How One Word Can Change a Mindset

January 26, 2022 | 524 Views

How One Word Can Change a Mindset

Rachel Richal, CHT

Vice President, Training | Buffalo Wild Wings

At the beginning of each year, I often see people posting about their word of the year. I’ve usually taken it as a social media fad – a great chance for people to declare their word as “adventure,” for example, and post pics of incredible trips they have taken or new recipes they are going to try. This past year, I thought differently.

Early in 2021, I sat across the desk from my COO discussing the year to come. It was a casual conversation, in which he said to me, “Rachel, your word of the year is nimble.” While some may have shrugged it off as casual conversation, it was a key takeaway for me.

I took it to heart and asked the same of my team. In my eyes, the word had been assigned to me and I set out to take my assignment seriously. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Here’s why:

It helps set expectations

Picking a word of the year can help set clarity and focus. It can help set goals or expectations. In our case, our word was about setting an expectation. We knew we were going to be creating, testing, and launching a ton of new initiatives, and we were going to have to move quickly. We talked a lot about how our word would support this. Because we went into the year knowing we needed to be nimble, we were able to anticipate change that may occur at the last minute. The mindset helped us prioritize and prepare.

It’s a go-to when times are tough

Have you ever done the exercise where you say the word “hey” with different tones and body language? The meaning of the word changes based on how the word “hey” is said. A word of the year can be used similarly. We used our word “nimble” to encourage us, we used it as direction, we used it as a reminder, but also, we used it sarcastically at times to make us all laugh. We all have times of high pressure that cause us to pivot (everyone’s new word) quickly. During those times it’s easy to get frustrated. Our word of the year allowed us to remember that living to that standard was just as much part of our commitment as the tangible goals we wanted to achieve throughout the year. So when the pressure is on, the mantra helps to change the mindset.

It gives the team a rallying cry

A word of the year can help create a positive mindset and positive change. Positivity can be infectious. Early on after our word assignment, the team made a funny picture of our COO with “nimble” in a word bubble that hangs on our wall and in our COO’s office. We started noticing that other teams were sharing our word “nimble” and had appreciation for the sign we had on our wall. The appreciation was echoed by us as it helped encourage that we, as a larger brand team, were all in it together as we all needed to be taking an agile approach. While we could have approached the year simply knowing we were going to have to often move quickly with change, our word created a positive spin - a goal for our work styles that would help us grow even stronger as a team.

Pivot, new normal, lockdown, zoom fatigue – there are so many tag lines that came out of the past two years. For me and my team, the new word that frequented our vocabulary was “nimble.” We are still thinking through what 2022 looks like for us in a word. We are debating if “nimble” sticks around for a Season 2 since Season 1 was such a hit. Stay tuned!

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