Want to make a huge difference in someone’s life? Here are things you should say every day to your employees, colleagues, family members,
friends, and everyone you care about:
“Here’s what I’m thinking.”
You’re in charge, but that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier, or
more insightful than everyone else. Back up your statements and
decisions. Give reasons. Justify with logic, not with position or
Though taking the time to explain your decisions opens those
decisions up to discussion or criticism, it also opens up your decisions
Authority can make you “right,” but collaboration makes everyone right–and makes everyone pull together.
“I was wrong.”
I once came up with what I thought was an awesome plan to improve
overall productivity by moving a crew to a different shift on an open
production line. The inconvenience to the crew was considerable, but the
payoff seemed worth it. On paper, it was perfect.
In practice, it wasn’t.
So, a few weeks later, I met with the crew and said, “I know you
didn’t think this would work, and you were right. I was wrong. Let’s
move you back to your original shift.”
I felt terrible. I felt stupid. I was sure I’d lost any respect they had for me.
It turns out I was wrong about that, too. Later one employee said, “I
didn’t really know you, but the fact you were willing to admit you were
wrong told me everything I needed to know.”
When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. You won’t lose respect–you’ll gain it.
“That was awesome.”
No one gets enough praise. No one. Pick someone–pick anyone–who
does or did something well and say, “Wow, that was great how you…”
And feel free to go back in time. Saying “Earlier, I was thinking
about how you handled that employee issue last month…” can make just
as positive an impact today as it would have then. (It could even make a
bigger impact, because it shows you still remember what happened last
month, and you still think about it.)
Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the
recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for
it–and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.
Think about a time you gave a gift and the recipient seemed
uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun
for you, right?
The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or
praised. Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. The
spotlight may make you feel uneasy or insecure, but all you have to do
is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say,
“You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”
Don’t let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too.
“Can you help me?”
When you need help, regardless of the type of help you need or the
person you need it from, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help
I promise you’ll get help.
And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a
willingness to listen–which, by the way, are all qualities of a great
And are all qualities of a great friend.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for:
words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support…
Say you’re sorry.
But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like “But I was really
mad, because…” or “But I did think you were…” or any statement that
in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other
Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.
Then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts.
“Can you show me?”
Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything.
When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: You
implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you
trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; and you get to better
assess the value of the advice.
Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown.
Then you both win.
“Let me give you a hand.”
Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness. So, many people hesitate to ask for help.
But everyone needs help.
Don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people
will give you a version of the reflexive “No, I’m just looking” reply to
sales clerks and say, “No, I’m all right.”
Be specific. Find something you can help with. Say “I’ve got a few
minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels
collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Model the behavior you
want your employees to display.
Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.
“I love you.”
No, not at work, but everywhere you mean it–and every time you feel it.
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you’re upset,
frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you
feel better, but it never does.
That’s especially true where your employees are concerned. Results
come and go, but feelings are forever. Criticize an employee in a group
setting and it will seem like he eventually got over it, but inside, he
Before you speak, spend more time considering how employees will
think and feel than you do evaluating whether the decision makes
objective sense. You can easily recover from a mistake made because of
faulty data or inaccurate projections.
You’ll never recover from the damage you inflict on an employee’s self-esteem.
Be quiet until you know exactly what to say–and exactly what affect your words will have.