The Manager as a Linguist

Dec 11 / Saad Qureshi
Words have immense power to shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions. In the realm of management, the language we use can either propel our teams towards success or hinder their progress.

Managers, like skilled linguists, have the ability to wield language as a tool to inspire, motivate, and guide their teams to achieve common goals. However, the flip side of the coin is that the wrong language can demoralise, demotivate, and create a negative work environment.

Let's consider two scenarios that highlight the transformative power of language. 

Scenario 1: Inspiring Motivation

A team has been facing challenges in meeting deadlines. Instead of focusing on the setbacks, the manager shifts the focus to the team's strengths and resilience. They recognize the collective achievements, emphasizing how these past successes can be leveraged to overcome current hurdles. This positive reinforcement instills a sense of belief and determination, empowering the team to push forward.

Phrases to Inspire Motivation:

"I'm confident in your ability to tackle this challenge."
• "Your past successes are a testament to your talent and dedication."
• "Let's look at what lessons we can learn together."
• "My suggestions build on your ideas and helps make your proposal even stronger."
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Scenario 2: Demotivating Language

A manager, instead of acknowledging progress, focuses on shortcomings and criticises mistakes. They use phrases like "should have" or "could have," placing blame and highlighting failures. This negative language can quickly dampen team morale, leading to frustration and disengagement.

Phrases to Avoid:

• "You should have known better."
• "You could have done this more efficiently."
• "Your mistakes are holding us back."
• "Why do you always make these same errors?"

3 Tips to Improve Your Language Skills

To become skilled linguists and harness the power of language for inspiration, managers can adopt the following practices:

1. Active Listening:
Pay close attention to team members' concerns, ideas, and feedback. Show empathy and respect by actively listening without interrupting or dismissing their viewpoints. 

2. Positive Framing:
Shift the focus from negative aspects to positive ones. Acknowledge progress, celebrate achievements, and emphasise the learning opportunities arising from setbacks. This positive framing fosters a growth mindset and encourages continuous improvement.

3. Build up your bank of phrases
Keep practising the use of phrases and language that lands well with your team. Use them with various different tones and speeds of delivery to test how your team reacts. 


By mastering the art of language, managers can cultivate a positive, motivated, and high-performing team. They become catalysts for change, inspiring individuals to reach their full potential and contribute to the organisation's success.

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