As leaders, we are constantly talking to our employees. Whether it's in person, via email, through Skype, or in text messages, we need to be very conscious of the way we are speaking to them to ensure its empowering them. Yes, I know it can be difficult not to yell or accuse when something has gone wrong and an employee has cost you money or a valuable client. It can also be tough to craft your interactions in an intentional way when you're rushing from one meeting to another or up against a tough deadline. However, I cannot emphasize enough that speaking to your employees in empowering ways is crucial to the success of your business and to you as a leader. Will you hit the mark every single time? Of course not. But you can at least start being conscious of the way you interact and begin utilizing the following tools.
By simply asking your employees some respectful, open-ended questions, you can usually learn a lot. When one of your team members screws up, it's tempting to accuse or put down. However, do you really know the whole story? Before you do anything else, you should ask that employee to walk you through their thinking process for how they arrived at the decision they did so you can be sure you have all the details. Asking questions isn't just for when things go wrong, though. You should be utilizing this technique daily to solicit ideas, gain feedback, and generally make your employees feel they are valued.
Questions don't do much good if you don't listen intently to the answers. When you are talking with one of your team members, resist the urge to multitask and focus on them. Put aside judgment, ask relevant questions, and take the time to see how their thoughts and opinions play into the bigger overall picture.
You've probably heard the term "you'll catch more files with honey than vinegar', right? Let's put aside the questions of why you'd actually want to catch flies for a moment and look at the wisdom of this saying. If you want to keep your employees engaged and loyal, you need to give them some honey in the form of praise. Did they get that proposal in ahead of deadline? Tell them you appreciate it. Did they impress a client in the last meeting? Extend your thanks. By continually doling out (earned and specific) praise, you can counteract any negative feedback you will inevitably also have to give and keep morale high.
Your employees can tell if you're being dishonest or glossing over the truth. As soon as they get a whiff of insincerity from you, the above tools will pretty much lose all effectiveness. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is important. If what you mean to say isn't all rainbows and flowers, find a way to say it diplomatically but don't be tempted to sugarcoat it. Being sincere will always earn you points with your employees and it will encourage them to do the same.
Allow Them to be Smarter Than You
Ego is the downfall of many a leader. Don't let this happen to you! If you're doing things right, you hired a lot of people who know things you don't and have skills you're not even close to achieving. Don't be tempted to try to prove you're smarter than them at every turn--or any turn, really. Allow their intelligence and skillset to shine and you'll find they work even harder to take your company to the next level.
On a daily basis, we have a chance to talk to our employees in a way that builds them up or tears them down. When you focus on communicating in empowering ways, it will inevitably improve your business and help you grow as a leader.
Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world's top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org