Merge's Blog

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

I was cleaning out some old files the other day, and I came across an article from the September 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review.  Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis authored Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership, a review of how leaders can improve group performance by understanding the biology of empathy.  As I skimmed through the piece, one paragraph in particular caught my attention.

In a recent study, our colleague Marie Dasborough observed two groups: one received negative performance feedback accompanied by positive emotional signals – namely, nods and smiles; the other was given positive feedback that was delivered critically, with frowns and narrowed eyes.  In subsequent interviews conducted to compare the emotional state of the two groups, the people who received positive feedback accompanied by negative emotional signals reported feeling worse about their performance than did the participants who had received good-natured negative feedback.  In effect, the delivery was more important than the message itself.

So … the delivery is more important than the message itself.  In other words … it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  Hmmm … I think I’ve heard that before.  Wait … it sounds a lot like my oft-repeated leadership mantra that separates managers from leaders: management is what you do, leadership is how you do it.  Go figure – I’ve been delivering this message for over 20 years now; but don’t you just love it when the research backs up fact! 😀 😀

So are you taking this into account when you seek to get the best out of your people?

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