There is a Biblical Proverb which states, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.” When I was younger, this verse flummoxed me. Was I, in fact, gifted with the power to bring someone to life (or even worse, death) by using my tongue as a weapon?

Call it youthful ignorance or an unhinged imagination, but my understanding of this verse stayed within the confines of using one’s tongue as a weapon for quite some time. It was not until I was substantially older and stumbled upon a different interpretation of this Proverb. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Suddenly, this Proverb took on a whole new (much more accurate meaning). And it hit close to home.

You see, words have a tremendous amount of power. They can build others (and ourselves) up or tear us down with a vengeance.

The same is 100% true within our organizations. The way we speak to our teammates, our stakeholders, shareholders, community members, whomever it may be, builds our organizational culture.

While working with The Patterson Foundation, one will quickly realize the importance of words. I don’t just mean there is an emphasis placed on some words or that Debra Jacobs enjoys crafting new words (sidenote, Debra does enjoy crafting new words or giving old words new meaning. TPF is in the midst of creating a glossary of frequently used terms to share with the broader TPF family. More to come on this later).

At TPF, words are used strategically and with a purpose. Words are used to frame narratives in a positive light. Not in a way attempting to manipulate one with “happy words,” rather TPF uses these words coming from a positive perspective of open possibilities. TPF asks, “What is possible?” not “What are the obstacles?” Or “Who else cares?” not “We are alone in the wilderness with this project and can never find others to partner with us.” (This may be an exaggeration, but the point still stands).

TPF has created a unique culture in which the goal is to use words to build others and even our initiatives up. One of my favorite examples of this is the term “launched fellow.” Instead of simply saying a fellow left or found a new job, it is intentionally noted that a fellow has launched. By saying this, it demonstrates TPF’s willingness to propel its fellows out into the universe to continue making a difference. TPF is here as a springboard to launch TPF Fellows into new possibilities. This simple word shows just how much TPF cares and how deliberate they are in creating a culture that is focused on lifting others up.

One of TPF’s value statements is “Meaningful change requires commitment and persistence.” Part of this commitment and persistence is a continued willingness to embrace best (and sometimes new) practices. One of the best practices TPF has is its ability to demonstrate its strive for excellence by using purposeful, propitious, and powerful words to continue strengthening people, organizations, and communities working to change the world for the better.

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