As a leader, you have an outsized impact on those around you. That impact can be a positive one in which you help others be more productive, empowered and inspired. Or your impact can be a negative one leaving those you lead feeling confused, frustrated or worse of all, ambivalent.
The energy you bring into a room and the words you use to communicate leave a lasting impression on those you lead.
I invite you to try out the five phrases below in your meetings and conversations for the next few weeks. You will find that they not only help you become a better communicator but they help you adjust your perspective to be more open, kind and curious with your team.
Tell me more about that.
Curiosity is a truly undervalued characteristic of leaders. This probably sounds familiar… A staff member walks into your office and starts unloading a problem they need your help to solve. Before they have even finished detailing the entire issue, you have already leaped into problem-solving mode and started suggesting solutions.
You’re not alone. I do it too.
Try changing your impulse. Instead of reacting to every problem with the fastest solution your brain can muster, start by getting curious. By simply asking tell me more about that, you’re giving your staff member time to share all of the details, letting them be heard, and better equipping yourself to make the best possible decision.
Take time to get curious. Your business benefits more from a great idea that takes a few extra minutes to conceive than from an ill-informed idea you can spit out quickly.
What would you do if you were in my shoes?
As leaders, we often think of our job as being chief decision-maker, and all too often we make decisions in a vacuum based solely on our perspective and opinion. While the final call is often ours to make, actively soliciting the opinions of others will always lead to a more cohesive team and a better diversity of ideas.
Consistently asking the opinions of others also has a ripple effect in your business, creating a culture of teamwork and transparency. Plus, when you listen to all the perspectives on your team those team members have more buy-in to your final decision and are more likely to be prepared to handle leadership issues in the future.
How did that make you feel?
One of my greatest pet peeves in leadership is the idea that feelings have no place at work.
That’s such bullsh*t!
(Sorry for the exclamation point, but I have feelings about this.)
Understanding your feelings and the feelings of those you work with, especially those you lead, is an absolute necessity of effective leadership. Our feelings are expressed in our words and our body language and they act as clues to understanding the things we care about most.
In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey encourages us to Listen with your eyes for feelings. Our job as leaders is to constantly be surveying the body language and actions of others -- reading the room to understand how to best connect and communicate.
I’ll take it one step further and say that we should also ask about feelings and it starts with simple questions like, How did that make you feel?
I don’t understand.
Leaders (myself included) often take great pride in having all the answers. Much of my self-worth as a leader and as a person comes from the fact that I help others by giving them my thoughts, ideas and opinions.
Here’s the thing. Leadership requires real knowledge and expertise, but it doesn’t have to come at the cost of your humility.
Once a leader loses the ability to be humble and vulnerable, refusing to admit when they are unclear or confused, they have lost all hope of being effective. Saying I don’t know and being willing to ask for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
When a leader admits to not knowing or understanding something, it makes it okay for others to also admit when they are lost. It breeds honesty and vulnerability which are essential drivers for increasing a leader’s greatest currency, trust.
What can I do to support you?
A mistake I’ve made again and again as a leader is assuming that everyone on my team knows I’m there for them. I see my core job as a leader to be ensuring the my team has everything they need to succeed and feel supported every step of the way.
That’s always been clear to me and I feel like I communicate that belief to the people I lead all the time, in a million ways. But, I can never say it enough.
As a leader, one of the best things you can do is constantly, consistently and clearly remind your team that you care, their experience matters to you and you are there to support them.
For the next few weeks, end each conversation with your staff members with the question, what can I do to support you? They may not always need your help, but your asking will immediately make you a better leader.
Give these phrases a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Are there any other words or phrases that you find useful in shifting your perspective and communication as a leader?
Please share! I’d love to know what works for you.