Fine is a Four Letter Word

Fine is a four letter word. My recall is that my sister was the first to utter those profound words of wisdom, and we have reminded each other of the sentiment on more than one occasion.

Why is fine a four letter word? From a leadership perspective, it’s a cop-out . . . When someone asks how you or your organization are doing and you say, “fine” . . . are things really fine or is the response simply a way to change the topic of discussion? “Fine” is like poking a hole in a balloon and watching all the air leak out. It’s a four letter word because, quite simply, it is not an appropriate response from someone who hopes to move people to action. Who wants to follow a leader who aspires to fine?

Leadership requires passion. It doesn’t have to be a flashy or outspoken, but there has to be a deep commitment and drive to sustain you through the tough days (and if you don’t think there are tough days, you haven’t been a leader!) Fine is utterly lacking in emotion. It is a deflection of the challenges before you and as a result, people don’t believe it. They might follow your cue and choose not to probe deeper at the moment, but your authenticity takes a hit.

I’m not suggesting you should unload every stressor on someone who is simply trying to make pleasant conversation, but acknowledging, “we have some real challenges before us, and I’m grateful to have such a strong team to help us through the storm,” or maybe “I’m not sure how we are going to get through this, but given our track record in dealing with tough stuff I am confident we’ll find a way” feel both more real and more confident than “fine.” People have to believe in what you are saying if you want them to walk alongside you during the tough stuff. Does “fine” motivate you?

Trust in our leaders and institutions seems to diminish further with every news cycle. We do ourselves a disservice if our words indicate everything is okay when circumstances would seem to suggest otherwise. Transparency builds confidence even, and perhaps especially, when the message is a hard one to hear. Banishing the word “fine” from your vocabulary may seem like a little thing (although it is harder than you might think!), and yet little things can make a difference — for you and for those you would hope to lead.

Fine is a four letter word. Maybe it’s time to clean up your language.

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