LEADERS REPEAT THEMSELVES 2024-02-18T23:43:41-05:00


I am guessing that the title of this week’s newsletter caused you to sit up and ask “What?” Why should leaders repeat themselves? Doesn’t repeating ourselves show confusion or lack of clarity?

That’s not the kind of repetition I am writing about. Most good leaders have favorite go-to phrases, comments or sayings that they repeat to their teammates for intentional emphasis. When leaders utilize such phrases on a recurring basis, those phrases become part of the team culture and teammates remember them.

I was reminded of this leadership language habit last week because after a family dinner one of my sons brought out a box of fortune cookies he said he’d found in the back of the pantry. I was not smart enough to realize he was making that up. By the time we opened the third cookie, I got the joke – my sons had collected their favorite “Larry-isms” and had them inserted in these personalized fortune cookies.

And guess what? Most of these “Larry-isms” addressed some aspect of leadership. So as the author of this newsletter, I thought I would share with you these favorite leadership phrases of mine and explain their significance.

It’s All About Relationships

I believe this is my most often used leadership motto. My sons have been hearing it for two decades. It means what it says. The effectiveness of every job we will ever have throughout our careers depends on the quality of the relationships we build, nurture and sustain. Which relationships? Our relationships with our own managers, our direct reports, our peers in the organization, our clients and our vendors.

Please pay attention to your day-to-day relationships. Do not take them for granted. Focus on those you wish to improve.

One easy way to address your work relationships is to identify those relationships that are most important to you. Then you can rank the quality of each relationship on a scale of 1 to 10.

After doing so, you can determine where you would like that relationship to be on that same scale. Not all relationships can rank as “10s,” so be realistic. Then ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do to move the needle from where it is now to where I want it to be?” If you are committed to enhancing your work relationships, you can ask yourself these questions on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis.

Be Proactive

You may recognize this phrase as Habit #1 of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey made “Be Proactive” his first of seven essential habits because he considered it so foundational for everything else.

So many leaders unfortunately take the opposite approach. They are constantly reactive, responding to everything that happens around them. They believe it’s a badge of honor to respond to emails or text messages within five minutes. They wait for direct reports to say or do something before offering their opinions or advice. They respond to feedback with the first words or emotions that come to mind without considering their response’s effect on their teammates.

Reactive leaders act based on their moods, feelings and circumstances. They blame and accuse team others, using victim language. They waste time and energy on things they cannot control. They pass negative patterns along to their team members.

Proactive leaders pause and respond based on their own principles and their desired results, they use proactive language, and they focus on things they can influence. These leaders break unhealthy, harmful or ineffective learned behaviors and replace them with positive, helpful and effective behaviors.

Speaking of That…

This phrase seems incomplete, but is actually a reflection that leaders are always striving to make connections. When leaders say “speaking of that…” they are connecting one thought to another. The best leaders are teachers and storytellers. They know that the best way to teach their team members is with stories that resonate.

When you hear a story, phrase or saying that reminds you of something significant, pause and make the time to think: “What does this remind me of?” or “How can I make this a teaching moment?”

So when you say “Speaking of that..” use the next part of your sentence as an instructive moment for the person to whom you are speaking.

Did You See the Article I Sent You?

This phrase is reflective of the fact that I used to send my sons articles or blog posts that I deemed valuable and that I thought would help advance them on their own leadership journeys. They appreciated my interest, but at some point they let me know that I had crossed the “too many” boundary. So I cut back dramatically.

Nevertheless, we know that the best leaders read voraciously. They read widely and deeply. They read about their work-related field of expertise and other connected areas, and they rest their brains by doing pleasure reading as well.

What they also do is share some of the best advice, tips and suggestions with teammates and colleagues they know would benefit from the content.

I’ve Been Reflecting on That a Lot Recently

Sometimes leaders are so focused on “getting things done” (See David Allen’s book of the same title) that they do not give themselves time to reflect. More accurately, they do not give themselves permission to engage in reflection.

So often I hear clients say “I don’t have time to reflect.” Guess what? You will never HAVE the time to reflect. You have to MAKE the time to reflect. Making time for reflection on a regular basis will help you be a better leader.

You can reflect on priorities, projects, management and leadership of your team members, future goals, and self-care initiatives. Reflection can include discussions with trusted confidantes, journaling about critical issues, or seeking feedback from colleagues and then digesting and reviewing that feedback.

Do They Need Coaching?

I admit that many team members may not “need” coaching. However, almost all leaders could benefit from coaching. I am not necessarily talking about formal coaching, either from your company’s internal coach or an external coach like me.

Rather, I am talking about managing and leading people by using a coaching mindset. How can we achieve that? As I have written previously, managers can come from a place of curiosity. Instead of telling teammates what to do, we can have a conversation in which we seek their opinions, ask them for suggestions, inquire about obstacles they are facing, or asking how we can best provide help to them.

In this context, I encourage you to check out Michael Bungay Stanier’s classic book, “The Coaching Habit.”

Up Until Now

This is one of my favorite coaching phrases and I use it so much that my wife and children now use it as well. I attribute it to the wonderful leadership coach Neil Stroul, an integral part of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program until his death three years ago.

The phrase reminds us that we have choices every day to improve ourselves and our leadership. Instead of accepting the fact that we are a certain way or we have always behaved in a particular manner, we can shift our mindset by adding these three words – “up until now.”

Starting tomorrow, we can choose to do something different – for example, making a decision to take a class, to read a helpful book, to seek out a mentor, or to create a skill development plan. So do not accept your self-imposed limitations. Determine how you want to change, to improve, to stretch yourself, or to challenge your traditional self-image. Starting tomorrow – the day after you read this newsletter – you can commit to learn, to change your paradigm, or to create self-improvement goals for yourself.

I have shared my favorite leadership sayings with you because they have served me during my leadership journey and I hope they can help you as well. If you have your own favorite leadership mottos or phrases, I invite you to share them in an email to me. I promise to share all of them with readers of this newsletter in the future.

If you believe this content would resonate with a friend or colleague, please feel free to forward it along!