Volume 55, October 2005: The World of Words

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2005 ISSN # 1545-8873

“One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.” — Voltaire

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” — Mother Teresa


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Polishing the art of conversational speaking.
  • Using a verbal style and voice that flatters your organization.
  • Speaking truth with passion and compassion.
  • Speaking to the listening of your followers.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

You are the voice of the company, as is true for all your associates. Since 85-93% of all communication is non-verbal, people are watching how you deliver messages. Do they hear conviction? Passion? Commitment? What are your hands saying? Your posture? Where are your eyes directed? What words do you choose to express yourself? Every leader needs feedback on their communication impact. Audiotape is good; video is powerful. But human perception is key. Ask for specific, behavioral feedback from someone whose truth you can trust. Request comments on the power of the words you choose, the rate at which you speak, diction (choice of words), the volume, rhythm and tonal quality of your voice, vocal variety, enunciation, articulation, and word clutter (ums, uhs, ahs). The meaning of a communication is in the response it elicits. Read widely and converse with intellectual superiors to expand your vocabulary and learn new word choices. Then practice, practice, practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I have organization-wide memos and emails I must write. How do I perfect my word choice?”
A CEO I met in a Catholic hospital pilot-tested her communications. She sent them to a small group of trusted colleagues, who tweaked, word-smithed, and provided feedback on the impact. A few rounds of this should groom the communiqué and make sure you are speaking to the listening of your audience.
  • Write the way you speak, make it personal.
  • Write with abandon, then edit later. Use words of power. Leboeuf (1985) talks about the most important words in our language:
  • 5 most important words: “You did a good job.” 4 most important words: “What is your opinion?” 3 most important words: “Let’s work together.” 2 most important words: “Thank you.” Single most important word: “We.”
“Is it possible to learn inspirational speaking and writing?”
Study the word choice of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Read Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s letters. Listen to Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech. However, copying is not the best choice for learning. Look to the rootof your own passion for the source of genuine, heart-felt communication. Speaking authentically, non-judgmentally, and spontaneously suggests openness and creativity.
  • Paint with word pictures.
  • Draw on your convictions. Passion will arise from personal truth.
  • Use language that is inclusive. “We.”
  • Be brief.
  • Be simple. Use stories that speak to the child in us.
  • Motion attracts the eye. Use your facial expression and gestures to enhance the delivery.

Inspiring means literally "to breathe life into." This can only come from heart-felt communication.

“Jargon is tiring, don’t you think?”
Jargon is overworked, although it reinforces culture, in a code-like way. For example, Dashboard Indicators, Dialoguing, Directive, Incenting, Initiative, Media Opportunity. Like clichés and slang, they suggest a lack of original thinking. Use them sparingly and try to say what you really mean. Hopefully others will know you are in “the club.”
“Need I speak to everyone I see?”
Here is an interesting practice – the 5/10 rule. If you pass someone in the 10 foot range, acknowledge them. A smile or nod will do. If they are closer, within 5 feet, a word of greeting is called for – “Hello! How are you? (etc.).”


CRM Films, "Power of Words." Power of Words: Meeting Opener.

Top 100 speeches in American Rhetoric: The Top 100 Speeches.

Drills on word choice – fix your writing: Teaching the Skills of Word Choice.

Tips from the premier public speaking organization: 10 Tips for Public Speaking.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Keyzines related to the topic: Coaching, Speaking from the Heart, The Leader as Storyteller, Dialogue: Thinking Together, Having Difficult Conversations, and Relationship Building.

Free on-line dictionary, thesaurus, and reference guide: Free Dictionary.

The Web’s most comprehensive language portal: Language Portal.



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