Writer Maya Angelou was only half right when she said that people won’t remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. True, unless you’re talking about toxic things that careless leaders say. People will remember the exact words, and exactly how they made them feel –and it’s not good. With three decades leading people under my belt, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) what motivates people, and demotivates them. I still cringe when I hear leaders say any of these 17 no-no’s.
1.”Person X is doing better.”
Ugh. Never make comparisons like this. The only reason to use this phrase would be to motivate someone to improve (which it absolutely won’t) or to berate them (shame on you).
2. “Bring me solutions, not problems.”
Baloney. Leaders want problems surfaced and don’t want to shoot the messenger. Yes, the employee should think through options for solving the problem, but sometimes they need your help. This absolute a statement leads to problems buried versus brought forth.
3. “I don’t have any feedback for you.”
You don’t have any or you can’t have any, because you’re not in tune with the employee’s strengths and opportunities or weren’t paying enough attention to the specifics of their performance?
4. “You don’t need to know why –just execute.”
Actually, they do need to know why. Surveys I conducted for Make It Matter revealed 58 percent of employees ranked “Not knowing why I’m asked to do what I do” as a top three de-motivator.
5. “I’ll do it myself.”
And you’ll be by yourself, on an island, without support. This is horrid on two fronts. First, it’s the opposite of granting autonomy, which employees crave. Second, it says “I know better than you” and “I’m a control freak” –both are debilitating.
6. “Because I’m the boss.”
So what? It’s about personal power, not position power. This phrase is a cop out and a weak way to hide behind authority. You might get compliance. You’ll never get commitment. You’ll get followers by hierarchy. But never by heart.
7. “Why did you do it that way?”
This phrase is an accusation by nature. If you use it, be clear it’s inquisitive in nature. If the intent is to point out flaws, instead ask, “How might things have been done better?”