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9 Words Elon Musk Just Used to Motivate Employees. You Should Steal 7 of Them

Tesla hit their production goals. One statement Elon Musk made about this serves as a good lesson in word choice, especially when you send an email.

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BY John Brandon - 02 Jul 2018

9 Words Elon Musk Just Used to Motivate Employees. You Should Steal 7 of Them

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The words you use are incredibly important. When you send emails, speak in front of a large group, or address employees in a meeting, trimming what you say can have a bigger impact than having more words, especially if you're inserting a bit of uncertainty.

That's what happened recently when Elon Musk sent an email to all Tesla employees. It's an encouraging note, one that congratulates them on reaching a production milestone. The company produced 5,000 Tesla Model 3 cars per week before the end of the quarter.

Musk lauded them on their creativity and inventiveness. He wrote how he was honored to work with them and proud of their accomplishments. He mentioned how production has ramped up on the Model S and the Model X, hitting their production targets as well.

This is admirable because, as we all know, Tesla has struggled to mass produce any vehicle. The Model S is a pricey, luxury car that few can afford, but the Model 3 is meant of the everyday driver.

Then, Musk switched gears.

He included a sentiment that was meant to encourage the employees even more:

"I think we just became a real car company."

That's an interesting statement.

What he's trying to do is raise employee morale, not by announcing a future vehicle or talking about trips to Mars, but by orienting the conversation around electric car mass production. Tesla can become legitimate, the company can find a place in the garage of everyday consumers, not the tech elite. This is about long-term viability.

There's only one problem.

First, this statement is a bit hyperbolic. Toyota makes over 13,000 cars per day. Ford sold 239,854 in one month last year. It's clear that producing 5,000 cars per week does raise the stakes for Tesla. Still, when Musk said "I think..." it was a bit wishy-washy.

A better approach? Make your bold statements even bolder.

A better phrase would have been: "We just became a real car company." There's a huge difference, because adding "I think..." to anything waters it down. You wonder--is that really true? Does he really believe that? What part of his statement is not accurate?

When you communicate by email or in any other format, make sure you remove certain words. Scan through every communication and zap the words think, opinion, just (if you mean barely, not if you're talking about a time factor), sorry, could, maybe, and might. More than any other words we use, these tend to relay a sense of indecisiveness and ambiguity. The cool thing is that you can often simply remove the words. If you say "I think we will hire a new CEO" and remove the words I think, it becomes a much stronger sentence.

You can also replace words like might and could with the word will. Stick to the facts, or avoid making blanket statements that could be easily misconstrued.

Another alternative, one Musk might consider the next time he sends an email to all employees, is to not say the phrase at all if it isn't totally true.

Meaning: Some would argue "real car company" is premature. I happen to think he's right, but by adding some ambiguity, it does make you wonder.

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