The lesson behind his sermon was the power of words, and how we must use them to build others up rather than tear them down.

This lesson struck a cord with me, not only in the context of my spiritual life, but also in my professional life. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much our words will affect others — our clients and colleagues. Our language has the power to create a culture of positivity in the workplace and develop lasting, trustworthy relationships with clients. I believe that as the leaders of our organizations, it is our responsibility to use our words to build others up, rather than tear them down.

Building Up, Not Tearing Down

While financial fitness is important to employee engagement as we discussed in a previous post, having positive communication with colleagues is irreplaceable. Bill Sims, the author of Bill Sims Behavior Change, who has been helping companies improve human performance and profitability for 30 years, believes the best kinds of positive reinforcement for your company are FREE. In a recent interview about employee motivation, he remarked,

“The irony is, that the thing workers say they need the most, is the thing they receive the least—genuine positive reinforcement and feedback. The leaders who will excel in this decade are those who learn to leverage positive reinforcement as a strategic “game changer” for their business.”

As business leaders, we are constantly thinking of how to make our companies stronger. In the midst of economic, technological, and social change, it is crucial that we are proactive about evaluating our strategies to keep up with cultural changes. The trend towards positive reinforcement among colleagues is a change for the better, and I believe it is our duty to lead by example and build those around us up with kind, constructive words.

The Power of Words

Not only it is important to communicate positively with colleagues, but it is also vital to have positive communication with clients. A quality client-advisor relationship is based on valid, effective communication and trust. One of the most common reasons for clients dropping their advisors is due to ineffective, impersonalized communication. By taking the time to get to know our clients as individuals, it is easier to help them reach their goals and act in their best interest.

Michelle Mosher, a business development specialist, stresses the importance of talking with clients about life outside of the business setting. To improve client communication, she recommends,

“Take time to simply find out how things are going. Allow time for clients to ask questions and get to know them outside of ‘portfolio review time.”

Taking an interest in the client and using positive communication improves our client retention, satisfaction, and also leads to increased referrals. Our words are powerful when we use them honestly and thoughtfully to ensure we deliver on our promises.

Think Before Speaking

Rev. Hamilton repeated a quote throughout his homily (from Ephesians 4:29) that says,

“Let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building up as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”

We often catch ourselves speaking before we consciously consider how what we are going to say will affect others. Rev. Hamilton emphasized the importance of using our words to be intentional rather than thoughtless. Especially in a leadership position, it is imperative that we choose our words wisely and think before we speak.

After hearing his compelling message, I have begun to take time during my day to think about the words I am using and how they affect others. Whether it is within a business setting with colleagues and clients, or in daily life with family and friends, I believe we can all benefit from putting more thought behind our words.

What Do You Think?

What are other ways we can use our words to build people up? Join the conversation by tweeting @TwoWestAdvisors!