10 Magic Phrases That Will Make You a Better Leader

This post recently appeared at SmartBlog on Leadership:
Want to be a better leader? Then try improving your
vocabulary. No, I’m not talking adding the latest management and leadership
buzzwords or jargon to your repertoire. If that’s what you’re looking for, try
the Wall Street Journal’s
Buzzwords Generator
. You’ll be able to walk around uttering
leadership gibberish such as
forward, it’s time to act with strategic vector and transform our team
and “Looking forward to 2014, ideation
will be key to our ability to impact the solutions holistically.”

I’m talking about adding
some powerful phrases to your vocabulary that will engage and motivate,
encourage people to come up with ideas, and inspire commitment.

It’s not an exhaustive
list – just a collection I’ve picked up over the years – so please feel free to
add your own in the comments section.

1. “How can I be a better leader?” Credit goes to Marshall Goldsmith for this one. Variations of the question include “How
can I be a better parent”, “How can I be a better spouse”, and “How can I be a
better child”. Just make sure to listen and say…..

2. “Thank-you.” Use these two powerful words as a response to constructive feedback (which
should be seen as a gift), positive feedback, as a way to express gratitude for
going the extra mile or a job well done, or when someone brings bad news or a
problem to your attention.

3. “Nice Job.” Variations include “good work” and “way to go”. Giving positive
reinforcement becomes even more powerful if when it’s specific, timely, and you
can explain why (positive impact),
but let’s not over-complicate it too much for now.

4. “What do you think?” Credit goes to Tom Peters for
this one. Asking someone for their opinion or ideas is the ultimate
demonstration of respect. And when you get those ideas, don’t forget to go back
to #2.

“How can I help?”
Often used as a way to express support
during a development discussion, in problem solving, when someone is going
through personal difficulties, or when problems or ideas are brought to your

“What’s possible?”
Credit goes to Jack and Carol Weber for
teaching me the importance of
”. Instead of coming up with reasons why something won’t work, ask yourself and others “what’s
possible”. And if they do come up with examples of how similar ideas have been
tried in the past and have not worked, use the phrase “Up until now.”

“I don’t know.”
Use this when you truly don’t know the
answer to a question or solution to a problem – it demonstrates humility and
authenticity. It goes well with “what do you think” as a follow-up.

8. “Why is that important to you?” This
question demonstrates that you care, and you’ll learn a lot about the person’s
motivation and values.

“Help me understand.”
A much better way to understand someone’s
logic, reasoning, feelings, etc… than “really?!”, or “seriously?!”, or “what
the heck are you smoking?!”

“I believe in you.”
I may have saved the best for last. What a
way to express confidence in someone’s ability or potential!
What would you add to the list?