The words you use in all of your work related communications can have a major impact on how others perceive you, as a leader. And as entrepreneurs, it is really easy to put yourself in the middle of it all, on a pedestal, as the person that founded the company. But as you all should know by now, you are not building your business by yourself, and credit needs to be shared with all, to keep everyone feeling respected and motivated in their day-to-day efforts as part of the company. That all starts with removing the word “I” from your vocabulary, effective immediately.
Defining “I” vs. “We”
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “I” is speaking to one’s SELF, possessing a personal INDIVIDUALITY. And the same source, defines the word “We” as “a GROUP that includes me”. Notice the stark difference between the two: using the word “I” makes it sounds like you are building your business by yourself, and using the word “We” clearly tells others that you are part of a team, that is equally invested in building your company’s success.
What Does That Mean For Your Communications?
Unless you are a solopreneur working by yourself, ditch the word “I”. And, even then, you are most likely working with other outside partners (e.g., investors, bankers, accountants, lawyers, contractors, agencies) in some capacity. And they too want to feel like they are doing their part to participate in your success. So, you too need to swap “I” for “We” when working with anyone that is involved with your business.
What Communications Are We Talking About?
ALL communications need to be amended to remove the word “I”. Verbal conversations by phone, written communications by email, corporate materials that describe the efforts of the business . . . basically everything. You should set up a “swear jar”, that every time you communicate with the word “I”, you have to put a dollar in the jar. For some of you, you may have just found your capital source for your next fundraising needs!!
What is the Result?
Making this change will have a lasting impact on your team. No longer will you be at risk of being perceived as an out-of-touch egomaniac. Instead, you will better motivate your team, instill a sense of self-worth into your employees committed to the company’s success, and promote long term loyalty to your business.
Who am I Speaking To?
You need to look in the mirror, as I am speaking to YOU. Take a look at your last few emails written to your team. Do you see the word “I” anywhere in there? You most likely do!! Stop doing that!! Before you send out your next corporate communication, proof-read it first to make sure the word “I” is nowhere to be found.
For entrepreneurs that have been at the center of their worlds for years on end, this will be a really hard bad habit to break. But if you are religious about removing the word “I” from your vocabulary, your team will take notice, appreciate you including them in your COLLECTIVE success (not your INDIVIDUAL success) and want to work hard WITH you (not FOR you), as a leader that knows the importance your team has in building THE company (not YOUR company). As you can hopefully see now, the words you use with your team really matter.
George Deeb is a Partner at Red Rocket Ventures and author of 101 Startup Lessons-An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.