Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Being a good leader requires constant self-awareness, reflection and a keen sense of discernment. It requires the constant balancing act of concrete tasks and project outcomes, with the human behavior elements to motivate a team and get things done.
Great leaders build trust, promote team collaboration and allow individuals to shine. As a leadership coach and consultant, when I see great leadership in action, these are some of the words behind it.
- “It wasn’t me, it was the team.”
For starters, great leaders are humble. Studies show that humility offers significant leadership advantages including the ability to listen more effectively, build stronger teams and enhance job performance. Accepting that you aren’t the sole reason for company success allows leaders to evoke wisdom and perspectives from a broader group of people, often resulting in stronger solutions.
This statement also reflects a desire to share credit and give recognition to others. It can be irritably frustrating, not to mention demotivating, when a boss takes credit for the work of others. When teams are offered credit for their efforts, they are more inclined to mobilize, self-organize and get things accomplished in alignment with company goals.
- Can I give you some feedback?
Great leaders do not shy away from giving feedback and they offer it in a compassionate way. Starting the conversation by asking permission to give feedback allows the employee to psychologically engage and hear the feedback from a better place.
Giving feedback that is heard and acted upon can be one of the most difficult leadership skills to master. Some tips include engaging the employee in a deeper conversation and asking:
– What are your observations about the situation and how you showed up?
– What options might exist to move forward and respond differently in the future?
– What part of that feedback felt true for you?
– What actions do you want to take given this conversation?
When we fail to engage in a dialogue when sharing feedback, it can come across as lecturing and employees will shut down and become defensive. In that case, it is more likely that our feedback will be rejected. Allowing the employee to gain their own insights can ensure the feedback yields desired results.
- I made a mistake and I wish I would have done this instead.
The ability to not only recognize mistakes, but also learn from failures is a leadership lesson that can take a lifetime. Embracing failure is key to success as noted by IBM’s Thomas Watson when he said, “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” Assessing and evaluating our mistakes and our successes allows leaders to model learning for their teams. This leadership behavior earns respect from employees and promotes an environment where fear is lessened, and learning can thrive.
This approach to problem solving also allows leaders and teams to fix problems before they spiral. When teams hide errors, mistakes can compound and become bigger than before. By pausing and allowing people to admit fault early in the process, corrections can be made to avoid additional problems.
- Tell me more.
Too often, leaders make the error of not listening, jumping to conclusions and acting before all the information has been presented. Using this phrase allows employees to express their thoughts in a deeper way and ensures the leader has time to hear all the necessary information before making a judgement.
Creating time to pause is important, especially when emotions are high, to ensure the most thoughtful response possible. Our Inspiring Leadership Conversations provide great starting points for leaders and aspiring leaders to illuminate the power of meaningful conversations and dig deeper.
- Thank you, I appreciate what you have done.
A little recognition goes a long way to motivate a team. Saying thank you and specifically identifying the behavior or action that you appreciate reinforces behavior and offers a sense of pride for employees.
While there are no “magic words” that make a great leader, practicing these words and phrases can build a foundation of strong leadership and trust within your work teams. Start today by making it a habit to thank one team member for a recent contribution once a week or better yet, daily. Over time this will become second nature and you will notice the positive effect on your work teams and company success.
Written by Dr. Laurie Cure, Phd.
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