Many of you may have a leadership role in your job.You may not necessarily be the Chief Executive (CEO) or Managing Director of your company or even hold a senior, managerial position, but you need leadership skills to do your job. It could be to lead a project, to lead meetings or to lead a team.
When you think of your role as a leader what would you say are the key traits (characteristics) you need to lead effectively?
“People judge leaders by what they do, but they also judge them by what they say.”
Do you agree with that?
In a recent article I read, the author suggested that to be an effective leader you need to “speak well”. In other words, leadership means good communication.
But what does it really mean on a practical level? What communication are we talking about? A good presentation? A persuasive piece of writing?
In my previous career in finance, the leaders who inspired me most were those who engaged me and my colleagues in real conversations. This could be a quick chat around the water cooler, small talk before a meeting, a brief update in the lift (elevator). It was this day to day exchange of information that differentiated them from other leaders and that has left a lasting legacy on me.
You may feel comfortable engaging with your team in your own language, but what if you manage a multi-national team and the language of communication is English, a second or foreign language to you? How do you have this day to day exchange of information? What language do you use – informal or formal? Do you feel comfortable using the language? Do you feel you’re getting the results? Do you have a motivated team around you?
In the same article I read, the author suggests 10 powerful phrases you can use, what they mean and how to use them. I’ve picked 7 of them and want to explore them with you.These are simple phrases you can use in English that will help your conversational ability and advance your leadership. Let’s explore.
1.” I want to be completely transparent with you.”
- What it says: “I’m going to stop pretending and what I’m about to tell you is really important. I value you that much that I want to share this with you.
- When to use it: solving a problem or stressing an important point.
Transparency between people is what brings them together. It’s an ingredient of friendship. You can’t be friends with someone without some level of transparency and opening up about your shared experiences.
Being “completely transparent” helps to draw your listeners in, and to help them feel the importance of what you’re saying.
2. “I wonder if…….”
- What it says: I’m curious about it and I want you to think about it, too.
- When to use it: When you’re making an argument or proposing a solution that might receive negative feedback.
The phrase is tentative (hesitant) enough to keep you from sounding like a know-it-all. You’re admitting that you don’t have all the answers. However, you’re going to try.
The word “wonder” helps spark a bit of curiosity in others, too. If you’re “wondering” about something, you might get them wondering, too.
When you’re in a meeting, and you’d like to offer a solution, begin by saying “I wonder if…”
- I wonder if we could outsource the deliveries.
- I wonder if the time spent on creating new software could be better spent by buying it in.
- I wonder if we need to look at conversion rates before we raise our prices.
“I wonder if” becomes a soft, but effective way to press your point and invite contribution from others.
3. “Can I share a personal example?”
- What it says: I’m going to share a bit of information that is personal. But before I do that, I respect your time enough to ask your permission. What I’m about to share with you is deep and meaningful.
- When to use it: When you are illustrating a point, supporting an argument, or teaching a life lesson.
The more personal experiences a person shares, the more people are drawn to him or her. Personal examples are far more powerful than generic statements. When we reveal our personality in our conversation, it moves people and resonates with them. I know this from my teaching sessions. When I share a personal anecdote (story) with my clients, it brings us closer together and they can see that we have more similarities than differences.
Humans love stories. When you tell a story, people want to listen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short story or an epic novel; people want to hear it.
So the next time you’re telling a team member how to improve their sales, ask “Can I share a personal example?”
4. “Let me turn the question around and ask you.”
- What it says: You raised an excellent point. I really respect your opinion on it, so I want to ask you the same question. Please tell me your thoughts; I will listen.
- When to use it: Use this phrase when you aren’t sure of the issue, don’t have a clear answer, or want to help the person you’re talking with find the answers themselves by discussing it with you.
One of the best ways to deal with questions is to simply turn them back around to the person who is asking the question. Maybe you can rephrase the question or provide a different angle. Whatever the case may be, the other person is now faced with answering the very question they asked you. I often do this with my clients because I know that if they think through the question again and discuss it with me they will answer their own question which can be so fulfilling.
This phrase helps people to think through their own problem, which is an essential ability. At the same time, it empowers them to make decisions on their own.
5. “Let’s try it your way.”
- What it says: You have a great idea, and I’m willing to implement it. Remember, though, this is your idea. You came up with it, and we’re going to see how it works.
- When to use it: When a team member is proposing an idea, and you want to put it into action.
This phrase expresses trust in someone else’s contribution. You are giving them a significant amount of decision-making ability and power. But at the same time, you’re reminding them that they are responsible for the action being taken.
6. “How do you feel about that?”
- What it says: You are important as an individual and your feelings matter.
- When to use it: When you sense a person has an underlying emotion that they haven’t expressed, or when you are mediating a conflict between two or more people.
Businesses run on numbers and data. We make decisions logically. Yet none of us can deny the significance of feelings in the day to day life of an organisation. People have and are driven by feelings as much as anything else.
You as leaders need to understand such feelings to make the decisions that are most effective. Feelings can be strong, and if not monitored, they can boil over into rash behaviour, or lead to bad decisions. A truly intuitive leader will understand such feelings, and respond accordingly.
7. “That’s a really good point, and I’d like to spend some time reflecting on it before we go any further”.
- What it says: I can’t this question now, but I want to think about it. What you have just shared is important, and it may change things. Now, I want to spend some time considering it.
- When to use it: When you are faced with a difficult decision that you need to think about.
Leadership isn’t all about instant decisions. Sometimes, you have to think things over. Another phrase that gives you the time to do so is: “That’s a really great point you’ve made. I really need to think about that and not make a decision for the time being”
When you use these phrases with sincerity they can certainly help you communicate better and enhance your role as a leader one conversation at a time.
And speaking of better communication and business skills, I have some exciting news. In the next few weeks, I will be launching something special for you. I have been working on it over the last few weeks and I can’t wait to share it with you. Look out for more snippets, including live webinars, about this launch in your inbox over the next few weeks. Can you guess what it is? Let me know in the comments box.
Ciao for now
*This post is adapted from an article by Daniel Threlfall.