One Word That Makes a Difference

Posted by

By Ken Schafer

Words are powerful. The right word is extraordinarily powerful.

I learned this lesson in an unforgettable way when I read a book on change management, Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement by Clint Swindall. You know the type – a business fable, designed for an easy airplane read on the way to a customer visit (which is exactly when I read it).

My mission on this trip was to train a group of unhappy radiologists on their new dictation system. The new system was replacing some outdated technology that had been causing no end of problems for the clinicians. I thought I should be welcomed as a savior; after all, they wanted the new system, right? Well yes … and no. Yes, they wanted a new system. No, they didn’t want the headache of a transition. On my way into the office, the staff warned me about one particular doctor. He hated the old system, they said, but he was resistant to change. I remembered what I had read in Swindall’s book: pretty much everyone is resistant to change, but all people want to improve. Not having anything to lose, I tried it out. After introducing myself to the recalcitrant radiologist, I said, “I’m the guy that’s here to improve your dictation system.” It worked like a charm. The curmudgeon everyone had warned me about was suddenly my ally. He didn’t want to change, but he did want to improve.

In the same way that “nutrition plan” sounds better than “diet” and “spending plan” sounds better than “budget,” “improve” always sounds better than “change.” Our vocabulary, questions, and listening skills have an extraordinary impact on our leadership and effectiveness. The right word at the right time can make the difference between an average leader and a great one; between merely being competent and being unforgettable.

Want to learn how to use good questions to coach up and down your organization? Join me at the 2017 AHRA Annual Meeting in Anaheim for my interactive session “Everyone Needs Coaching: Three Conversational Techniques to Change the Way You Manage People,” on Tuesday, July 11 at 4:15 PM. And if you’ve got a coaching scenario you’d like me to use as an example, email me at See you in California!

Kenneth W. Schafer is the executive vice president of industry relations for SpeechCheck, Inc. He can be reached at


  1. Well said!! The right word at the right time can make the “BIG” difference.

Post a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s