Supervisors are the lynchpins in any organization. They are the link between management and the employees who build the products, deliver the services, and take care of the customers day-in and day-out. They are on the frontline, the leading (and sometimes bleeding) edge, closest to the action and the realities of business.
Supervisors are also one of the top reasons employees give for leaving their jobs. Classic Gallup research (based upon more than one million employees) found that the number one reason for quitting a job comes down to the boss. Researchers summarized it with the much-quoted phrase: “People leave managers not companies.” And Leigh Branham further confirms this finding in The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, based upon Saratoga Institute’s review of 19,000 exit interviews.
But what about the other side of this coin? What about the supervisors who retain employees? The supervisors for whom employees are consistently willing to go the extra mile? These supervisors send messages of trust, authenticity, candor, and support… and they speak phrases that many other leaders don’t. They’re not afraid or uncomfortable saying:
“I was wrong.” When supervisors share their vulnerability and admit mistakes, it has a powerful effect on their employees. Rather than undermining respect or esteem, it actually inspires confidence. It creates an environment in which failure isn’t fatal, experimentation is encouraged, and problems are openly addressed, helping others learn and grow.
“I trust you.” Supervisors express their trust in countless ways such as offering challenging assignments or stepping back to let others take the lead. But, given the pace of business today, it’s easy for employees to miss the message. Worse, they may just see it as a way to get more done with less. Overtly speaking these three words builds confidence, accountability, and results.
“I’ve got your back.” For too many employees work feels stressful, overwhelming, and high-stakes. They know there’s a lot riding on them. They need to enhance productivity, grow their skills, and innovate just to stay even in this ‘if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind’ world. When employees know that they have their supervisor’s support, it goes a long way towards reducing the stress. Knowing that someone is in their corner and watching out for them is frequently just what’s needed to inspire the confidence required to perform and succeed. And while a supervisor’s actions speak loudly… so do his or her heartfelt words of support.
“I appreciate you.” Appreciation is among the most under-rated emotions in the workplace. Employees who feel appreciated are more engaged, connected to the mission, connected to others, and productive. Elaborate schemes, pizza parties, plaques, and movie tickets pale (in terms of impact) when compared to a genuine expression of appreciation communicated authentically, human being to human being.
“I’m sorry.” Apologies are powerful… for both those on the giving and the receiving end. Recognizing a problem, misstep, or misunderstanding and correcting it is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard for many… which makes it all the more impactful. Apologizing when appropriate communicates your humanity and a sincere commitment to your relationship with others.
These simple phrases – just a few words – can transform the tone of your department or team. They communicate a commitment to and respect for others. They create an environment that attracts and retains top talent. They cultivate relationships that are the basis for high levels of engagement and performance. And they make you the leader that employees will enthusiastically follow.
Just turn a phrase or two… and turn your workplace around!
What about you? What’s in a word? What other powerful phrases have your spoken or heard?
This post was originally published at Lead Change Group.