Good leaders know that communicating the right ideas and messages is key. What we think becomes what we say, and what we say becomes what we do. If you want to lead your team to success, start using these words and phrases to get their thoughts – and then their actions – moving in the right direction.
1. Thank you.
A good leader is quick to acknowledge the help and contributions from the team. Leadership is not a one-man show, and it’s definitely not about hogging the attention or grabbing the spotlight. People need to hear an acknowledgement of their effort, even for small things. It’s encouraging and shows them that their work is noticed and appreciated. That kind of encouragement not only builds unity in a team but also helps each individual want to contribute more.
2. I’m sorry.
There’s no such thing as a flawless leader, which means that even the best of leaders will make mistakes from time to time. That’s okay if you know how to handle yourself when you make a mistake: admit it, and apologize for it. Then do what it takes to make it right. A good leader will be quick to acknowledge her own mistakes, even if it does seem embarrassing or humiliating. Trying to cover up mistakes only leads to bigger mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry,” on the other hand, is the best way to start fixing your mistake and moving forward again.
3. Our purpose is…
Don’t assume that your team is crystal-clear on their purpose. Maybe they all started out that way, but it’s surprisingly easy, over time, to get a little fuzzy about the team’s purpose. But a team without a clear purpose is a team without unity or any cohesive way to make decisions and plans. Work out a short, memorable way to state the purpose of the team that you’re leading, then say it every day, to yourself and to your team.
4. What do you think?
A good leader is eager to get help and insight from his team members. He’s not interested in being a know-it-all, but in getting the best information and creative ideas and working with his team on great solutions. Your team is full of experts that you’ve hand-picked. Let them know you value their expertise and insight by asking for it, and then listening when they tell you what they think.
5. We did it!
Anytime you lead your team past a challenge, over an obstacle, or to another milestone, stop and acknowledge it. Acknowledge verbally what’s been done, and that the team, working together, did it. It’s not about your leadership but about the people you’re leading. Celebrate the accomplishments and you’re likely to be making more.
6. Our focus right now is…
Though your team’s purpose is something that stays fairly stable from month-to-month, the focus can shift dramatically. You may be nose-down on a project, then have to swerve to handle a crisis. It’s important to communicate on a weekly or even daily basis what the focus is for your team. You can’t expect them to read your mind. Clarify what matters most, right now, and your team will know how to pull together and get the most important work done.
7. Let’s talk about it.
Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with interpersonal conflict. Sometimes you’ll be looking at a problem that is so new and daunting no one knows how to start. Sometimes you will all feel like you’re out of ideas. Sometimes you will think you have the perfect solution and be eager to launch the team forward without a glance backward. In all of those situations, a good leader will say those magic four words: “Let’s talk about it.” Pulling your whole team into an open discussion, or sitting down privately to talk about an issue, will result in everyone on the team being heard. Your team can point out flaws and problems, and can also present ideas and solutions. A good leader doesn’t try to produce all the magic; she just helps bring it out in the people around her.
8. This is our challenge…
When you are facing a potential problem, an obstacle, a big deadline, an impossible client, a huge project, or any combination of the above, it’s time to say these words. Clarify the challenge. Name it. Define it. Get it out there and look at it from all angle. Pretending it’s not there or letting it seem bigger than it is are both marks of poor leadership. There’s no need to be afraid of what you’re facing as a team. There is a need to clearly define the challenge so you can all think about the best way to tackle it.
9. Let’s review…
Every day is a day to learn. A good leader is always looking for the lesson, for the insight, for the new data or method that will make next time an even greater success. Did something go wrong? Let’s review the whole process and figure out what we learned. Did something go right? Let’s review the whole process and make sure we know what made it successful.
10. You did a great job on…
A good leader will hand out congratulations generously and specifically. Praising the team as a whole is a good thing to do; it’s also important to single out contributions at an individual level. The most powerful praise is both specific and sincere. As you work with your team, make note of what each person does well, and be sure to offer them acknowledgement for that the right time. When’s the right time? Well, whenever you want to be an even better leader than you already were.
Featured photo credit: Gruenemann via flickr.com