Strategy & LeadershipHR EffectivenessThe language of winning

The language of winning

Is there a specific formula or language when it comes to winning? Our regular contributor, Pete Lowe explains some of his own personal experiences and how crucial communication is in both sport and business.

I have a lot to thank Alan Evans for. He was my PE teacher at school and his wisdom has stuck with me over the years. He was passionate about what he did but quite measured in his communication. When he said “Well done” I knew it really meant something.

Communication is a huge factor in team environments – whether that’s on the pitch or in the boardroom. It’s not all about the spoken word either, as so much of the way we articulate ourselves is in body language and in the subtext too.

The language of winning has quite specific traits. It’s authentic and true and it knows when to be versatile and tailored to the situation. The tone is less combative and confrontational and more imbued with momentum, in a quietly challenging way.

The power of presence

Those who have earned the right to talk about success speak with gravitas without having to shout and take centre stage. The most powerful orators are often those who recognise the impact of silence and can command attention while using words sparingly. Their words are well chosen and they are aligned with the moment, so it is a leader’s job to constantly read the situation and foresee the impact. Great leaders are always fully present, deftly maneuvering from a helicopter to ground level view.

Consistency is key – when what you say doesn’t align with your body language it creates a disconnect that can have a ripple effect. It also suggests that either the content of your speech or how you are communicating  is contrived and this does little to build trust in teams.

Know your team

It also comes down to the simple yet critical ability to know your team. When you truly understand the people you work with, you can anticipate how certain approaches will translate and you instinctively know to adapt communication to individuals. There is no one size fits all approach as language has to suit the moment and the person.

Trust not fear

Teams underpinned by a culture of trust understand that communication styles must remove threat and not instill a fear response. Taking emotional responsibility is also an important aspect of leadership, so you learn how to grow within a role and not be overwhelmed by adversity.

It can be tempting to rant and lose your temper at times, but if this happens continually then it can cause irreparable damage. You always have a choice and your intention should focus on the greater good as opposed to indulging an ego.

The language of feeding forward

A leader’s wisdom lies in knowing when to give praise and when to apply constructive criticism – even when you’ve won. It’s helpful to reflect on what factors led to a positive result and to learn from this, as a winner’s mindset never takes things for granted or dwells on past successes.

When things aren’t going so well then feeding forward creates pace and energy by turning failures and errors into opportunities. With the right perspective, your last loss can be a catalyst for your next win.

A collective responsibility

As a leader in business, you won’t have all the answers 100% of the time, because it’s not humanly possible. In those circumstances, you need to be vulnerable enough to be honest about that and to recognise that there is a collective responsibility to find the answers, regardless of hierarchy. The trust and humility in this style of leadership creates a great affinity and shared vision in a team which fuels a unified sense of purpose.

The language of winning is not a case of ‘painting by numbers’ or paying lip service. While there are clear characteristics and technical components that set the foundation for sustained success, the most powerful aspects are those that are beyond articulation. It is the fusion of head and heart in the moment that enables teams to be truly connected, knowing that this union cares little for who takes the credit and that ultimately nobody is bigger than the team.

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