15 Powerful Phrases That Will Make You A Better Leader

Powerful Phrases That Will Make You Better

Years ago, I was walking down a long office corridor in a nondescript office building. Visiting one of the largest companies in the area, I was being escorted to a conference room. What the purpose of that visit was, I really can’t remember.

But I do remember walking by one room. As I was passing by, I glanced in and saw a man at the front of a room filled with maybe twenty or so people. That would not be in my memory bank except for what I next heard.

 

“I’m sorry, I screwed that up and let you all down.”

 

That’s not something you often hear from the front of the room.

I froze, right in the doorway, wondering what he was apologizing for and what was going on. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had no business stopping to watch, so I willed my feet to keep walking.

In those few seconds, I don’t know the details of what happened. But I could discern that this was the boss, and he wasn’t holding back. He had made a mistake and was taking full responsibility for it.

It was impressive. I wonder what the others in that room thought. My guess is that they still talk about this boss of theirs.

 


“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose your words well.” -Robin Sharma

 

There are a few power-packed phrases that anyone can use to change the course of a conversation. Here are a few that leaders use to transform their teams:

 

“I’m sorry.”

As I said above, this one is powerful because it’s unexpected, and it demonstrates both self-awareness and personal responsibility. That’s not a boss who looks to throw the blame faster than a quarterback about to be sacked.

“Leaders who apologize demonstrate personal accountability.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Tell me more.”

It’s open-ended. It shows interest. It demonstrates listening skills.

 

“What’s working?”

Especially good if everyone is complaining. This one refocuses on what’s positive. You can build on what’s working before you get into what’s not.

 

“I’m proud of you.”

It sounds parental and maybe that’s where its power lies. But I’ve seen this one both as a giver and a receiver. When it’s sincere, it’s a powerful phrase because it is clear and concise.


“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.” -William Makepeace Thackeray

 

“How can I be of help?”

I’m often surprised at the response. It may be that simply offering an ear helps enough, but often there are a few specifics that really make a difference and are easy to do.

The Top 10 Posts of 2016

Unpredictable Results

Talk to any blogger and you will likely hear the same thing.  It is always a surprise to see what becomes popular.  I may work like crazy on something for hours, post it, and it may see very little traffic.  Something else ends up taking off, and it was almost a last minute thought.  You just can’t predict.

In putting together a list of popular posts, there are also so many ways to look at the data.  Do you measure purely by the traffic?  If you do it that way, doesn’t that give an unfair advantage to content posted in January?

After looking at the statistics, I decided to pick the top posts by traffic with a weight based on the date.  If a post was dated later in the year, it received a slightly higher weight to equal things out.

 

The Top 10: Did you miss one?

Here are the top 10 original posts:

3 Leadership Lessons from Santa Claus

Lesson from Santa: Let go of baggage weighing you down.

Don’t Get Hooked! Why Successful People Don’t Take the Bait

“Happiness can only be found if you free yourself of all other distractions.” -Saul Bellow

Why Leaders Must Deliver on Promises

“You are what you do, not what you say you will do.” CG Jung

Winners Give Just A Little Bit More

“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” –George Augustus Moore

What Do You See in the Clouds?

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” –Edgar Degas

Ask Questions to Improve Your Leadership

This is a guest post by friend, executive and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

 

Leadership is Not About Knowing All the Answers

Leadership is not about knowing all the answers—it is about leading others to do their best to accomplish goals, solve problems and grow. How many times have you seen a “leader” arrive at the wrong conclusion or take misguided action because they did not know all the facts? How many times have you been frustrated because you were not asked to provide your opinion, perspective or experience?

 


“Leadership is not about knowing all the answers.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

When leaders do not take time to formulate and ask appropriate questions, the whole organization suffers—people do not contribute their best; they do not grow, and the organization often takes sub-optimal or wrong action. Likewise, leaders that do not ask purposeful questions can demoralize the organization, gradually turn associates into non-thinking “yes people” and risk looking foolish or arrogant.

A leader’s effectiveness can be greatly improved by using insightful questions. Here is how.

 


“Leaders who do not ask purposeful questions can demoralize the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Benefits and Power of Asking Questions

With the proper use and timing, asking questions allows a leader to:

  • Guide the direction of the conversation and focus the discussion
  • Clarify what others have said to improve understanding
  • Improve decisions with better, in-depth information from people who may know more
  • Formulate well-informed decisions with input from other perspectives to better define issues
  • Precipitate a decision by asking for options and exactly what is needed to decide
  • Develop alternative options
  • Raise the level of thinking in the organization, often to broader, more strategic issues
  • Improve organizational collaboration and communication
  • Help move from concepts and discussions to action and defined accountability
  • Help focus on results and outcomes
  • Empower the organization
  • Make people feel valued and improve job satisfaction
  • Solicit input from those who may not typically speak up
  • Improve organizational learning
  • Inspire creativity and new ideas
  • Buy time to think
  • Help overcome wasted authority.
  • Allow confrontation without making statements by inducing people to explain themselves
  • Lead others to conclusions
  • Suspend the business discussion to discover problematic interpersonal issues, attitudes and concerns
  • Improve self-reflection to discern what was learned, mistakes made, missed opportunities to mentor, what to do differently

 


“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” -Thomas Berger

 

My Most-Used Questions

Each of us can come up with a list of questions to be used in the appropriate circumstance. Here is a list of questions that I have found to be effective and useful:

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” Yet, many times when a mistake is made, people try to pretend that it did not happen. They attempt to justify the wrong position or try to cover it up, which leads to additional mistakes. This situation reminds me of another quote — “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

 

“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” -Confucius

 

Quite often, more damage is done to credibility, relationships, trust and integrity by the actions taken after the original mistake. This is true in personal relationships and especially true when a leader makes a mistake. How many times have we seen high-profile people get prosecuted, not for the original crime, but for the attempt to cover it up by lying?

Of course there is another choice when a mistake is made—admit it, learn from it, correct it and apologize to those that were adversely affected. There is power in properly admitting a mistake.

 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

Why Admit a Mistake?

Rather than try to ignore or cover up a mistake, there can be many personal and organizational advantages to properly admitting a mistake.

 

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”


Personal Advantages:

  • Averts the need to continue to defend a difficult or incorrect position.
  • Increases leadership credibility.
  • Avoids additional mistakes trying to cover up or “adjust” for the original mistake.
  • Reduces personal stress and tension.
  • Provides a “reset” from others in both personal and professional relationships.
  • If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.

 

“Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Organizational Advantages:

  • Provides a learning situation for you and others.
  • Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful.
  • Allows quick correction, which saves time and resources.
  • Gives others a chance to express views and provide new information.
  • Shows others that they are valued and that their input counts, which builds collaboration.
  • Increases the organization’s ability to try new things then quickly stop those that do not work, which helps establish an innovative culture.
  • Sets the tone for risk-taking, open communication and makes you more approachable.
  • Provides concrete examples to reinforce critical aspects of culture: decisiveness, truthfulness, openness, integrity and quick correction.
  • Removes the “elephant-in-the-room” situation where everyone knows about the mistake, but no one talks about it.
  • Helps offset the bad feelings for those that may have wasted their time.
  • Decreases “pocket-vetoes” when others see the mistake, do not confront it, but simply do not implement.

 

“As a leader it is a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time.” – Bruce Rhoades

 

When Admitting Mistakes Does Not Have Power

Is a Talent Assessment Missing From Your Strategy?

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

 

Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?

 

Strategic Planning Is Not Enough

Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.

 

“One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy:  a strategic talent assessment.

If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.

 

“A strategic talent assessment examines the skills needed to execute.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

What is a Talent Assessment?

Simply stated, a strategic talent assessment examines the organizational skills needed to execute the strategy. It should include:

  • Necessary skills to assess the market needs, attractiveness, competition and size
  • The know-how to define, plan and price the product
  • Type of talent to actually develop the product
  • Competence needed to market, sell and deliver the product
  • Skills to provide customer readiness and adoption
  • Expertise needed to provide service to customers for products
  • Leadership talent to actually execute and deliver the strategic initiative
  • Certain cultural elements of the organization: decisiveness, accountability, delegation, results, etc.

 

“If the necessary talent is not present, the strategy is flawed.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Performing a Talent Assessment

Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.

The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.

One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.

 

“Even if the necessary talent is present, execution fails without leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.

One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.

Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.

 

“Execution before the proper skills are in place can waste resources and damage credibility.” –Bruce Rhoades 

 

How to Remedy the Strategic Talent Gap