Even though I don’t advocate giving advice to people who don’t ask for it, I occasionally can’t help myself and suggest to leaders the benefits of eliminating “fluff” words like “ummm” or “ah” or “you know” when they speak. Without fail, they assure me that they’re either working on it, or that what I heard was just a momentary lapse, and it actually happens very rarely.
But then they go right back to inserting all those words again…
Adding those extra words in conversation or public speaking is far more damaging that most leaders believe, and here’s why:
1. Words like “Ummm” “ahhh” or “you know” indicates hesitation and indecision. It communicates that you’re not sure, you’re looking for the right word, or you just can’t decide. None of those options are good for a leader’s perception.
2. Using those words slows down the conversation. People want to keep the conversation moving and get to the point. If people are helping you finish sentences, that’s a red flag.
3. It’s just bad English. Come on, you’re a leader, and you need to be able to articulate your ideas. If you can’t do that well, then it may be time to step down as a leader. And on that subject, keep in mind that you’re not a leader because of your title or position – you’re a leader because people follow you. The less articulate you become in your speaking, they less likely they are to follow.
OK. I get it. This post is a downer, but it’s necessary. Work on it. Fight it. Focus on your message.
The people you lead deserve better.