4 Powerful Things a Leader Can Say

Very few of us get anything done alone. We collaborate, coach, and convince to advance our objectives. Leading people means considering emotions. Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s what you say and do, though, that influences how people feel. Here are four of the most powerful things I think a leader can ever say:

What do you think? In just four simple words, you give a person credibility, visibility, and status. Saying this to the most junior person in the meeting tells them you value their input and gives them a chance to show their knowledge and thought process.

Asking the most difficult or resistant person in the room makes them a participant, not an observer, which makes them responsible. If even a modicum of their feedback makes its way into the final decision and action, they’re now accountable.

Similarly, asking the most influential person at the meeting includes them in the conversation and puts their name on the decision, too. This can help bring others on-board, inside and outside the meeting.

If nothing else, soliciting feedback from people who aren’t proactively offering it will give you well-rounded perspective to inform a better decision. Knowing you took the time to ask could also garner support and cooperation even from those who don’t agree with your plan.

I understand. These words are powerful when someone is sharing their opinion, delivering disappointing news, or otherwise earnestly trying to explain something to you. Saying “I understand” tells them you’ve listened, you empathize, and you’ve taken the time to consider what they’ve said -- even if you don’t agree. The pause of saying “I understand” gives them time to switch gears from speaking and furthering their points to listening and considering yours.

Caution: sincerity is important. If “I understand” is quickly followed by “but…,” it will lose its power.

Please. Leaders get to tell people what to do. But never forget what your mother told you to do. Say “please.” It makes people feel respected and sets a tone of civility. It’s appreciated every time.

Thank you. Your mother told you to say this, too. Showing appreciation makes a person feel that they and their work are valued. Best when you go out of your way to say it vs. making it an automatic reply. Say it early and often. Say it in a call, a visit, or a note soon after the work is done.

If you found this helpful, please share it with a colleague. If you want to talk more about leading people, give me a call, send me a note, or let’s meet. You’ll be glad you did…thank you.