As a leader, knowing how to communicate with your team is essential to your organization's success. Your ability to say the right thing at the right time can prove truly inspirational for your employees and sometimes even provide that much-needed morale boost your team needs to become more productive and committed to the work at hand.
But knowing what to say to trigger this kind of response is not always easy. To help, these seven entrepreneurs share some of the most important things leaders should say to their employees to help them stay or get back on track.
1. I don't know.
Admitting to your team that you don't know something or don't have all the answers is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is one of the best things you can do for your company and your role as a leader, says eMerchantBroker co-founder Blair Thomas.
"It promotes collaboration to find solutions, it empowers your employees to be proactive and independent, and it makes you relatable. Transparency creates a strong culture," Thomas explains, warning that trying to appear knowledgeable and qualified all the time can actually have an adverse effect.
2. What do you think?
"Leaders talk too much and don't listen enough," says GoLastMinute co-founder and CEO David Boehl, explaining that this kind of attitude gives birth to a "yes" culture that may be damaging for the long-term health of the business.
Instead, leaders should create a safe space and encourage their team members to share their opinions and suggestions as a great way to ensure diversity of thought within the organization. "Leaders should be asking their team for their thoughts and ideas constantly," Boehl underlines.
3. What would you do if I weren't here?
Asking employees to share their thoughts may not be enough--leaders should also do their best to empower their teams to make decisions in their place, says Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and president of Influence & Co.
"Instead of feeling like you always have to have the right answer, ask your team members how they would handle a situation if you were not there, and when they have a great idea, encourage them to take action next time because their gut instincts are great," Raymond advises.
4. I appreciate you.
"Showing a little appreciation goes a long way," says Fortress Consulting founder and CEO Joel Mathew, adding that any entrepreneur taking an honest look at their journey will realize they've received help from many people who are due their appreciation.
"I frequently say this to team members, and the impact is tangible. Showing appreciation for the help you've received shows that you're in it together and the person isn't simply working for you, but with you," Mathew underlines.
5. Good job. Here's how to make it better.
In addition to showing appreciation for team members when they do a great job, it's also important to communicate when there is room for improvement, according to Piyush Jain, CEO of SIMpalm.
"It is important to recognize and appreciate the right things they are doing so that they feel great about it, but to make sure it doesn't inflate their ego, I also have to communicate some of the areas they can improve upon," Jain explains, adding that he applies the same technique for himself.
6. What can make your life easier?
It's easy to say thanks or ask employees how to make their job more productive, but one thing not many leaders do is ask how to make things easier for their people, says PaperStreet Web Design president Peter Boyd.
"When you ask someone what can make their life easier, they will tell you what is not working (mostly professionally, but sometimes personally)," Boyd explains. "In the work environment, these are things you can fix. Personally, it is tougher, but sometimes you can offer assistance there too."
7. What are you interested in?
"I find that asking my employees where their interests lie and what they want to do provides them with a feeling of ownership," says Marquet Media founder and creative director Kristin Kimberly Marquet.
Showing genuine interest in what drives your workforce and what passions and goals they have will not only help you forge a stronger bond with them, but will also show them they are truly valued by their employer. "As a result, I find that when employees feel empowered to take initiative, they are more engaged and satisfied overall," Marquet concludes.