The most powerful words are always the simplest.
For instance, the most powerful word in leadership is “believe.” That is a word we all know, yet we rarely use it with our team. You can read more about that powerful word here.
In his best-selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (I have read it three times now and highly recommend it), social psychologist Robert Cialdini tells us about the power of this word. In it, he shares a study by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer that shows the almost irrational effect the word “because” has on the hearer:
A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: Ninety-four percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line.
Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied. At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words, “because I’m in a rush.”
Do you sometimes cut your team members some slack?
If so, stop.
Cutting people slack is code for “do nothing about it.” And doing nothing when someone messes up is poor leadership.
When team members mess up, it’s usually for one of 5 reasons:
1. Lack of training.
This is your fault as the leader. The response is not to “cut them some slack.” The response is to train them.
Yes, it is possible that you made a bad hire. You need to either find a new position for this person or let him go…quickly!
“I am proud of you.”
When is the last time you heard that?
When is the last time you told a team member or colleague that?
Every night that I am home, which is most nights, I hold our nearly daughter in my arms and rock her in a chair before putting her in the crib. Every night she hears those exact words from me. She hears them other times as well, but she always hears them then. No matter what happened that day; no matter how she acted or what she did or didn’t do, she hears those words: “I am proud of you.”
In James 3 of the Message translation of the Bible, Eugene Peterson writes:
A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
As a leader, this is magnified. As a spouse, it is magnified even more. As a parent, your words hold almost unfathomable power.
Telling someone “Great job” doesn’t count. “Great job” is the minimum. It’s expected after a project is completed properly.
What are the two most important functions of a leader?
I think that Dan Black hits the nail on the head in this post. If you are a leader now, begin focusing on these two high ROI roles. If you are not currently a leader, start doing these two things even now and study them as you progress towards leadership.
Dan normally writes at his blog but today he is joining us here. His purpose and passion is to help people of influence reach their potential. I love Dan’s writing and highly suggest subscribing to his blog. You can connect with him on Twitter and get a free leadership quote book by clicking here.
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The single most important question to ask when determining if you should promote a leader is: Does he or she have a ready-made replacement? Has she delegated well and trained her people well and, thus made herself easily replaceable? If the answer is “no” it means that she has not delegated or trained well. Not […]
What three things would you do differently as a leader?
That was the question posed to me from a good friend of mine, Three years into our business, we had more than fifty team members and were on pace to have more than $18 million in revenue in year four. It was a wild ride but I left knowing that I had made numerous costly mistakes. So when he asked me this question, I had no shortage of things I would have done differently. The hard part was narrowing it down to three.
Within seconds, though, the answers became clear…and surprising to me. They had nothing to do with strategy or specific moments in time. Nothing to do with bad hires or bad financial moves. Nothing at all to do with marketing or our IT infrastructure. Those were easily identifiable areas where we made mistakes and that had tangible monetary losses attached to them.
My three things all go back to the very beginning. As a future leader of the company, I would have done these three things differently.
- I would not have become a leader when I did. How is that for a leadership decision? We went from just three of us (two partners and me) to four other people. Real people with real problems, real needs, and in need of real leadership. And I was the one expected to lead them. Ha! I was not prepared for leadership. If I could go back in time, I would have demanded that I not be in put in a leadership role then. If that meant we didn’t hire anyone for a while, so be it. If it meant that the owners had to step in and work part-time from our office, so be it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that I would have stayed out of leadership forever, but when I was a 26-year old punk with no prior leadership experience and no training at all, I was clearly the wrong choice.
- I would have gotten a lot of training and passed it on. If I could go back in time, I would have made sure that all of us leaders would have gotten more training. I would have become a dedicated student of leadership long before I ever became a leader. Instead of struggling to keep up and always working from behind due to the mistakes I had made, I would have made sure I was fully prepared to be a great leader. Then, and only then, would I be in a position to lead effectively and pass it on. I would have made sure we developed leaders around us as well.
- I would have gotten help in my personal life in order. When I assumed a leadership role for the first time, I was a wreck personally and it handicapped my leadership abilities. My anger problems did not magically disappear when I walked through the office doors each day. My rageful acts nearly destroyed our company early on and nothing short of the hand of God held us together in the first year. If I could go back in time, I would have focused on getting the help I needed then, long before I assumed such a high pressure role. The lesson I learned here is that I should never have waited until my rage had shown up five times or even one time in the office. I should have addressed before it showed up.
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