20 Things Leaders Should Say More

speech-bubbleIt’s not always some big, flowery, masterfully delivered declaration that teams need to hear from their leaders. Often it’s the little things–small phrases or statements that can change the tone and feel of your workplace environment.

Teams and leaders who are embracing their humanness and therefore working toward building vulnerability-based trust will undoubtedly even sound different from teams and leaders who aren’t.

What might that sound like? Here are some things leaders should say more:

1. I was wrong.

2. You’re right.

3. I need your help.

4. Great job.

5. Thank you.

6. Of course I have time to talk. Come on in.

7. I’m sorry. That was my fault.

8. No worries. Happens to the best of us.

9. Let me connect you with So-and-So. He/She is uniquely gifted in [that area your teammate is interested in].

10. Help me see what I’m missing in this situation.

11. I’d like to take a quick second to recognize So-and-So for [insert cool thing–big or small–they’ve done here].

12. I’d love to know your thoughts.

13. You know what? I actually have no idea about that.

14. I know you can do it.

15. I know we can do it.

16. That’s definitely not a strength of mine.

17. I’m glad we have so many different opinions.

18. I’ve got your back.

19. No, the customer isn’t always right and doesn’t get to yell at you.

20. Yes, you’re the customer; but in this case I stand behind my employee and have to ask you to stop speaking to them that way.

What others can you think of?

27 thoughts on “20 Things Leaders Should Say More

    • I’ve been fortunate in the same way. Many of the folks I’ve been able to work with demonstrated how to be appropriately human in the workplace. Frankly, though, I’ve also experienced the opposite, where I’ve had horrible, horrible experiences; and I know I’m not alone in that.

  • Top of the list: “I was wrong,” and #8: “No worries. Happens to the best of us.”
    It’s amazing how far these phrases can go to make an employee feel valued and human, to see that his boss has the humility to admit mistakes without acting like it’s going to shatter some self-conceived notion of invulnerability. And it’s also refreshing to hear a boss say, “It’s OK,” when something goes wrong. It would create so much more honesty, less fear, and, I’m sure, more productivity. People want to work harder when they’re treated as equals.

    • You’re so right, Gary. I think the very center of all of this orbits around some of the words you used in your comment: valued, human, humility, vulnerability, honesty, equals. Organizations and leaders have this amazing opportunity to not only “do business,” but also be a place where people live life and continue on their respective journeys to become more appropriately human.

    • Definitely. I’ll never forget the first time I actually heard a boss of mine say that on behalf of an employee. I was dumbfounded, then disheartened because I realized in that moment that the reason it stuck out to me was that it didn’t happen very often.

    • Thanks, Anthony. And like with most of my posts, this one evolved out of some self-reflection on my part. I need to get better at, say, all of them. 🙂

  • Whilst it is excellent for our teams to hear us say these words as the motivational impact cannot be underestimated, it is equally powerful when an individual reads this list and can hear those words coming from your own mouth at different times, it serves as a reminder to us about the power of the language we use on a daily basis, thanks for the article, k

    • Good stuff, David. I’m actually working on a “Questions Leaders Should Ask” post because of thoughts like yours! Thanks for sharing!

  • What can I do to support you in your work?

    In my years of education, I’ve taught under 24 administrators, and only 1 ever said this and had this mindset. And…..it was the highest achieving school. It was an amazing environment to work in.

  • Thanks for sharing these ideas. I’m a first time visitor. The only other thing I can think of is somewhat situational. When decisions are being made I really appreciate when a leader asks me to share my thoughts or my opinions. It may not be considered in the situation but at least the opportunity to be heard present itself and if it comes to fruition its extremely rewarding. As a leader I always ask my team to share their thoughts and ideas, I know they appreciate it and it results in wonderful dialogue.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jack; and thanks for commenting. You’re spot-on with your thought too. It’s not that humans have a need to be right all the time (though some of us may struggle with that :)); we have a need to be heard and understood. Further still, it’s important to us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We like being connected to and involved with a group’s decisions and actions, both in how we arrive at them and how we execute them. Good point.

  • I find this very interesting and human but I feel sometimes we need to be very honest about situations in the workplace. Good comments are nice for the ear but let us use these whilst being honest at the same time. We comment neatively to employees without necessarily being nasty.

  • How about: I appreciate you and the individual strengths you bring to our work place.
    I think, “Thank you” and “I appreciate you & what you do” are a bit different.
    As usual, great post!

  • This comment is late, but I just discovered this post.

    Great article, Matt. But I would add that we all need to use these phrases more in ALL aspects of our life, not just work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow by Email