The best bosses say these 9 things

Employee engagement is always greatly heightened by excellent communication. That’s why the most tremendous bosses use these following nine statements on a regular and, in some cases, daily basis. Our research and survey of over 250,000 CHROs and management executives scientifically identified these nine key communication factors as being critical to reaching world-class engagement levels.

Start using these phrases regularly, and watch your success as a manager take flight:

  1. “Thank you.”

As discovered when we undertook the key driver statistical research for my New York Times best-seller, recognition is the No. 1 driver of employee engagement. Furthermore, millennials crave feedback and recognition. Make sure your recognition efforts are both consistent and meaningful. Your team members will really appreciate it.

  1. “Regarding your career development, where do you want to be in six months? And, how can I help you get there?”

By asking this, the benefit is threefold. First, you are showing your direct reports that you care about their career development at the company. Second, you are telling them you want to help them advance. Lastly, you are leveraging the second most impactful driver of engagement from the aforementioned key driver analysis, that being career development.

  1. Here’s what I’d like us to accomplish … ”

One of the most valuable traits of exceptional bosses is clearly communicating expectations. What distinguishes the best bosses from average or sub-par managers is the ability to communicate how employees’ daily work fits into the organization’s strategic mission and higher purpose. Mapping out a clear course for your team and, most importantly, explaining how the daily work is meaningful, will increase their pride and productivity.

  1. “I want to utilize your strengths and what you do best.”

People want a job that utilizes their best skills and abilities. Luckily, many jobs have some variety in the type of work, or flexibility in how the work is done. For example, if one employee is great at working in Excel and another writes excellent reports, it could be possible to assign more work that matches these employees’ skill sets. Recalibrating job content starts by understanding strengths, which is why the best bosses ask what their team members do best. Sometimes these conversations lead to re-casting employees into different departments, but it can also help keep top talent within an organization.

  1. “I want you to know that I have total confidence in you.”

There is nothing more frustrating than a managers who do not believe in their team members’ abilities. No one wants to be micro-managed. By making the statement above, you are not only instilling confidence in your team members, but also giving them the freedom to succeed on their own, which furthers their pride and sense of accomplishment. Remember, you can always let your team know that they can come to you for help if they need it.

  1. “What more can I do to support you in your job?”

The best bosses regularly offer support to their employees, and employees really appreciate it. You might even make the question more specific by asking, “What three things could I do differently in order to support you in your job?”

  1. “I’d like your opinion on something.”

Exceptional bosses regularly ask for feedback from all team members, either individually, collectively or through confidential employee surveys. More importantly, the best bosses act on the feedback, making meaningful workplace changes as a result.

  1. What are your passions and interests outside of work?”

The best bosses take the time to get to know their employees on a personal level. Whether it is taking the time to ask what they like to do outside of work, how many children they have or whether they have any fun vacations planned, the very fact that you are asking is showing that you view them as more than just an employee.

  1. What can we do better, going forward?

Let’s face it: Everything is not going to go as planned. People make mistakes, and when they do, fantastic bosses treat them as learning opportunities. See my blog, Mea Culpa: The Importance Of Learning From Failure. Failure is a teacher, and as such, an integral part of success. One of my favorite leadership quotes in this regard is from the all-time great basketball superstar Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So where do you go from here?

Regularly revisit these best-boss phrases. Better yet, distribute them to your entire management team, encouraging them to review the list of phrases at least once a month. Then, watch your organization reap the rewards that will result.


Kevin Sheridan is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, a New York Times best-selling author and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of employee engagement. For six years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement in 2017 and 2018.

Having spent 30 years as a high-level HCM consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of employee engagement. His first book, Building A Magnetic Culture, made six of the best-seller lists, including the New York TimesWall Street Journal and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a master of business administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree instrategy, HR management and organizational behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.

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