What a difference words can do!
In my young days, I worked for a big fortune 250 company. As the financial controller working in the shared services department, I had an experience which, I will never forget. All the managers (40 in total) were gathered for an extended management meeting and as a young controller, I watched the Vice President speak to the managers.
He started by saying “you are the oil in the machinery” and “without your services our company could never operate”. “You are valuable and the work you do is very valuable for the company”.
Then he started telling some challenging things to us like the overall cost in the company was too high, and that this was discussed in the last management meeting with the CEO and all the VPs. The Group had to cut the cost of about USD 100 million… and he continued with his magical words that transformed all of us:
“I am so proud of representing the shared services division, and I know what capacity is there in you. And I believe so much in you. So in the top management meeting I “jumped up” and said, “I believe so much in my shared services division – we will take half of the cost cut”.
Normally this would have made people angry. I have never met people that are comfortable with cutting costs. But the VP’s speech changed it all. He gave us value and he believed in us. The result was outstanding. In less than one week we had a plan for the cost cut and we managed to keep our new budgets.
Maybe business schools should have more psychology in the subjects they teach. It is all about humans – Winning the hearts and minds of the people.