These are the Right Words to Lead and Motivate Team Members


The right words can make a big difference in terms of how your team members perceive themselves and the organization. You want team members to stay engaged and productive. You also want everyone in the organization to stay mindful of the continued economic challenge. In addition to selecting the right words, you can make an impact by improving your perceived friendliness. 

In his analysis of organizational language, Peter A. Arthur-​Smith pinpoints the differences between what great managers and leaders say. The best organizations possess at least a few people operating in these vastly different roles.


Leaders provide the vision and energy to develop ideas and organizations to their full potential. They also interact convincingly with outsiders who want good news about the return on the money they’ve invested. Typically, leaders don’t worry about costs.

Leaders must also communicate effectively with key customers and business partners. It’s their job to dream without limits. When they present during companywide meetings, charismatic leaders can energize their employees by articulating corporate values and the commitment to building the best product or service. They’ll also challenge their team members to work hard to make the vision a reality.

Leaders use specific language that translates to positive action. They ask, “Where do they [my people] need to be coached and mentored?” Effective leaders also work on their ability to charm people. Whether leaders are in a one-​to-​one or one-​to-​many situation, they can improve their impact by increasing their charm factor. 

The disheartening events of 2020 could cause even the most committed leader to feel overwhelmed. Instead of withdrawing, you need to step up to the challenge and smile during your interactions with others. Research shows that people judge others on the friendliness of their facial expressions. Folks who smile come across as more successful and trustworthy than those who don’t. They are liked by other staff members. In addition, employees who are liked also get more support from co-​workers when they introduce new programs or changes.


Showing their friendly side can also improve outcomes for managers. They, too, work to convince others to take action in an organization. But instead of leading and setting vision, managers implement processes to ensure success on a day-​to-​day basis.

Arthur-​Smith points out that organizations can have either a leader or a manager-​orientated culture. In a management-​oriented culture, senior leaders focus on operations. They keep costs down and they grow through acquisition. The ‘inside-​out’ perspective in these organizations is often about control, limitations, and maintaining the status quo. When a professional uses the term headcount, Arthur-​Smith advised that you’re likely working with a company that is locked into last-​century language and perhaps antiquated thinking.

The Right Words

Leader-​oriented organizations often focus on developing new solutions and build a culture dedicated to exploration and growth. These are ‘outside-​in’ organizations, say Arthur-​Smith, because they focus on what ‘customers and investors’ will appreciate. The best organizations find a balance between these two orientations and their leaders and managers use the right words at the right time.

If you haven’t thought about how you communicate to your team members, now is a good time to start. If your team is working primarily from remote locations, your communication style and word choice is more important than ever before. Think about your word choice and whether you are emphasizing a growth or a status-​quo mentality. And remember to appear friendly and approachable.