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5 Things Great Leaders Should Avoid Saying

The greatest leaders in the world know how to speak to their people. In some developing cultures the way leaders communicate is at times basic, dictatorial and threatening. Sometimes in Asian countries, there is still one main decision-maker and therefore how this person communicates is of utmost importance. A degree of firmness is occasionally needed, but never employing scare tactics.

Certainly, autocratic leadership (where one single person makes all of the decision) has been shown to have positive and negative effects on the employees as demonstrated in the study here

In this study when team power struggles were low, autocratic leadership was shown to have a positive impact and create psychological safety. However, when internal team struggles and conflict was high, autocratic leadership was negatively related to team psychological safety and thereby indirectly negatively related to team performance.

This demonstrates how important it is to have the right team members and senior leadership communicating in the right way within all types of teams.

Here are five questions to avoid asking your people and how you can rephrase them for a much more positive outcome.

1. Why did you do that?

The word why can be seen as an accusation and not the best start to a sentence. Rephrase as a solution-focused question. Yes, you can talk about what went wrong, but as a forward-thinking resolution based response.

“What can you do differently next time for a better outcome?”

2. You always seem to do this. Why do you keep doing things wrong?

Be careful when using the word "always". It’s not always true. This also takes the recipient of this message through to a place where they did something wrong instead of being solution-focused again. Another way you can rephrase would be:

“Shall we work out together how we can prevent this happening again? What are your first steps going to be towards making things right the next time?”

3. You just don’t seem to be listening to me. What’s the problem?

This may be true but the way you phrase this won’t help somebody remember. A more constructive way to phrase this question would be:

“How are you going to remember what we’re talking about for the future? What can you do to reinforce this learning to ensure that you’re taking the information on board?”

4. Everyone else seems to remember this, why can’t you?

Again this is an accusation and may not be the best way of moving forward and being solutions focused. Another way of rephrasing could be:

“What support could you get from your team members to help you remember this or learn to remember in the future?”

We just cannot seem to agree on this!

This implies there is no solution! Again going into resolution focus can help. How about the following as an alternative:

“I am concerned we are seeing things from different perspectives, how can we resolve this?”

All of the above will encourage your people to open up, increase trust and help you to increase rapport and your relationship with the people you are speaking with.

Caroline Langston is the Co-Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching Mastery from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.

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