Encourage Your IT Professionals Today with One Word

Keith Martino

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The lights sparkle in Debbie's eyes.

She is fired up and ready to launch into our closing exercise of the leadership discussion. Our finale is an experiment destined for success. How could we be so certain? Easy. We'd seen it work wonders on many occasions including with Debbie's group a day earlier.

Debbie's second group is more famished for encouragement than the first! It is comprised of corporate executives and systems professionals under heavy pressures and tight timelines.

These leaders carry the responsibilities of managing departments and organizing the company for the future. It is now the end of their company's fiscal year. They are spent. Energy levels are understandably taxed. Tensions simmer.

As their leadership coach, I am confident we will make a difference. Our goal is clear. We want to send each person back to the rough and tumble world with a smile and a spring in their step. And we want them to feel better about themselves.

You might be curious why we would be so fascinated with lightening the emotional load in an IT workgroup where technological demands typically dominate the discussion. After all, much of the dialogue of the day is focused on wireless networks, scheduling applications, and handheld mobile scanners. The systems are humming. The people are dog tired.

We've found battle fatigue to be the case in many technology teams over the past decade. With all of the drama, illness, and animosity bubbling over in our contemporary landscape, many people are shell-shocked and weatherworn by adversity. They handle the complex systems challenges, but the people problems are becoming like rocks in their shoes.

So how can you bring renewed energy into your group with a fresh and simple activity?

Here It Is. It's Called the "One-Word" Game! Want to Play?

1. Ask your technology group if they are prepared to be honest with their colleagues around the table. Gain closure that each person will speak the truth as they reach out to the peers in the game. No exaggerations! Establishing this commitment is essential.

2. Provide each team member with a list of the names of the people in the room. Ask them to write "just one word" beside each name that accurately describes each person in the most positive and accurate way they can envision.
Words like honest, sincere, and methodical just a few examples of adjectives that build camaraderie.

3. Ask each person to stand and deliver a truthful compliment to each of their peers. For instance, Debbie might say to Keith, "Hi Keith, I believe that you are 'enthusiastic'." Keith simultaneously keeps a running list of all the positive, truthful compliments delivered to him.

4. After the game concludes, each person stands and reads their list of personal adjectives provided by their teammates using statements like, "Hello, I'm Keith, and I am 'approachable,' 'entertaining,' 'inspiring'." Applaud after each person shares their list of personalized, positive attributes.

5. After they've finished, ask the group these three simple questions:



  • How many of you feel better about our company after hearing these words?
  • How many of you feel better about the team after hearing these encouraging words?
  • How many of you feel better about yourself after hearing this encouragement?


Allow a few minutes for them to thank one another for the kind words shared and send them back out into the workplace. You'll be amazed at the results.

The lights sparkled in Debbie's eyes.

She was fired up and ready to launch into our closing exercise of the leadership discussion. Our finale was an experiment destined for success. How could we be so certain?

Five words this time . . .

Try it. You'll like it!

Keith Martino is head of CMI—a global consultancy founded in 1999 that customizes leadership initiatives for technology companies and IT departments.

Keith is the author of
Expect Leadership in Technology. After over 20 years and numerous awards at FedEx, Xerox, and Baxter Healthcare, Martino and his team provide world-class counsel and proven, web-based tools that produce consistent results for companies like Oracle, Verizon, and Peach State Technologies. Keith is a regular contributor to Women in Technology International newsletters.

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