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.

How Some Phrases May Be Costing You A Fortune

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. The language we use in a casual conversation, a text, or in the boardroom can have extraordinary power and impact.

Words can equally destroy, limit, or curtail meaningful progress or conversation.

I recently came across a powerful new book, Expensive Sentences: Debunking the Common Myths that Derail Decisions and Sabotage Success, by Jack Quarles. He discusses the sentences or phrases that can derail progress and stop results.

I’m a student of good communication and have been all my life. And Jack’s observations and practical book upped my game immediately from Chapter 1. I’m sure you will enjoy learning to recognize these sentences and strategies and how to handle them as they arise.

Jack Quarles is the founder of Buying Excellence, a company helping businesses choose the best vendor possible. He is a specialist on expense management, negotiations, and increasing ROI.


How to Spot the Expensive Sentence

Give us an example of an “expensive sentence.”

Skip, here are a few I’ve heard in the last week:

“I’m too busy to look at that now.”

“She’s the only one who can do the job.”

“It’s too late to change our plans.”

They surround us. Sometimes they take the form of proverbs, like, “You can’t change horses in mid-stream,” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Others can be very localized, like, “Our boss isn’t interested in new marketing tactics,” or “That’s just Ted being Ted.”


“The best time to manage the damage of an Expensive Sentence is right after you hear it.” –Jack Quarles


How are expensive sentences related to poor communication?

Unfortunately, Expensive Sentences have the effect of ending conversations and stopping communication. For example, imagine that you and I are discussing which consultant to hire for a project, and I say, “Well, you get what you pay for.” That phrase has weight; it sounds wise and definitive. You will probably think I am quite set in that position (of hiring the higher-priced consultant), even though I may only be 60% sure that it applies here. I’d be better off qualifying my words before they define our decision, and you might be smart to gently respond, “Yes, it’s often true that you do have to pay for higher quality… but is that true in this case? Or could that be an Expensive Sentence?”


Myths that Drive Decision-Making

Jack, you debunk many common myths that drive corporate decision-making. And then you give suggestions on how to handle them. I’d love to delve into a few, starting with, “The customer is always right.” You give examples of where customers are mistaken. Would you share one and the implications?

es_cover_oct_2016_flat-2In the book, I share about a meeting I took part in with the CEO of Five Guys, Jerry Murrell. They’ve grown with a franchise model, and so they have customers who run restaurants (franchisees) and customers who eat burgers (“French fries-ees” – sorry, couldn’t resist!) Lots of people associate burgers with milkshakes, and a common request/complaint is that Five Guys should sell milkshakes. Other customers would love to see turkey sandwiches or coffee on the menu.

Murrell sees these potential expansions as diversions; he has always been laser-focused on burgers & fries. The chain prides itself on being the best reviewed restaurant in the world, in part because they serve such limited fare. If they were to start offering other items, they’d be graded on the average of their full menu, and Five Guys is not confident they can make what would universally be considered the best milkshake or turkey sandwich or cup of coffee in the world. (Burgers & fries? Done.)

There are only two reasons that our customers are “wrong” with their requests: either they add too much cost for us to serve them sustainably (i.e., profitably), or they lead us in the wrong direction, away from our core business. We must be clear and confident about our business model to avoid letting customers steer us in the wrong direction. This can be tricky because sometimes we need to experiment, and business models can evolve. But over-responsiveness is a proven path to exhaustion and losses.

Five Guys is an extreme example of focus (even within the restaurant industry), but note their success. Clearly, it’s not “wrong” in the abstract to want a turkey sandwich or a milkshake with your burger; the point is that’s not the kind of experience that Five Guys is offering.

How wide-ranging is your “menu”? Where does your business draw the line? What are the wrong kind of customers? Do you currently have a client who might be better served by one of your competitors? These are great questions to discuss with your team.


“The cost of Expensive Sentences transcends the income statement; it affects lives all around us.” –Jack Quarles


How about one of my favorites: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” What are a few possible responses to that expensive sentence?

16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently

What Great Teams Do Differently

Don Yaeger is an expert on what it takes to cultivate a champion mindset. He was associate editor of Sports Illustrated for over a decade; he has made guest appearances on every show from Oprah to Good Morning America, and he’s also authored more than two dozen books. Now a public speaker, he shares stories from the greatest winners of our generation.

So when his new book, Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, arrived on my desk, I couldn’t wait to read it.

I wasn’t disappointed. Don’s insight on high-performance is evident on every single page. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his research into what makes a team great.


“Great teams are connected to a greater purpose.” -Don Yaeger


Use Your Why to Motivate

Don, you’ve seen the inside of great teams in the sports and the business worlds. Your new book focuses on 16 characteristics of great teams. Let’s talk about a few of them.

 Your first point is that great teams understand their why. Purpose motivates both individuals and teams. How does the personal “why” interact with the team “why”? Do they ever conflict?

In the business world, a “why” is often misunderstood as a company mission statement or code of ethics—which couldn’t be further from the truth. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek has described a company’s corporate “why” as “always disconnected from the product, service, or the act you’re performing.” If an organization desires to become a Great Team in the business world, then it must understand how to utilize the “why” properly in order to galvanize support from its professional ranks. “When an organization lays out its cause, how it does so matters,” explained Sinek. “It’s not an argument to be made, but a context to be provided. An organization’s ‘why’ literally has to come first—before anything else.”


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek



Companies that understand the purpose and philosophy behind the “why” are usually astute, high-performing organizations that tap directly into the pulse of those they benefit the most. When utilized correctly, this understanding can create a powerful sense of duty and purpose for business teams because the employees know exactly whom they are working for and to what end.


“Great teams build a deep bench at all levels of the organization.” -Don Yaeger


Let Culture Shape Recruiting

You talk about letting culture shape recruiting. In a large company, how do you make this a reality so that every single hiring manager is thinking about culture and not just reviewing a resume?

Purpose and leadership are essential to building a team culture. Once an organization determines its “why” and aligns its leadership style with the needs of its members, it is on the right path to becoming a Great Team. But culture building doesn’t stop there. A team must also recruit the right talent. If done well, recruiting will result in a highly competitive team that is consistently motivated to seek and claim success.

Great Teams recruit players who fit—who will thrive within the established team culture and add value to it. The talent of the employee or teammate is important, but fit trumps all. These organizations understand that Great Team culture establishes an environment conducive to success, but that success ultimately depends on the right kind of personnel.

In today’s marketplace, it is very easy to be wowed by decorated resumes. When the “ideal” candidate—the one with the outstanding CV—arrives, many leaders incorrectly believe that including that person will automatically better the team. A Great Team, however, understands that fit is more important than credentials. Someone who might be perfect for one environment—or might have been great while working for a competitor—will not be a guaranteed fit for another. That’s something hiring managers should keep in mind as they build their teams.


“Great teams realize that fit is more important than credentials.” -Don Yaeger


Successful Huddles Are Crucial

What makes a successful huddle? 

Successful huddles are all about open and consistent communication. Under head coach Bill Walsh, the San Francisco 49ers placed such importance on the art of the meeting that he had specific rules and procedures regarding how each one should run. Walsh analyzed and even recorded meetings to spot potential lulls and weaknesses in their process. He wanted to make sure his assistant coaches—who would sometimes change from year to year—were teaching his team in a consistent fashion.

Quarterback Joe Montana, who came on board right after Walsh did, shared Walsh’s high opinion of meetings. This legendary team leader—who won four Super Bowl championships and is tied for the most titles among all quarterbacks—was known in and around the NFL as “Joe Cool.” He had an uncanny knack for seeing all aspects of the game from his position on the field and was seemingly unflappable in the most pressurized situations. And there was a reason for Montana’s demeanor: like Walsh, he believed in a very diligent, orderly meeting process as a means of keeping players engaged. For Montana, the huddle was a sacred place and the ultimate comfort zone. There were rules to be followed when Montana was giving out information for the next play. If those rules weren’t adhered to, Montana told his teammates to take the issue somewhere else. The huddle was a place where everyone needed to be engaged and headed in the same direction.

Great Teams in businesses can take a page from Walsh’s and Montana’s playbook and conduct orderly, disciplined meetings. Such order makes a bigger difference than many leaders want to admit. A successful meeting revolves around clear communication. It can be pivotal to achieving greatness because it explains precise strategy and opens the door to new ideas. An efficient meeting allows an organization to remain one step ahead of the competition and forces it to remain consistent with any existing strategies. But these ideas must be streamlined by a process and guided by a leader who can filter out the good ideas from the bad.


16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently

  1. Great teams understand their why.
  2. Great teams have and develop great leaders.
  3. Great teams allow culture to shape recruiting.
  4. Great teams create and maintain depth.
  5. Great teams have a road map.
  6. Great teams promote camaraderie and a sense of collective direction.
  7. Great teams manage dysfunction, friction, and strong personalities.
  8. Great teams build a mentoring culture.
  9. Great teams adjust quickly to leadership transitions.
  10. Great teams adapt and embrace change.
  11. Great teams run successful huddles.
  12. Great teams improve through scouting.
  13. Great teams see value others miss.
  14. Great teams win in critical situations.
  15. Great teams speak a different language.
  16. Great teams avoid the pitfalls of success.


Would you share an example of where one team missed “value” and another team spotted it and capitalized on it? 

Phrases Successful Leaders Never Use

This is a guest post by Zoe Anderson. Zoe is part of the team behind StudySelect. She’s interested in finding new motivation tools and branding strategies. After one of my recent posts on words, this submission grabbed my attention.

The Power of Words

Words have power. Just ask any successful leader. Whether in business, politics, or life, the right words can open the doors of opportunity, while the wrong words can get that same door slammed in your face.

With this list of phrases that you will never hear a successful leader use, you can benefit from the wisdom of others and avoid having the doors of opportunity and success closed to you.


“That’s not my fault.”

Good leaders always take responsibility and would never dream of throwing their subordinates under the bus by trying to shift blame. If you always take responsibility, you will gain the trust and loyalty of your team.



“I’m the boss.”

If you have to keep reminding your team who is in charge, then you are showing your weakness as a leader. Confidence, rather than arrogance is the attitude you should be aiming for. People naturally follow confidence, while arrogance invites contempt.


“I’ll do it myself.”

This shows a lack of confidence in your team and sends the message that no one else is as good as you are. If you find that your team isn’t performing up to standard, it’s your job to guide them through and get them the help they need. The first attempts at doing something will rarely yield stellar results. You may need to give people a little space to fail at first so you can give them the feedback they need to improve.


200+ Motivational Quotes to Turbo Charge Your Thinking

The Power of Words

Words have remarkable power.  Choosing to fill your life with positive, inspirational words is like fueling the engine of your mind.  I believe that our circumstances can change based on what words we read, hear, and speak.  That’s why in every blog post I try to pull out quotes that will spur new thoughts and actions.

Share a few of your favorites or stop by anytime to add one to your social media streams.  You never know when a few words will be just the fuel someone needs.

“Success is something you attract by the person you become.” –Jim Rohn

“Tread softly; breathe peacefully; laugh hysterically.” –Nelson Mandela

“Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” -Helen Keller

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” –Dr. Seuss

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” –Jim Rohn

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” -Arthur Ashe

“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” -Richard Bach

“To know how to wait is the great secret of success.” –De Maistre

“It is our attitude toward life that determines life’s attitude toward us. We get back what we put out.” –Earl Nightingale.

“If you run around with 9 losers pretty soon you’ll be the 10th loser.” -Les Brown

“The more you talk about negative things in your life, the more you call them in. Speak victory not defeat.” –Joel Osteen

“Hope is the beacon which points to prosperity.” –Edward Counsel

“You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” -Zig Ziglar

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” -John Wooden

“Vision without execution is just hallucination.” -Henry Ford

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney

“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” -Emerson

“Strive not to be of success, but rather to be of value. -Einstein

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” –Jim Rohn

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” -Bruce Lee

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” -Michael Jordan

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” -Henry Ford

“Teamwork makes the dream work.” -Bang Gae

“If you want to be a leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality.” – Jim Rohn

“Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true.” –Brian Tracy

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” -Muhammad Ali

“To endure is greater than to dare.” -Thackeray

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller

“The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.” -Phil Jackson

“Only you have the power to determine whether your future mimics your past.” -Skip Prichard

“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom” –Jim Rohn

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” –Zig Ziglar

“A successful team is a group of many hands and one mind.” -Bill Bethel

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” –Nelson Mandela

“Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture creating the building blocks for success.” -Ted Sundquist

“Circumstances will never determine your amount of happiness. Circumstances only highlight who you already are.” –Dan Miller

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” -Ken Blanchard

“No individual can win a game by himself.” -Pele

“You are not a true success unless you are helping others be successful.” –Jon Gordon

“The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” -Henry Ford

“Negative thoughts are the nails that build a prison of failure.” –Jon Gordon

“Simplicity, of all things, is the hardest to be copied.” -Steele

“Confidence is a habit that can be developed by acting as if you already had the confidence you desire to have.” -Brian Tracy

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” -David Brinkley

“Humility is the light of understanding.” -Bunyan

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”– Laird Hamilton

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” -Zig Ziglar

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” –Jim Rohn

“If you’re going through hell keep going.” -Winston Churchill

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” -Epicurus

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” -Oscar Wilde

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” -John D. Rockefeller

“Peace rules the day where reason rules the mind.” –Wilkie Collins

“If I fail, it will be for lack of ability, and not of purpose.” -Lincoln

“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.” -Brian Tracy

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein

“If you go out and make some things happen, you will fill the world with hope.” –Barack Obama

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Sir Edmund Hillary

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” -Zig Ziglar

“Anyone who attempts to build great things will face challenges.” –Jon Gordon

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” -Thomas Jefferson

“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” -Napoleon Hill

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” –Tony Robbins

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Picasso

“Passion is more developed than discovered.” –Dan Miller

“Whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality.” –Brian Tracy