One of a leader's greatest responsibilities is keeping their team motivated and on track to meet their goals. Regularly acknowledging the hard work your employees put into their daily tasks is a sure-fire way to keep morale and performance high.

While a "thank you" or a "good job" can go a long way, there are a few other things you can say to show your team members you appreciate what they're doing. When you speak from the heart and are generous with your positive feedback, your staff will know that their efforts haven't gone unnoticed.

We asked a group of entrepreneurs what they think their fellow business leaders should be saying to employees more often to express gratitude and recognition. Try these seven phrases out on your team next time you go to praise them for a job well done.

"I'm glad you're on the team."

You may praise employees for their good work on a regular basis, but John Turner, founder of SeedProd, believes you should also remind them that you're happy that you hired them.

"'I'm glad you're on the team' makes employees feel appreciated for their work as well as more secure in their position, which is especially important in times of transition or big changes," Turner says.

"I appreciate you."

Blair Williams, CEO of MemberPress, says that a little appreciation goes a long way -- especially for the small things your team does day in and day out.

"Thank your employees often for the work that they do, even if they are not moving the financial needle," says Williams. "Small gestures of encouragement will keep good employees working hard, which adds up to business growth and success long-term."

"How did you do that?"

When an employee pulls off a particularly impressive feat, your first instinct might be to compliment them on a job well done. According to Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms, you can go one step further by asking them, "How did you do that?"

"Great leaders should take the time to learn from their employees just as their employees take the time to learn from them," Wells says.

"Can I do anything to help?"

Humility is an important quality in a leader, and it can be heartening for employees to hear their boss offer help on the nitty-gritty, day-to-day tasks.

"If you are in charge of a business, you should be willing to jump in, get your hands dirty, and help wherever you can be of service," says Colbey Pfund, co-founder of LFNT Distribution. "It shows your team that you're there for them when they need you."

"Great work on [specific task]."

Specific feedback can be incredibly effective because it shows employees that you've taken the time to notice their efforts. Jessica Gonzalez, CEO of InCharged, challenges leaders to look at the projects their employees are working on and give them recognition for it.

"'Good job!' is wonderful to hear. Even more wonderful is, 'Good job on that sales call. You've done awesome at learning customer needs,'" Gonzalez says. "If you don't get face time with each employee, ask their manager to do it. Every employee should have someone who knows specifics about their work."

"How are you doing?"

Although this question may seem vague, it can also be incredibly meaningful, says Diego Orjuela, CEO of Cables and Sensors. It may be a greeting, a rhetorical question, or even a lifeline to a struggling employee -- but you won't know how your team will react unless you ask.

"This question humanizes you as the boss who initiates communication and checks on everyone," Orjuela says. "This gesture is a much-needed break from any given workday that is driven by statistics and deadlines."

"You're the reason for our success."

Bryce Welker, CEO of Crush the CPA Exam, reminds leaders that it's important to give credit where it's due -- and sometimes saying "We did it!" at the completion of a big milestone doesn't quite get the job done.

"Sometimes it's important to be more specific with your praise," Welker adds. "If you want your team members to feel truly appreciated for their hard work, let them know that they are directly responsible for your business's success."

Published on: Jun 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.