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How to Improve Your Imprint on 2020

Leaders long to make the right imprint on those they serve. Whether interacting with fellow employees, senior leaders, board members, or customers - the mark you make matters. The key here is a commitment to be of service to all. The best imprint is one that outlasts your tenure at your organization, and upholds your personal values, as well as those of the organization. Your imprint is driven by the words you choose. Could you choose more wisely in the coming year?

I had the privilege of coaching Mike Baxter and his healthcare leaders. At the time Mike was the CEO of Parkview Health Systems. One of Mike’s values was being of service and he exemplified this in his leadership style. Most notably, he comfortably spoke in terms of what he and his team “get” to do on a daily basis, as opposed to what they “had” to do. I heard him many times, in addressing both leaders and staff, framing his message around what he and his leaders had the privilege to or to share. For example, he might say, “We get to review our discharge process in order to ensure it is beneficial to our patients and clinician.” He lived his values as CEO in how he expressed himself and always led with how he and his team get to be of service to others; patients, staff, clinicians, the community…etc.

When staff and leaders constantly hear what they “have” to do they are less likely to feel ownership in a process or plan. Speaking in these terms is directive and oftentimes does not include why you requested an action. It can also lead to a victim mentality, as one feels the passive recipient of orders. It is counter-intuitive to feel that "having to do" something aligns with one’s values. Whereas, “getting” to do something because it aligns with values, and typically comes with an explanation of why is relatable. It is amazing how this simple change in words creates space for more positivity and commitment.

As we launch into 2020, consider the daily impact of your words, spoken and written. How might you adjust them, if even slightly? Everything you do and say represents your values, what you believe in, who you are. How often do you reflect on the impact your words have on others? How do you reconcile the impact of your words and your intent, and confirm that they align with your values? The contemplation of all of this typically occurs in a nano-second between a thought and the expression of that thought; verbally, texted, or written. 

Expand the nano-second.

The following exercise will help you assess your routine choice of words and how well they represent your values. Do they support being of service? This contemplation, and practicing better words, provides confidence that what comes out of your mouth, or keyboard meets your intention.

STEP 1: Read your last 2 texts, your last 2 emails and review your last 2 conversations (not just what you said, but the words you chose to say)

STEP 2: Note all words that may reflect a value

STEP 3: Identify the value(s) you were communicating

STEP 4: Choose better words – ones that align perfectly with your values

STEP 5: Weave these words into your day and practice

Communicating well is foundational to your daily impact. Choose your words wisely. Lead with why, connect to your values and those of your organization, and be crystal clear. The imprint you make will be the one you intended and will make a difference to those you serve.

Adapted from a section in my upcoming book, The Words We Choose.

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