A Leader’s Two and Four Most Important Words

Arguably, the two most important words a leader can say to the people on their team are, “Thank You.” It seems simple enough, but it is surprising how easily we lose track of the importance of this sentiment. Now, if you are anything like me, you may be thinking to yourself, “This is not me he’s referring to, I say thank you all the time!” I hope you do. However, I’d offer two more pieces to consider before you give yourself your grade on this subject.

The first thing is that many leaders are pretty good about saying thank you to the people they see in the course of their daily work. However, are we as good about going out of our way to say thank you to those we don’t interact with in our normal routine? Who on my team might be feeling unappreciated, and what can I do to remedy that? This is a great question to ask yourself routinely.

The second is that, as a leader, I’m not only responsible for myself in this aspect, but I’m also responsible for expanding my influence to ensure that other leaders in my organization are also effectively helping their respective team members feel appreciated. When is the last time I coached my team’s intermediate leaders on how to be intentional about helping others feel appreciated? Is this an area in which I can improve?

The four most important words a leader can say are, “I messed that up.” This phrase underscores a leader’s eagerness to model accountability and transparency. A leader’s eagerness to model these two attributes is directly proportional to their employee’s willingness to do the same.

High-performing teams actively cultivate accountability and transparency. Importantly, they do so in a way that doesn’t focus on blame, but rather focuses on responsibility and improvement. Great teams care far more about actually being good, rather than just trying to look good. How the leader sets the tone in this area in particular will echo throughout the organization.

“Thank you,” and “I messed that up.” I encourage you to use these phrases early and often. And by the way, if you are thinking about what the three most important words might be, consider “I don’t know.”

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