There's no doubt about it, the biggest tool you have at your disposal as a leader is free, unlimited, and right at the tip of your tongue:
It's your choice of words.
Think about it: when the spotlight is shining on you as a leader, everything from laying out your firm's vision to amping up your team all depends on what you communicate and how you get it across.
That might sound a little scary--but with the right phrases it can become the exact opposite. By sprinkling the correct expressions into your day-to-day lexicon, you can elevate, inspire, and motivate anyone.
Here are some easy ways to start:
1. "We can do it"
The more times you say this the easier it becomes for your team to believe it. Say it enough and your team will start having the success mentality that everything is possible.
The likes of Steve Jobs, Arianna Huffington, and Sara Blakely never said "it can't be done" to their team right off the bat--so don't go there. That's because true leaders let every team member flex their wings and test out their unique skills, regardless of their track record.
Granted, this doesn't translate to hopeless optimism. When my team is trying something new and entering uncharted territory, we always have deadlines and aren't afraid to do a complete 180 at the drop of a hat. But you'll always need that "we can do it" attitude to find innovation.
2. "Good job"
A tip that you can file under "so simple it's brilliant" is this one: never forget to sprinkle some daily positive feedback into the mix.
As a time-starved entrepreneur, it's pretty tempting to only use your precious seconds to address your team when everything's going south. But those few seconds invested in providing praise are well-worth it: Harvard studies have found that teams are more successful when they receive 6 positive comments for every 5 negative ones.
3. "That was worth it"
Oprah Winfrey once said, "Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion."
Just like Oprah, your team is (hopefully) after more than just a paycheck - they're driven by a passion to make a difference. However, many forget that this starts at the top--if you don't relay to your team why they're doing what they're doing, who will?
That's why I take the time every Monday to cheer on my team, and put our tasks in the broader context of our mission. To fuel your team's passion, you should do something similar. It's always worth the effort to frame the daily grind in terms of the big-picture.
4. "Tell me more"
I know, I know, this article is about phrases, but sometimes, not saying anything is the most powerful leadership tool of all. Maybe it's because we see politicians as leaders, but there's a misconception that leading always involves talking others' ears off.
Look no further than active listening--a tool that many point to as the make-or-break factor for communication. Some studies have even found that active listening accounts for 40% of leadership success.
By actively listening, you're not only understanding the information, but you're letting the person speaking to you know that as well. Some easy ways to start doing this are to say "tell me more", to show that you're listening, or to provide feedback.
5. "How can I do that better?"
"We cannot change what we are not aware of," said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, "and once we are aware, we cannot help but change."
In most cases, leaders are good at what they do ... and they know it. But even leaders like Sandberg know they can use pointers from time to time.
You're doing both yourself and your team a disservice if you pretend to know everything at the top. Your team will become uninspired and afraid to pitch new ideas, and you'll be missing out on that much-needed push in the right direction. I always find the most brilliant and surprising insights from the most unexpected people, and you will too.
6. "That can wait"
Leaders work hard and should expect the same of others. However, working hard shouldn't be misinterpreted as working until 5 AM. As Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, put it, "deciding what not to is just as important as deciding what to do."
Sure, there are times when the candle needs to be burned at both ends, but instead of working hard, leaders should focus on working smart and prioritizing.
That means understanding that your team can't always get everything done, and getting them to focus on the most important things. Most importantly, it also means avoiding burnout, and ensuring your team has a semblance of sleep to tackle those important tasks.
7. "How can you improve?"
First Lady Rosalynn Carter famously stated, "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be."
Inspirational leaders know that even when their team is doing a great job, they can be the push to get them to reach even higher. One way to do this is to set crazy goals, and encourage your team to reach as high as possible. When you set lofty goals, you are poised to achieve so much more-even if you never make it all the way to those "impossible" objectives.
8. "We all make mistakes"
The founder of Dunkin' Donuts, William Rosenberg, wisely said, "Show me a person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything."
Don't color me wrong--careless mistakes are almost always inexcusable. But leaders know that in order to move a team forward into new territory, there will be a few slip ups along the way. A big difference between a great leader and mere manager is the ability to handle responsibility for these slip ups in order to move upwards and onwards.
What phrases do you use to boost your team's success? I want to hear them!