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9 Teammates, 0 Employees

Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta
1 min read

Table of Contents

Words matter.

Notice how Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, uses "I" and "we" in this interview (emphasis mine).

Isn't that the thing? [Laughs] I could give you self-driving nirvana if it's in the desert, there's no oncoming traffic and there are no pedestrians. I can do it right now.

Thank you, taxi Buddha! How does one man give us so much? Why do you even bother with the other 6,700 employees at Uber?

I literally have hundreds of scientists and engineers.

Those scientists and engineers presumably work at Uber because they care about the mission and the problems that they're solving. Kalanick doesn't own them.

Language matters.

Hearing words like these from founders and CEOs shows that they want to be owners, not leaders. People join their companies in spite of them, not because of them.

When I worked in sales at Google, I was always intentional about my language. Christina and I worked with our clients to help their businesses succeed. We didn't focus on making more money for Google. If our clients were successful, they would probably spend more with us. I was careful to always use "we" and "us" so that they knew we were on the same team.

I've tried to do the same at Tortuga so that everyone at the company (Tortuganauts) knows that we are a team, working together. Tortuganauts do not work for me, they work with me and with each other.

Notice the difference in meaning there? How about here?

  • We, not I
  • Us, not me
  • Teammate, not employee
  • Coach, not manager

You send a strong message with your words. I hope it's not the same one as Kalanick.

Language matters. If you're leading a company, use your words for inclusion, not to assert your authority.