That person who is our boss has a tremendous impact on us at work--far beyond the obvious things like which office we are assigned to, or the jobs we do each day. The better the boss, the more engaged team members are, and the better their performance.

In one study of more than 2,500 leaders in a large financial services company, the engagement, satisfaction, and commitment levels of people working for the organization's worst leaders was only 4 percent, while the engagement, satisfaction, and commitment levels of people working for the organization's best leaders was an astronomical 92 percent.

When you're a boss, what you say matters. Your words can have an immediate--and long-lasting--effect on your people, and as a result, on your customers, suppliers, shareholders, and community.

While there are many things the best leaders say to the members of their team to inspire them to greater levels of engagement and performance, there are some things you should just never say--particularly this one thing:


Patricia Walsh is a world-class triathlete, a software engineer--and blind. In her book Blind Ambition, she tells a story about why you should never, ever give up. The story goes like this.

A woman trained for quite some time to swim the English Channel--it was her goal, her dream, her obsession to accomplish this challenging feat. Fewer people have made the 21-mile swim across the English Channel than have climbed Mount Everest.

The first time she failed. And the second time too. However, by the time of her third attempt, all the pieces seemed to be in place. She worked harder than she'd ever worked before, getting into the best physical and mental condition possible. She was certain that this would be her time--that victory would be hers.

And it almost was.

After swimming more than 20 miles in frigid water, she got to within 400 yards of the opposite shore, and then she quit--exhausted, defeated. Tragically, as she neared the shore, a thick fog enveloped her, and she became disoriented--blind to her surroundings. And because she couldn't see the shore, she didn't know how close--or how far--she was to achieving her goal.

Overcome with exhaustion and uncertainty, the woman gave up, climbed into her rescue boat, and took what turned out to be a very short ride to shore. It was only then that she realized her heartbreaking error.

Patricia keeps this story in her back pocket for those times in her life when quitting seems to be the only option--when she's beyond exhaustion, when pain racks her body, and everything within her screams out for her to stop.

When you think you are at the end of the rope and about to let go, remind yourself of this story. Know that although you can't see the end point, your goal is in reach. Push away the doubts, ignore the pain and exhaustion, and keep your focus on achieving your goals.

Your people are counting on it, and on you.