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Karl’s Library: How The Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Kegan and Lahey

Set aside what you’re currently reading about leadership.

If you want to transform your impact as a leader, you need to pick up a copy of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.

Have you ever considered than an annoying employee complaint might also be a valuable personal value needing expression?

Have you ever withheld an idea for improvement so your supervisor wouldn’t feel criticized?

Kegan and Lahey provide an entirely new perspective on leadership by paying attention to how we talk to each other.

They point to seven changes we can make in how we communicate that will reframe how we approach problems and result in lasting change.

Seven Languages for Transformation

  1. From the language of complaint to the language of commitment
  2. From the language of blame to the language of personal responsibility
  3. From the language of New Year’s resolutions to the language of competing commitments
  4. From the language of big assumptions that hold us to the language of assumptions we hold
  5. From the language of prizes and praising to the language of ongoing regard
  6. From the language of rules and policies to the language of public agreement
  7. From the language of constructive criticism to the language of desconstructive criticism

The shift we need to make as leaders is internal. When we see the conversation differently ourselves we will be able to have a different sort of conversation with others.

You can continue to blame the rest of the team for their shortcomings. You may even be accurate in your assessment. But you will not see change.

When you’re ready to try something new, try taking a look at how “the way you talk affects the way the team works.”

You can get a copy of the book here.

Karl’s Library is a weekly column highlighting my favorites from my professional development library. “Always learning” is one of the pillars of my personal mission statement. Explore past columns here.


If you’re a Kindle fan like I am, it is available for the Kindle.

Don’t have a Kindle? Get one! You’ll love it.

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