Home » Leaders: Watch Your Tone

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

Most leaders underestimate how truly powerful this piece of advice can be.

As a front line leader, supervisor or manager, how you say things to your team will impact their motivation, engagement and performance.

One of the classic ways leaders mess up the tone and underlying message is by using sarcasm.

I remember in my early days of being a leader that one of the women that worked for me came up and said, “Greg, you’re so sarcastic when you give us feedback, we don’t know whether we’re screwing up or whether you’re just joking around, so it’d really help us to say it like it is.”

That was an eye-opening conversation for me. It truly ingrained within me the concept of paying attention to how I say things, not just what I say, especially when discussing an employee performance issue.

One coaching client I worked with had a tendency to talk down to her team. Unfortunately, she wasn’t even self-aware that her tone was demeaning. Her lack of self-awareness wasn’t helpful in terms of changing her behavior.

Leaders should strive to be conversational in their tone. Even during a disciplinary talk, leaders should avoid being needlessly aggressive. Click To Tweet

You can also make yourself open to feedback from your team if you think there may be an issue with your tone. Clarify with them whether or not the tone you’re using is being easily confused or misinterpreted.

An aggressive or demeaning tone does not illustrate your point any better than a conversational tone. So choose the approach that grows and develops your team, not the one that demeans or belittles them.

What’s one way you ensure your messages are not being misinterpreted by your team? Let me know in the comments.