Buzz

Commentary + Concepts

The Science of Pep Talks

Most winning formulas include direction giving, empathy, and meaning making.

The most extensive research in this field—dubbed motivating language theory, or MLT—comes from Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, a husband-and-wife team at Texas A&M International University who have studied its applications in the corporate world for nearly three decades. Their findings are backed by studies from sports psychologists and military historians. And all the evidence suggests that once leaders understand these three elements, they can learn to use them more skillfully. 

The Mayfields describe direction giving as the use of “uncertainty-reducing language.” This is when leaders provide information about precisely how to do the task at hand by, for example, giving easily understandable instructions, good definitions of tasks, and detail on how performance will be evaluated.

“Empathetic language” shows concern for the performer as a human being. It can include praise, encouragement, gratitude, and acknowledgment of a task’s difficulty. Phrases like “How are we all doing?” “I know this is a challenge, but I trust you can do it,” and “Your well-being is one of my top priorities” all fit into this category.

Read the full article from Harvard Business Review here: http://bit.ly/2tyQHgs