Clarity & the WORDS Acronym

Executive Presence: Clarity 

Clarity Tool: WORDS acronym 

Our definition: Being clear and engaged in your communication, understanding exactly what you bring to the conversation. 

Executive Presence involves business behavior that sends a message. Clarity is a foundational trait for every leader. This trait involves the way leaders communicate to their team: direct reports, colleagues and bosses.

Clarity in the workplace or anywhere else means communicating in a clear, concise and complete manner.

Clarity: You know it when you hear it, because you know exactly what the other person is saying. You hear the purpose, the theme and a call to action. If they are communicating an expectation, then you know exactly what to do in response.

Do people hear you? Are you sending the right message to the right person at the right time and being understood? You probably have room for improvement. With improved clarity, you will be able to put everything on the table. You will be confident and able to discuss things openly.

WORDS Acronym 

How often have you walked away from a conversation and realized that you used the wrong words? This can be a huge issue with creating clarity in the workplace.

For example, you may have said something and now you can’t take it back. If you analyze that conversation, I guarantee you that you took something personally. Maybe you attacked the person rather than focusing on the issue, you let your filters come into play or perhaps you found yourself mired in all of them at once. It’s all completely possible.

Let’s explore how you use WORDS. Using this acronym, you will be able to remember how to apply these tools to bring clarity to your communication. It will help you remember what to do and how to respond in ‘difficult’ conversations.

‘W’ represents Win/Win.

A successful conversation or encounter means that everyone leaves in a good state of mind. Everyone has a WIN. That takes work on your part. You must be committed to making conversations successful. That may mean that you have to deal with some controversy. When you cannot avoid it, you must face it. Your job is to “talk it out” until everyone is on the same page. Your real-time feedback must be delivered with finesse and acceptance. “Be present”, listen thoughtfully and the correct words will come.

Key points in a ‘Win’:

  • Other people are not in charge of your emotions.
  • Do not let a situation linger.
  • Deliver real-time feedback.
  • Practice exceptional listening.

The words that create a win/win scenario will always be positive, empowering, inclusive, accepting and consistent.


‘O’ helps you Organize your thoughts.

You know to keep the QTIP Paradigm ‘front and center’ in difficult conversations. The words you use should be well chosen. Once you can get past emotions, filter and barriers that cause you to take things personally, then you can choose your words properly. Your words will be free of anything that adds to the problem at hand or creates a problem where none actually exists. That will make all the difference in your communication.

The words you are going to say will be considerate, meaningful and well thought out, in essence, organized.

Key points:

  • Have you worked on listing all your filters? Can you say that you have spent time thinking about them?
  • Can you explain your Why It Matters to your loved ones? Do you understand how it plays out in the things you say and do?
  • Do you have a flipchart in your office to explain ‘Separate the Person from the Issue’?
  • Do I have QTIPS handy?


‘R’ stands for Reflect.

Reflection means being present and not saying the first words that come to your mind. Breathe. Choose to embrace calmness. Recognize the listener’s point of view. Is your opinion needed? What do you really need to do in this situation?

Here are some ideas for staying present, using an example of Stuart. Stuart was overwhelmed, fighting fires in every department. To begin focusing, Stuart started slowing down. Slowing down, pausing and reflecting helped Stuart use fewer words. He asked himself whether the words he said were worthwhile and important.  The more Stuart reflected, the more he understood that his wordiness did not add to the conversation.

Stuart used breathing as a way to pause, which helped him stop talking too often and talking too much.


  • Silence is often a good choice.
  • Be present and breathe.
  • Create some space between your first thoughts and the words you say.
  • Check in with yourself: physically, rationally and emotionally.

If you want to learn more on reflecting effectively, look to the Executive Presence program called Being Present”.

When you reflect, the words you say will be composed, insightful and appreciative.


‘D’ reminds us to Do it with questions.

 Start by inviting others to share information by asking a question. You must be inquisitive. Be curious. Asking questions shows people that you care. Asking questions is the way to get to the truth of a situation. When you ask questions, it helps you to avoid ‘owning’ what belongs to others. It’s an art. It takes work. You can create clarity with questions.

Use questions such as:

  • What do you mean?
  • Can you explain that in more detail?
  • Can you re-phrase that for me?
  • How could you have handled that differently?

An inquisitive nature, a real desire to know more, creates a learning environment for the people around you. People notice that and it makes a big difference in your relationships.

Questions help your listener to reach their own conclusions. How do you draw a person out? With questions. Framing an effective question is an important skill, one of the most important components of coaching and leadership, especially when it’s part of the QTIP Paradigm.

Keep it short, ask: “What is that about?” and wait for a response. Do not provide the answer. Be there to provide the right question. That is truly your job as a leader.

Remember, being inquisitive:

  • Engages others.
  • Allows your listener to share perspectives.
  • Empowers your people.

Most of all, asking questions shows respect, invites dialogue and helps everyone find the source from which answers come within themselves.

‘S’, which stands for Share.

Share what you have learned about conversations and your conversations. At least once a week, tell someone about it and how you use it. Build your confidence and trust by practicing. Sharing is caring!

Finally, in applying this WORDS acronym to your everyday conversations, those with potential conflict and those that seek a solution, will create clarity the more you follow the process and practice.


Like what you just read? This is an excerpt from Jeff Raker & Brenda Corbett’s, Executive Presence: Clarity workbook. The workbook is available for purchase here

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