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4 Essential Phrases For Your Leadership Toolbox

Written by: Sara Mueller, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As a leader, your job is to manage people, relationships, and results. This is no easy task and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to effectively influence those you work with. However, there are four phrases that are helpful to have in your leadership toolbox.

Business team having business discussion and meeting in co-working office.

Let’s examine each and determine which situations they are relevant for to make your life easier and your leadership more impactful.

1. How can I support you?

Most of us recognize that all too often when we are listening, we aren’t actually listening. Instead, we are preparing our response and waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can fix whatever issue they’ve brought up. But that leaves our team (or family members) feeling unheard and invalidated. It also creates a habit of dependency on you, rather than empowering your employees to come up with their own solutions to the problem at hand.

But once we improve our leadership listening skills and allow our teammates (or loved ones) to express themselves without jumping in to fix things, how should we respond? Sometimes people just need to vent to feel validated, valued, and less alone (a contributing factor to burnout). Other times, people truly do want help or advice, though it might be a different request than what our busy, self-focused brain hones in on. Here’s how to find out.

Simply ask, “How can I support you?”

You might hear a response like, “Oh, I just needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening.” Or, “So my real concern is X. How do you recommend we proceed?” Or, “I need support with Y (an aspect of the solution they’ve just identified from your conversation – yes, the conversation where you listened and said nothing!)

“How can I support you?” ensures you get clear on the other person’s ask, so you are only spending your time and energy on the support that is really needed.

2. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

While mindful listening is pertinent to being an impactful leader, that doesn’t mean we should allow others to steal our time with unproductive conversations. Therefore, we must determine when someone needs our support and leadership guidance, or when they are complaining, procrastinating, looking for an easy fix so they don’t have to do the hard work, or trying to unload their mental burdens on someone else.

If you suspect the latter, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out” is an effective phrase to empower others to take ownership of emotions and situations that are not your responsibility.

“This Excel spreadsheet keeps freezing.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“My mother-in-law keeps calling me in the middle of the work day.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“We misplaced the banquet order for tonight.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“I’m not sure if I should buy a Honda or a Toyota.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

First, become an expert at determining when you need support vs. when you need to empower, and when a challenge is your responsibility vs. when it’s just productivity and time-suck that doesn’t require your involvement. Then, when appropriate, say, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” to let your teammate (or family member) “keep their monkeys to themselves,” as one of my friends and clients says.

3. Are you going to tell her or am I going to tell her? Because someone’s got to tell her.

What about when your teammate approaches you complaining or gossiping about a co-worker? Gossip and complaining are not productive and have no place in a high-performing team. To solidify this in your organization’s culture, you’ll need to repeatedly remind your team of this. By asking, “Are you going to tell him or am I going to tell him? Because someone’s got to tell him,” you are reminding your teammate that this type of conversation needs to end right now and you need to either tell the person what’s going on or get over it and move on. If the complaint is valid, timely constructive feedback should be given to the person being discussed so they have the opportunity to improve and make a greater impact on your team’s results.

4. Help me understand what’s going on here.

Our job as a leader is to uncover the neutral facts of the situation and get at the root cause of an issue, not the symptom. An example of a symptom is your employee repeatedly showing up late for work. An example of the root cause is they may not have clarity on when their shift starts, they may be meeting with a VIP client or member early in the morning that’s causing them to be late, or they may have a sickness in the family that’s temporarily impacting their morning schedule.

By laying out the neutral facts as you see them (“You’ve been late for work the last few days.”) and then saying, “Help me understand what’s going on here,” you invite your teammate (or loved one) to share the root cause. Only when you are clear on the root cause and neutral facts can you support or coach your employee through a better scenario.

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Sara Mueller, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Sara Mueller believes we CAN have it all. She helps leaders develop emotional intelligence, resilience, and high performance so they can balance an impactful career AND a meaningful family life. After being burnt out in her career and hitting rock bottom in her marriage, Sara realized that her limiting beliefs and unproductive patterns were blocking joy and success in all areas of her life. So, she underwent an intense journey of self-discovery, learning how to own her authentic power, presence, and purpose. She now teaches the key learnings of her transformation in her Self-Mastery Method coaching and leadership programs. Prior to becoming a Success Mentor, Sara spent nearly two decades developing optimization training programs for Fortune Global 500 executives while also teaching mindfulness and yoga to people from all walks of life. She’s a certified Conscious Parenting Coach and is regularly regarded as “life-changing,” “eye-opening,” and “one of the most engaging facilitators I’ve ever seen” by her beloved clients.



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