Encouraging words to improve employee relationships

Encouraging wordsInspiring leaders are often thought to possess a certain “X” factor that inspires others to be their best selves on the job: Maybe they radiate an infectious energy, have an undeniable presence that commands respect—or maybe they simply listen far more than they talk.

While all those behaviors have been linked to successful leaders, the seemingly benign phrases you may rattle off daily have an equal impact on your staff’s perspective of their jobs and their relationship with you.

Here are three simple phrases to incorporate into your employee conversations to motivate, deepen engagement and build trust.

1. “I’ll follow up with you on this no later than X date and time.”  

As a manager, you likely have any number of questions or deliverables waiting for your clarification and direction from employees, vendors, peers, clients and your superiors.

But from your employees’ perspective, their questions or concerns are the most pressing issues.

In fact, every moment that passes without your attention or direction is more likely to make them feel anxious, not empowered to do their job, ignored and undervalued.

When employees have a challenge or concern that requires your response or involvement, set expectations about how the issue will be handled upfront: Let them know that you will get back to them with an answer by a specific date and time of day. When you provide this level of detail, you communicate that they are a priority you will fit into your schedule, provided they’ll allow you a reasonable time frame to give their issue the attention it deserves.

2. “This is the update on X—and this is what it means to our team.”

Have you ever attended a corporate town hall, executive presentation, watched a political “state of the union” meeting on television or listened to an investor earnings conference call?

You may have noticed a remarkable difference in the audience’s energy from the time the speaker recaps the organization’s state of affairs and future strategy, to the beginning of the “Q&A” portion that invites audience participation. When audiences understand how any issue will directly impact their lives, they’re more invested in the topic at hand.

Engage your team similarly: Support information you share about client relationships, business priorities, strategy and general company happenings with a “so what” about how it will directly impact your team.

When you don’t put the onus on employees to ask how they’ll be affected, you’re more likely to get transparent reactions and immediate feedback about their feelings and concerns. When researchers at Cornell University studied the flow of information between employees and management, they found that 25% of the employees surveyed didn’t ask managers for more details, simply because they feared wasting the managers’ time.  

3. “What am I not sharing that you want to know?”

Having an “open-door” policy or conducting employee satisfaction surveys are popular corporate engagement tactics, but employees need an anonymous and time-sensitive venue to share their concerns.

As Katie Burke, Hubspot’s vice president of culture and experience, recently explained to the American Marketing Association, an annual survey doesn’t tend to capture feedback at the critical moment that a company or manager could do something about the employee’s concerns or feelings—and it never gives employees insight into how their feedback was used or considered.

Likewise, an open-door policy requires the employees take a leap of faith that there won’t be consequences to the information they share.

Adopt a transparent system employees can rely on to ask questions of you anonymously—and have those questions answered quickly.

Whether you create a “comment box” that invites employees to anonymously put their concerns on paper, or you establish a blog to publish updates about company happenings and allow employees to comment anonymously based on what you share, you’ll improve communication and trust among your entire team.