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The way we communicate with those we lead matters. 

I was reminded of this a few days ago, when my youngest son, who is three and a half, had his first ever t-ball practice earlier this week. 

Given my line of work, I have become supremely aware of how impactful my words can be on my children’s growth and development (which is both a blessing and a curse).

When the session finished and we were walking back to our car, the ‘old’ me would have said something like this: 

“Awesome job buddy! You hit the ball so far, and when you were playing catch, you caught the ball  five times! Amazing stuff kiddo, I’m so proud of you!” 

Sounds supportive, right? 

But here’s the catch: 

My well intended remarks are strictly focused on performance and results; That is, how far he hit the ball, and how many times he caught the ball. 

What’s the issue with this? 

This messaging tells  him that the praise and acknowledgement he receives is dependent on the results he achieves. It suggests, unintentionally, that if he is unable to hit or catch the ball, he is failing in some way, and not worthy of praise. This becomes his mental model for understanding success and  lead to frustration,  stress and eventually, a disinterest in learning to play the game at all.

This may sound extreme, but this is precisely how our own beliefs are formed in the early years of our life.  

If you are a high-achiever, there is a good chance that early on in your life, you learned that your worth is dependent on the results you achieve; a belief based on the messaging you received from others. This kind of messaging is delivered with the best of intentions, but teaches you to continuously seek results in order to be worthy of praise and acceptance. 

Here’s what the ‘new’ me said instead: 

“Buddy, I’m so proud of you for trying something new! I loved seeing how focused you were when throwing the ball and swinging the bat! You’re learning a new skill and that is amazing!”

My messaging is not about the results, rather his process and behaviours; two things that he can control. Encouraging these aspects of his game will help him develop a growth mindset as he continues to learn the game, and ultimately, benefit his development both on and off the field.The messaging is teaching him to value:

  • Opportunities to push his comfort zone;
  • The journey required to adopt a new skill; 
  • The importance of learning from others; and
  • The joy of building capacity through practice.

Ultimately, this approach can fuel someone’s improvement and overall enjoyment of their experience. 

Whether it’s your children, your employees or even yourself, what is your approach when delivering feedback? Are there opportunities to tweak your language in a manner that can better fuel the growth of those around you?

Are you a leader who would like to improve the quality and impact of your feedback? 

Head to to learn more about how we help leaders enhance their performance and maximize their impact.

High-Performance Coach | Coach MJ

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