“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” ~Misty Copeland~
Client Taylor Asks:
I asked my employees for honest feedback on my performance, and a few of them said I’m too authoritative in the way I speak to them. How can I show them I value their intelligence and ideas?
Coach Joel Answers:
When David Steiner became CEO of Waste Management, Inc., he received an invaluable piece of advice from one of his directors, as I describe in my book Getting Ahead. The director told him that one phrase will help him shift the organizational culture more than any other: “I need your help.” These are the four most powerful leadership words you can say, and you should say them often.
Why “I need your help”? When you’re in a position of power, you may have the authority to impose your ideas on others, but that’s no way to motivate them. In fact, that’s one of the hallmarks of an ineffective manager. Asking for help in generating solutions, and plans for implementing them, is a surefire way to make employees more invested in their work. They want the chance to think creatively, helping you devise a strategy. It places you on more equal footing, showing respect for their intelligence. Moreover, it brings a broader range of ideas and expertise to the table. If you start using this phrase regularly, you’ll have shifted your whole leadership approach, and your people will take notice.
When should you use this phrase? Here are a few examples:
- When you need a new strategy.
Maybe you need a new way of gaining market advantage because competitors have moved in. The best ideas don’t necessarily come from higher-ups—they might come from your team. Bring all creative minds into dialogue with each other for a brainstorming session. Saying, “I need your help” will make them feel empowered to think outside of the box to bring forth potential solutions. Encourage them to throw out any ideas that come to mind, without judging them, and watch ideas merge and evolve.
- When you need to improve workplace culture.
When your workplace culture needs to improve, initiate change by saying “I need your help.” This strategy works much better than reprimanding people. Even if you need to critique an employee’s behavior or issue a warning, saying “I need your help to create a more harmonious workplace for everyone” can still work wonders. If you want to keep the employee on your team, this phrase will help him to hear you and modify his behavior.
- When the company’s in transition.
If the company is about to go through a change, don’t keep employees in the dark about it. Rather, solicit their ideas for managing the change or devising innovative solutions. Instill the feeling of “we’re all in this together,” and employees will take pride in helping see the change through. “I need your help” are four powerful words that will boost your leadership of any challenging situation. Change might still be scary, but when you make everyone feel invested in creating a plan and seeing it through, it will be a growing experience for all of you.
- When you need help with a particular task.
Use this phrase when you need help with the small things as well as the big things. Rather than ordering an employee to do something, say, “I need your help.” Whether you need a particular type of expertise, or you just need someone to complete a report, using these words shows you see the employee as an equal. You value her time, knowing she has other important obligations. When you make requests in this manner, employees will probably be happy to fulfill them, and it will foster a culture of gratitude.
Use these four powerful words, and your leadership skills will shine. Employees will see you as a great boss who truly cares about them. After all, these aren’t just words—they convey an attitude of appreciation and respect, which will help you get the most from your team. Remember, the best leaders know how to be humble, a quality that this phrase embodies.
Use these leadership words frequently over the next week, and keep a journal of your interactions. Email Joel for more tips on how to show your people how much you respect and value them.
How did people react when you used these leadership words? Share your experiences here.
“Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.”
~ Gore Vidal ~
Nathan felt it was time to raise his visibility. He knew he needed this just to keep his job in a tight market. He especially needed to get recognition if he hoped to advance. But no one likes a show-off or a know-it-all. So Nathan struggled with how to accomplish good self-promotion in the workplace without coming off in a negative way?
He decided to use three simple ways to let other in the workplace know of his good work. It’s self-promotion without sounding like your tooting your own horn.
- Share your accomplishments
You’d love to have your work speak for itself. After all, it’s good work. But merit is determined by people— by human judgement. That’s a blend of information, viewpoint, and emotional filters. In order for the person who determines merit to appreciate your work, several things have to happen, including sharing of your accomplishments.
- They have to know about the work.
- They have to know that YOU did the work
- They have to understand the time, effort, intelligence, and skills it took to accomplish the job
- They need to see how it benefits the company
They can’t get all this by osmosis. Someone needs to at least get them the “Cliff’s Notes” of your involvement in the job. You can do that several ways
- Send a brief report to your boss or the influencer about the job. It could be in the form of a question. “I did this, and this and this…am I on track? What would you like next?”
- Ask a mentor or senior in your organization to publically or privately pass on recognition of your accomplishments.
- Request a co-worker write a letter of recommendation about your efforts on the task.
Nathan read that studies show it’s not the most competent that gets promoted, it’s the most visible. No one likes a boss that is less competent than they are. It’s not good for you or for the company. In self-defense, Nathan needs to have his competence shine. Decision makers need to know of your abilities.
- Speak up in meetings
- Offer to present material
- Check with your boss or others and share what you are working on
- Come to your review process prepared to show and explain your part in the work and in strengthening the company’s bottom line
When you promote others, you often promote yourself as well. Nathan has been producing excellent results for his company. But he had not done a very good job of self-promotion. He hadn’t been sharing wins and accomplishments in his workplace.
He decided to write an email that outlined five specific things his team had done in the past month. He made sure each point had measurable results. He said, “I’m very proud of the work this team has done and wanted to take a moment to highlight their accomplishments.”
Notice it does not look like self-promotion since Nathan is giving accolades to his team. Yet it still reflects well on him.
The CTO wrote back, “Thanks for pointing this out and congratulations to the team. The quiet success of these accomplishments from you and your team has not gone unnoticed. The CEO and senior leadership were much appreciative.” He encouraged Nathan to keep them informed about their work and the value they bring. The CTO recognized that sometimes work that goes well goes unnoticed, yet, he said, “It is important we educate the business on the value we bring.”
Self-promotion, well done, can build your visibility and lead to advancement. It helps management do a better job of recognizing who are their truly skilled workers. It also helped Nathan feel more valued and gain more satisfaction from his job.
If you need to increase your visibility and promote yourself in your workplace, first evaluate your visibility.
What have you done for self-promotion? Has it worked? Has it come off brash, or confident?
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” ~Andrew Carnegie~
Client Gina Asks:
As a leader, I want to have a stronger impact on team morale. Some leaders seem to always have the right words to make people feel supported and energized. Can you give me some tips on what to say to keep my team inspired?
Coach Joel Answers:
Great leaders make sure to use team-building phrases each day. To become a better leader, use them not only with the people you supervise, but also with other colleagues. These phrases, when used by leaders in any field, will build strong working relationships that bolster the effectiveness of the whole team. Use them, and others will also perceive you as a stronger leader—someone who empowers others and values their contributions.
- “What can we achieve?” Asking this question will help team members develop a common vision for a project. To ensure the best chance of success, all team members must believe in the vision. Posing this question will reveal areas where people lack confidence and problems that need to be addressed. It will also help to define a realistic goal, as team members’ distinct areas of expertise will give them important input about what you can accomplish together.
- “What can I do better?” This question is one of the most important (but often overlooked) phrases used by great leaders. A great leader welcomes constructive feedback about her performance. Asking this question rather than passively waiting for feedback makes it feel safer for employees to share their input. In turn, the leader has the opportunity to strengthen her performance based on this feedback.
- “Thank you.” It’s easy to say “thanks” in a brusque way, but sharing genuine gratitude requires more thought. Say exactly what you’re thankful for, in a moment when you can focus your full attention on sharing your appreciation. Make eye contact and smile, which will give greater emphasis to your words. And whenever possible, share your thanks in front of others on the team, so team members will come to notice and appreciate each other’s strengths more.
- “What’s your opinion?” All employees want to feel that their opinions are valued. By asking this question of team members frequently, you’ll help bring a greater diversity of ideas to the table. Posing this question to specific individuals at meetings will help spark dialogue about ideas that need to be hashed out.
- “I need your help.” Rather than issuing demands, come to employees with a request. Let them know that you need (and appreciate) their skills to get the job done. They’ll take much more pride in their work when you frame requests in this way.
- “What drives you?” Great leaders want to know what their employees are passionate about. They want to know what energizes them, what motivates them to do their best each day. This knowledge helps them to delegate work appropriately, so each employee has the chance to do more of what fuels her. Plus, finding out what employees are passionate about will aid you in succession planning, preparing them to take on more responsibility in that area.
Leaders who frequently use these phrases will see the team’s performance improve alongside their own. Practice using these phrases at team meetings and in everyday interactions in the workplace. Your employees will come to see you as more personable, supportive, and team-focused, and they’ll feel more driven to work as a team in turn.
Try using all six of these phrases this week, and take notes on the interactions they spark. Email Joel with any questions about your results.
How did people respond when you used these phrases? Do you have other go-to phrases for boosting team morale?
“There is no[thing] better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” ~Malcolm X~
When Stacy started work, she found it exciting and rewarding. She felt she was moving up and making a difference. But lately, when she walks in the door at work she feels drained and unenthusiastic.
A few weeks ago, Stacy decided to face this frustration. What was going on at work that created a feeling of DE-motivation? What was causing her to be less satisfied with her job and less willing to dig in and get the work done?
She decided to list her concerns and then figure out what to do about it. At the end of the week, Stacy’s list of demotivators at work looked like this:
- Micromanagement. When she first started work, she needed some extra help. But now that she was confident in her work, the micromanaging seemed interfering. It made her feel like the boss didn’t trust her.
Solution: Before a project starts, Stacy will talk to the boss about the expected standards and the basic approach. She’ll understand the guiding principles the boss wants to see in the job.
Stacy knows her boss is a worrier and stresses. So she decides to really work on building trust with excellent work. Also, she’ll try to control the conversation by initiating frequent progress reports to help him see that the work is progressing smoothly. Be detailed and specific. If she has questions, she’ll ask for clarification quickly.
- Slow Progress. Stacy had moved from a small company to a larger one. There are so many more layers of management here that it seems to take forever for decisions to be made. She’s suggested some real cost saving initiatives… but nothing seems to happen.
Solution: Stacy decides to more closely align her goals with the company goals. She decides to talk with her boss about what is most important in the company’s eyes for her to accomplish. Perhaps what she thinks is important isn’t exactly on target.She also decides to focus on what she can control and do excellent work there, while she waits for progress on some of her ideas.
- Rewarding poor performance. Stacy still smarted from a slight from last week. She’d worked overtime on a project why Ernie had been on vacation. Yet in the meeting where the project was presented, Ernie got the praise. Talk about a demotivator!
Solution: Stacy decided to make sure she was the presenter on projects she had major input on. She would prepare comments and speak up more at meetings to make sure people were aware of her contribution. If necessary, she would schedule face-time with the boss on a regular basis to keep him informed on her work.
- No connection with co-workers. Stacy had been close to her co-workers at her last job. Here, she felt a bit excluded. She really didn’t have any good friends at work. In fact, she didn’t know much about them at all.
Solution: Stacy decided she needed to reach out and connect on a more personal level. She needed to get to know about her co-workers—their families, hobbies, and interests. She decided to start inviting them out to lunch one-on-one and showing interested in them as a person and not just as a co-worker.
Stacy was surprised to find four things that led to her demotivation at work. But once she made a game plan, she felt excitement come back into her day. Now she had control and could make her plan work. And it wasn’t a surprise to her that after a few more weeks, she had friends among her coworkers, her boss was micromanaging less, and she felt like her performance was accurately recognized. As for the layer of management that made progress slow? She discovered a mentor could also help cut through some of the red tape!
If you have a motivation problem at work executive coach Joel Garfinkle can work with you to find solutions.
Do you ever feel burned out or demotivated? What causes your demotivation? And what have you done about it?
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Caleb, a manager in his workplace, often found himself fumbling for words. He wanted to learn how to make the most of his daily interactions with employees, even the brief ones. He reached out to several mentors in leadership positions. “What are the most important things you say to your employees?” he asked.
Strong leaders use phrases that give employees a powerful motivational boost, his mentors said. These phrases aren’t just sprinkled into a conversation. Rather, they often guide the direction of a conversation by opening a space for authentic sharing of ideas and appreciation. These five phrases are the building blocks to positive relationships based on strong communication, Caleb’s mentors told him.
- “You have what it takes.” It’s crucial to let people know you believe in them. They need to feel confident in their abilities in order to fully apply themselves. Find ways each day to express your confidence in people. Encourage them to take risks when you believe they’re likely to succeed, and to tackle ambitious projects.
- “How does that work?”This phrase resounds with humbleness, as well as the self-assurance to admit that you don’t know everything. As a leader, it’s vital to recognize that everyone possesses specific expertise and a distinct perspective. Knowing when to encourage them to share their expertise is an important skill for a leader. This is a good phrase to use in a meeting with more reserved team members who don’t normally boast about their knowledge. When you know they can explain something well that others will benefit from knowing, give them a confidence boost by asking this question.
- “I’m impressed.” This is one of the most important phrases used by leaders. When you take notice of others’ skills or contributions, let them know. Be specific about what you admire about their talents and efforts. Sharing your appreciation will encourage them to continue making a strong effort in the future. Use this phrase in front of other employees or higher-ups so that others will take notice as well, making this simple phrase an even bigger motivation booster.
- “What do you need?” Asking what employees need in order to carry out their work effectively shows you want to be supportive of their efforts. It also reveals a high level of confidence in others. Rather than micromanaging how their work should be carried out, you’re viewing them as the expert in how it should be done. A strong leader has the ability to play a supportive role by asking this question and following through. Posing this question in a more general way—in terms of how the workplace or job conditions could better meet employees’ needs—may help reveal broader areas of need, such as help with stress management or budgeting time.
- “What is your vision?” Likewise, this question shows that you value the ideas of others. You want them to feel invested in their work. And you know they’ll feel much more invested if they play a strong role in designing their own work performance goals. During one-on-one meetings, you should also ask them about their vision for their career and how they plan to work toward it over the next several years. This will show that you care about their career goals and will help you prepare talented team members for advancement.
Leaders who use these phrases are positioning themselves for advancement by improving employees’ job satisfaction and getting the most of their people. “Write down these phrases and keep them somewhere handy, on your desk or wall,” one mentor told Caleb. “Make sure they’re in a spot where you’ll look at them often, so you’ll have a continual reminder to use them. You’ll soon use them without thinking about it, and it will feel more natural every day.”
Try using all four of these phrases over the next couple of days. Email Joel for more advice on making your people feel motivated to excel in their jobs.
Have you used these phrases with people you supervise? Do you have other favorite phrases for motivating people that you’d like to share?