by Greg McClanahan
(Editor's intro: Greg has used the right words with 150 manufactured home retailers and served firms such as Fleetwood Homes, Sam's Club, Conoco Philips, as well as thousands of retail clients over the years in manufactured home retailing.)
Great leaders who have devoted themselves to continual learning and personal growth are more equipped to be able to say the right words at the right time. Those words may inspire your staff to improved productivity, encourage others to get behind a new company initiative, promote a desire for personal excellence, or maybe give confidence to a colleague experiencing a personal challenge.
Great sales professionals are equally prepared to say the right words at the right time in a sales presentation -- to be able to understand a client's needs and to then select the right combination of words to affirm to that client that you are their best choice to fulfill that need.
A wonderful story that exemplifies the significance of saying the right words at the right time is told by Marlo Thomas. Every moment of every day is influenced by your words and actions. We hope you realize how significant your words can impact the success of your area of responsibility, and ultimately the cumulative success of your company.
The Marlo Thomas Story
Danny Thomas, the famous actor, was a significant donor to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. His daughter, Marlo, continues in that tradition today. She was the editor of a book entitled, The Right Words at the Right Time, of which the entire proceeds continue to be donated to St. Jude's.
The inspiration behind this book came from her own life experience when the right words were spoken to her by her father at exactly the right time. She thought if she could reach back in time and remember that moment when words made all the difference, certainly this must have happened to others. Over 100 of her friends responded when she invited them to recall their "moment" when the right words were spoken. Their stories fill this book.
She writes, "Each story is a glimpse into the heart, a moment of awakening, a light bulb that revealed a truth that has stayed with them for a lifetime, or a challenge that moved them to action."
Do you recall a defining moment in your life? Think back as you read Marlo's story of The Right Words at the Right Time:
"When I was a child I loved to watch my father shave. I sat on the closed toilet seat and marveled at the sound of the razor gliding over his face, pushing the foamy soap like a shovel in the snow. I adored him, this grand figure who slapped lotion on his cheeks every morning, buttoned his clean white shirt and hugged me good-bye.
Once, my father made a movie with Margaret O'Brien and he often took me to the set. I would cue his lines as we drove to the MGM studios with the windows open and the heady mix of Old Spice and a Cuban cigar swirling about us as we carried on a kind of rehearsal in transit. On the set I played jacks with Margaret between takes, and when the bell rang, I would join the crew in their silence as the cameras rolled and the boom mike moved into position to record the dialogue I knew by heart.
I was in awe of my father and sinfully envious of Margaret O'Brien. I wore pigtails. I wanted freckles. I wanted to be Margaret O'Brien. Ten years later, at age 17, I got my chance.
I played the lead in Gigi in a summer stock production at the Laguna Playhouse south of Los Angeles. The excitement of finally being a real actress was painfully short lived. All the interviews and all the reviews focused on my father. Would I be as good as my father? Was I as gifted, as funny? Would I be as popular? I was devastated.
I loved my father; my problem was Danny Thomas.
"Daddy," I began, "please don't be hurt when I tell you this. I want to change my name. I love you but I don't want to be a Thomas anymore."
I tried not to cry during the long silence. And then he said, "I raised you to be a thoroughbred. When thoroughbreds run they wear blinders to keep their eyes focused straight ahead with no distractions, no other horses. They hear the crowd but they don't listen. They just run their own race. That's what you have to do. Don't listen to anyone comparing you to me or to anyone else. You just run your own race."
The next night as the crowd filed into the theater, the stage manager knocked on my dressing room door and handed me a white box with a red ribbon. I opened it up and inside was a pair of old horse blinders with a little note that read, "Run your own race, Baby."
'Run your own race, Baby.' He could have said it a dozen other ways: "Be independent"; "Don't be influenced by others." But it wouldn't have been the same. He chose the right words at the right time. The old horse blinders were the right gift. And all through my life, I've been able to cut to the chase by asking myself, "Am I running my race or somebody else's?"
Can you think of the right words that have been spoken to you? Can you think of moments when you were the one who may have said the right words at the right time?
Words can shape our character. Our words are like the careful touch of the potter's hands when shaping a blob of clay into something beautiful. Be aware of the influence your words can have on the world around you and then choose each word carefully, knowing that they just might be life changing.
To your success!