I think people in leadership roles often underestimate the power of their words, good or bad, on their team members.
Here are 7 important messages team members regularly hear from wonderful leaders.
- “How are you going?”: Team members who feel genuinely cared for as a person, not just for the role they are doing, tend to feel more valued and engaged at work. Yes, leaders communicate genuine care, when they support team members going through personal challenges.But I think it is also what leaders do on a daily basis, connecting informally, listening to team members about what they are enjoying or finding stressful at work, and taking action to address any concerns, which communicates genuine care for them as a person.
- “I trust you”: These three words communicate confidence to team members in their ability, their judgement and their expertise. Behaviours that back up these words include listening to their opinions, running with their ideas, delegating authority, and assuming there are good reasons why they have taken a certain course of action. Great leaders know that trusting colleagues also helps to elicit trust in their leadership.
- “It’s Ok. Don’t worry about it”: Supportive leaders understand that everyone is human, people have their own way of doing things, and misunderstandings will occur from time to time. Great leaders know that team members are not motivated through blame and that challenges provide an opportunity to learn or fine-tune understandings for the future.
- “How can we make this work?”: Great leaders recognise the expertise that team members bring to their role and actively involve them in decisions that affect their work. Leaders facilitate collaboration when they take the time to share decision making with colleagues, make it easy for people to contribute, and respond well to opinions that are different to their own.
- “What support do you need from me?”: Great leaders are genuinely curious about what team members need to do their work well. Some of the needs team members identify range from clarity about priorities, backup in dealing with a tricky situation, greater autonomy, or perhaps practical support in completing a certain task.
The specific need is not what is important. It is more team members feeling free to raise any concerns with their team leader, even if it involves constructive feedback about the leader, and receiving a supportive response in return.
- “I always have time for you.”: Good leaders communicate this when they find time to touch base informally with their staff and when they are accessible and welcoming. Supportive leaders often schedule monthly, one-on-one meetings to support their staff, resolve difficulties, and give balanced feedback.
- “You’ve done a great job!”: It is one thing getting positive feedback from your peers. It is another thing when recognition comes from your supervisor. While leaders tend to be incredibly busy, positive leaders know it doesn’t take much time to genuinely and spontaneously thank at least one person a day for their efforts, ideas or initiatives.
Great leaders know that team members also like recognition in different ways. While for many a simple, genuine thanks is enough, others feel valued, when given autonomy, delegated authority, or the time of their leader in one-on-one meetings.
So, what are your words and actions communicating to team members?
If we are not careful, we can inadvertently communicate the opposite of the above.