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What verbs describe what you get paid to do?

During team building workshops I rely on an exercise that names the verbs we use to tell others what we do. Below I offer some of the key questions that will help you write out your list of verbs. If you have not done this exercise before it will be informative for you.

What verbs do people come up with during the exercise?

Folks use all kinds of verbs so it is hard to categorize the ones they use here in any meaningful way. It is easier, however, to identify the verbs they often leave out: should; could; would; ought; and might. These verbs help maintain confusion, indecision and delay. People also name these: want; need; try; hope; plan; wish. These verbs are weak, they are steps away from our goals. Finally, folks rarely write these next verbs down and yet they creep into our daily life all the time: can’t; won’t; don’t; shouldn’t; wouldn’t. Negative verbs produce negative outcomes.

Power verbs

It turns out there are verbs that power up our actions. To learn more do some research on Robert Tennyson Stevens. He studied the Hopi peoples, among other things, to arrive at power verbs that make goals happen. Here is a short list of such verbs: am; will; can; do; know; choose; have; give; love.

What questions will help us identify the verbs we use most often at work?

Here are questions you can use to do this exercise on your own:

Describe what you do with others in your company?

What do you do for your work with folks outside of your company?

Think about several recent days at work; what is happening? List the actions.

On your way to work, what verbs describe what you will do that day?

What do you get paid to do?

What do people tell you to do?

What do you tell yourself to do?

These questions should help you begin the exercise. Good luck!

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  1. June 22nd, 2010 at 10:56 | #1

    Great post! I am curious about how the questions link to teambuilding. As always, your posts are thought provoking. I look forward to more on this topic.
    Holly Hayes

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