"Think twice before you speak because words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill
The way a leader communicates will give the team a lift and increase their engagement and morale. It builds them up, not down like so many managers do.
There are phrases that should not be part of your communication if you want to build trust and good moral.
“That’s a terrible idea.”
“I’m the boss, so be quiet and do as I told you.”
“I don’t know why we even hired you.”
These phrases will not develop a high-performing team, but they are phrases skilled leaders use frequently in their conversations.
Work is a human place. Your top priority as a leader is to create and maintain an environment of trust in your organization. That's the only way your team will care. That's the only way your team will win!
A great way to develop good morale and trust is through the power of phrases delivered with sincerity:
"I’m glad you are on our team!
Everyone wants to feel important and needed.
Everyone wants to be part of something bigger or grander than the everyday grind, and it's nice to know work can be that something. Real leadership is positive influence. If your influence is negative, you are not leading.
"You can do it; I believe in you."
We all need someone to believe in us. Good leaders give encouragement, and they challenge you to do better. Everyone needs to know there are people who have confidence in them.
People want and need to be appreciated. A simple thank you is often enough. “Great job on …” “Keep up the good work,” or “What I appreciate about you is …” are also ways good leaders recognize, and they do it regularly and sincerely. It's hard to get a compliment from most managers. It's documented that genuine praise works, plus it's the right thing to do. It strengthens trust in your relationships.
"How are you doing personally?” They are willing to talk to you if you give them the opportunity. People are always wondering if you just care about them for the work and service they give, or do you truly care about them as a person. Remember, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
"What do you think?" Considering the pressures of our jobs and the need for innovation and improvement, why wouldn't a leader ask this question of their team members, often, to get input and to learn something? Most employees are astounded when their leader asks this question, and reply, "Who?! Me?" You also have to train them to problem-solve and become solution-focused. They will become more proactive while improving their performance.
After doing this for a while the team becomes more self-directed. They will still bring you problems, but now they're the bigger issues, and they will usually have a plan or idea of how to fix them.
Don’t be a leader who is fearful of the answers to this question, or doesn’t care, so they don't ask.
"How can I lead you more effectively?"
What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to do more of?
Merely asking this question on a regular basis to your team members—and then listening attentively and non-defensively to the answers—will make you a better leader. You’ll raise your self-awareness, get useful feedback on what helps your team perform and be engaged—plus it highlights where you could improve.
Make them give you at least one way you can improve. Then be sure to thank them.
"I was wrong, I am sorry." Vulnerability-based trust, where people feel safe to admit they’ve made a mistake and share their weaknesses or fears is crucial for a high-performing team. And this needs to be modelled by the leader. If you make a mistake or something doesn’t land how you intended it, then own up and give a genuine apology. People need to see that you understand you are not always perfect. This will give them courage to do the same.
"My expectations for you are ..." Few leaders are good at providing clear goals and expectations. Research shows that 80% of performance problems are because of a lack of clear expectations and goals. Effective leaders make sure this happens.
Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat said, "A coach must keep everyone on the team in touch with present-moment realities—knowing where they stand, knowing where they're falling short of their potential, and knowing it openly and fairly.
"How do you want me to coach you?” We all know that giving and receiving feedback is a good thing. People are different and like to receive feedback in different ways, so understanding this is useful. This question helps you have a conversation about the process you’ll engage in when it comes to giving feedback (both positive and re-directional) before you have to give it. It also gives them a heads up that your feedback is an important part of helping them succeed. Have a conversation around how they like to receive positive feedback, as well as how to approach it when you see they’re coming unstuck. What should you avoid when giving feedback? What can you do to give feedback that will be effective?
“If you were King or Queen for the day, what would you change?” This gives them permission to talk freely about what they see and experience. You will get their experience of what it is like to work within the organization and what they feel would make it better.
Getting your communication as a leader right is just one step toward becoming a better leader. Using the phrases above can help you build trust with your team, give and receive feedback more effectively, and become a better leader. That’s a win for you—and your team.