As a Leader, all your words influence your business success – a new study demonstrating how little it takes to influence people

As a Leader, all your words influence your business success –  a new study demonstrating how little it takes to influence people

An encouraging message by the Leader in a positive tone influences teams and individuals positively. Negative words and a negative or even aggressive tone, results in demotivating them.

As we all know the mind-set of our employees and teams has a direct impact on the business success. Ergo the Leaders message and his or her tone influences the business success directly. Nothing new? You heard this in various ways before? Well probably so, however most companies are run as if this were completely new, absolutely unknown or the topic pushed aside as some kind of esoteric belief.

To be fair. Leaders are under huge pressure. There is never enough time to do what they consider needs to be done. Too much stuff to do! Hence Leaders need to prioritise to be effective. My message is to motivate you, the leader, to bring positive communication and motivation the teams and employees back on to the front burner, back as a top priority. Further on, I mention a suggestion that only takes little time to do.

Here is the summary of a recently presented study. The purpose is to add one more element to the existing fact base, that this soft factor is a hard fact.

The summary of the study:

In Paris, Jean-Julien Aucouturier and his team made a study with more than 100 test subjects to read a text. They did not hear their own voice directly but only over headphones they were asked to put on. What the participants were not aware about was that their voices were slightly transformed to be sad, happy or concerned. The modifications were so subtle, that the participants did not notice the change. The participants emotional state had been documented before and after the reading.

It was fascinating that the emotions of the participants were changed in line of how their voices had been adjusted. The positive modified voice corresponded to a more positive emotional state and the concerned modification to a more worried emotional state. The team identified these changes subjectively and then to my personal delight, added a standard measurement system, the one of the electrical conductivity of the skin.  This measurement is well known and often used in research on stress and is part of the lie-tests you have heard about.

To see how little it takes to influence the emotional state of the participants is amazing. Even such a low level of  modulation, that was not consciously noticed by the participant was sufficient to make this change.

Aucoutier and his team gather from this, that people do not – contrary to what was assumed so far - permanently review and change their voice modulation to match their actual emotional state. It furthermore shows that the subjects own voice influences its own emotional state as well.

Take aways:

This study is an other confirmation how sensitive our unconscious reacts, how easily our emotional state is influenced. It is even more important, given the existing knowledge that our emotional state has a strong influence on our behaviour and decisions.

Hence to accept the awareness of this high level of influence of  ourselves and of the people we interact with is a first important step.

The second step is to start to incorporate this knowledge in our own behaviour, namely in our interactions with teams and direct reports.

Specific action for you, the Leader: Take a mental time out before you address your team or your direct report. Add a thaught around what could inspire, motivate your team or direct report to do what you are expecting them to do.

This works also in the case of bad news. As a matter of fact in difficult situations it may be of even higher importance. Take the example of cost reduction.  Approach the team in your own authentic way, show empathy, share understanding for the difficult task, explain the importance of their work, count on their support.

This will not make the task at hand easier, however it positively influences and supports the team, provided the message comes across in an authentic way.

The same is true for interactions with other employees of course. Consider the importance of the positive emotional state of your people. Take it as what it is – a lever to business success.

What is in it for you? A part from getting better results, one side effect over time will be an even better workplace environment that can trigger new ideas, better participation, more initiative and so on.  So…. what about just giving it a try?

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 10.1073/pnas.1506552113, 2016

Credit Suisse