“Want”: a powerful word to use as a leader

Steve Saunders - Success This Way

Home » “Want”: a powerful word to use as a leader

Published: 16th March 2021

This Article was Written by: Steve Saunders - Success This Way


If, like me, you grew up with adults telling you “I want doesn’t get”, I look back and think now as a coach, I don’t necessarily agree.

In fact in many circumstances “I want” actually often gets.

As a parent myself now, I appreciate why adults said it. Like the picture above, “I want it now” is a bullish and ineffective way to ask for whatever “it” is. (In fact, I do like the picture above because we’ve probably all met people like this….and how fun are they to work with? Say no more…)

However, putting the rather negative image above aside, let’s decode the sentence and look at the positives of one magical little word. That word is “want”.

Want, is a fantastic word. To find out what someone wants is a powerful insight into that person’s motivation.

How often do you hear this word used in business though?

Imagine this question, asked in a really friendly and supportive tone of voice, by a manager to their team member.

Person A:What do you want from your job“?

What might be the answer?:

Person B:Wow, good question. Gosh. I don’t know. I’ve never been asked that before. Erm……money perhaps? A bit of fun. Promotion? I don’t really know. I’m happy to have a job really

It’s a fabulous way of putting the employee fully in control of what they say.

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…It depends on the company culture

Depending on the culture of your company, when answering such a question, they will either comply, (and tell you what they think they ought to say), or they’ll open up and let you into their heart.

Let’s assume you work in a company where the latter culture exists.

The point being made is that when asked about your desires, as an individual employee or as a team, it elicits a lot about how you are connected to your job as well as surfacing what drives you in life.

…It’s revealing

When your team member answers, it tells you, as a manager what drives them.

The answer is hugely revealing about what’s important to them and they may even start opening up and revealing how likely they think they’ll get it. They possibly might go deeper still; telling you how worthy they think they are to have it, or how capable they think they are of getting it.

That tells you a lot about what is going on inside their head.

…How it can help you as a leader

So, as a leader, if we were to ask our team members what they want from their jobs, or from a project, or from a change process, etc. then we are asking them to dig deep into their sense of self, their sense of reality, their sense of drive, their sense of commitment and motivation.

It’s a great example of the power of language… and the power of one, single, simple word. Want.

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