By Liz Ryan
A great way to step into your leadership power is to start saying things that you haven’t said before. The more aware you can be of your language, the more effective a leader you will be.
Too often new leaders are taught to concentrate on schedules, forecasts and milestones. They aren’t always taught to listen to, much less manage, the energy on their teams.
Too many new leaders aren’t taught to ask their teammates “How are you doing?” or to reinforce them when they do something fantastic at work. That’s a shame, because building trust and good energy on a team is a manager’s most important task.
As a manager you can easily convince yourself that people come to work because they are employed and therefore, that you don’t need to worry about how anyone on your team is feeling. If they’re tired or feeling overworked, too bad for them! That’s not your problem, goes the old-fashioned logic, but that logic is dangerous. Of course it matters how your teammates are feeling. Their energy is the only energy available to power your team to success!
Work is a human place. Your top priority as a leader is to create and maintain an environment of trust in your department. That’s the only way your team will care. That’s the only way your team will win!
Businesses run on the energy their teammates create, individually and together. Once the energy goes bad — most commonly, because the environment crushes people under the weight of goals, policies and pervasive fear of making a mistake or drawing the ire of a manager — you can forget about anything good happening on your team.
At best you will get grudging compliance from your team members when your management style is based on fear.
The forecast and the budget and the operating plan won’t go anywhere without the push that comes from people who are interested in making good things happen. Your employees have to care, if you want to experience the good things that a trusting environment makes possible — things like innovation, collaboration and the personal attention to customers that great businesses rely on.
The most important fuel for any organization is the collective desire of its employees to do something cool, just because it’s fun to be successful. It’s fun to be win, and to part of a goal that’s bigger than any of us. It’s a great feeling.
Anyone who has ever worked in a trust-based, energy-focused company working toward a big goal can tell you how exhilarating the experience was. People never forget jobs that lift them out of the day-to-day grind into a wave of positive forward energy.
That’s why good managers don’t manage particles — they focus on waves. Strong leaders don’t try to measure and manage every microscopic particle of work. They treat their employees like human beings, and like valued collaborators. That’s the only way to win as a manager and to succeed as an organization of any size, in any industry.
A great way to begin leading your team through trust rather than fear is to start new conversations with your team members. Those new conversations — conversations about trust and other “sticky human topics” that are central to your new persona as a trust–focused leader — will create new forms of “glue” between you and your team members. That glue is trust!
Your new conversations don’t have to be weighty things, or intrusions on your teammates’ personal boundaries. Beginning human conversations with your teammates is more a matter of lowering your own defenses than anything else.
That’s why as leaders we must pay attention to our own thoughts and our feelings throughout the day. We have to stay awake and aware so that we know when we’re feeling triumphant, when we’re depleted, when we’re frustrated and when we might (if we are not careful) say something harsh or unnecessary out of our team stress (which is fear).
Anybody, manager or not, who is interested in broadening his or her communication repertoire can do that by getting out of their established conversational patterns to talk about new things, and to listen more than they talk.
Here are 25 things awesome managers say to their teammates all the time. Which of these can you try right away?
- Thanks for having that incredible idea!
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- You know, you are really good at this. I’m so glad you are working on this project.
- How can I help you with anything that’s in your way?
- Let me know if you run into any snags. Your success here is a big priority for me.
- I don’t know the answer. What’s your opinion?
- I do have a strong opinion about that, but I want to hear your thoughts. I’m sure they will inform my viewpoint, too.
- Listen, I trust you to do this project the way you think best. Put together a plan, please, and show it to me. Then we can confirm it and you’ll be off and running.
- I have a favor to ask you about switching priorities. Is now a good time to talk about that?
- Thanks again for the amazing effort you put into that assignment.
- I noticed that you showed Terry how to work the inventory adjustment report, and I appreciate it a lot.
- What did I say in the staff meeting that set you back? Your face changed and I could see I surprised or upset you. Can you please tell me what it was?
- I know you were disappointed that we organized the project differently from what you recommended, and I wanted to tell you that I appreciated your suggestions. I can walk you through the reasons I decided to schedule the project differently. I don’t want you to feel that I’m ignoring your views, and I want you to keep sharing your opinions.
- What can I do to be a stronger manager for you and help you more?
- I wanted to tell you that I’ve learned a lot from you — so thanks!
- What are you waiting for from me, that I haven’t gotten back to you on yet?
- It seems like there may be confusion between your role and Sarah’s, and the intersection between your two job descriptions. Is that a topic we should talk about?
- How are you holding up? How’s your workload?
- I wanted to tell you right away that everyone at the Managers Meeting loved your presentation — tremendous job!
- What do you want to learn in the company that I can help you learn? Who do you want to meet on the executive team? Let me introduce you.
- I want to support and promote your ideas, and I need your help. Can you lay out your argument on paper so we can walk through it?
- Listen, you are a very important person on this team. I want to make sure you get the information, support and tools you need. Let me know if I’m not doing that.
- Do you understand how our company makes money and how the organization works? I want to hear your questions and answer them because the more you know, the more effective you’ll be at your job and the more great ideas you’ll be able to come up with.
- I heard that you had a tough day yesterday with the rescheduled customer demo. I’m sorry to hear about. Do you want to talk about it?
- How can I help you reach your goals — your goals in this job and your career goals going forward?
- Have I told you recently how grateful I am that you work here? Let me tell you again!
The more human you can be with your teammates, the more trust you will build on the team. Watch the work get easier, the air quality improve and your team’s confidence in you and one another skyrocket then!