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Words matter and the words effective leaders use set the tone for the team. Words can make or break morale, innovation, and creativity for employees. Implement positive change now by leading work challenges and achievements more effectively. Small business owners share some phrases to avoid using—and what to say instead. Help make good people great!

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“We did a great job”

Jeff Neal, owner of in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, discovered that group accountability and individual praise are the ideal combination for motivating success. “Even though I look at my employees as a team unit, and I used to think it was important to equally distribute praise and blame, I noticed that it wasn’t effective with the praise,” Neal says.

He no longer tells the team, “We did a great job.” “When an employee does a great job, I like to isolate him or her, and let them know that it was explicitly them that deserves all the praise for the great work. When a mistake occurs, that’s when I equally distribute it,” he says. “‘We did a poor job, team,’ but ‘You did an excellent job, Jennifer.’

“I can’t help you”

As a leader, you should be prepared to guide your team toward success. Amjad Hussain, CEO of Algomus in Detroit, says it’s crucial for small business owners to embrace a team mentality. “The ‘we not me’ mentality is a critical element in leading a group of innovators and creators with diverse personalities and learning styles while creating an environment of loyalty,” he says.

Instead, business owners should guide employees so the whole business can succeed. “When an employee approaches you with an issue or question, help connect them to the right team member instead of isolating or shaming them for coming to you for help,” Hussain says. “By opening up dialogue and serving as a leader who is happy to introduce team members to each other to solve problems, you’re setting the tone that everyone is on the same team.”

“Think outside the box”

Business owners often use this phrase to inspire innovation or creative thinking, but Rafael Romis, CEO of Weberous Web Design in Los Angeles, says it has the opposite effect. “Not only is it a tired cliché, but it’s the quickest way to reveal just how much you lack in creativity if you use this phrase to try and inspire creative thinking,” he says.

Romis says this phrase can also trigger over-complication. “It inadvertently encourages people to overlook the most obvious solutions to a problem since they might reject those obvious solutions as not being ‘out of the box’ enough. Forget the box. There is no box. What solution will work? All suggestions should be welcome,” he says.

“How about you…?” or “Why don’t you…?”

These phrases can be perceived as passive aggressive suggestions that an employee isn’t doing something right – or at least not the way you prefer, says Jack Anzarouth, president of Digital Ink Marketing in New York. It’s better to be direct and to provide clear reasoning, he says.

“It’s fine to want things done a certain way, but I’ll say ‘I think it would be better this way because…’ or ‘I want the header on this side because…’ The most important word in those sentences is ‘because.’ If you want something done a certain way, you have to give your reasoning so it makes sense to the person you’re saying it to,” Anzarouth says.

“That’s not a good idea”

Shooting down ideas can stifle creative thinking and discourage team input. “You want your team members to feel comfortable voicing their opinion. Even if you disagree with a suggestion they offer, it’s not a good idea to respond in a way that could cause them to feel shame or a lack of confidence,” says Bob Ellis, owner of Bavarian Clockworks in Chicago.

Be open to suggestions and willing to redirect your team to improve ideas rather than shooting them down. “Instead, offer constructive feedback that encourages them to speak up and share their ideas openly. The best business leaders understand the importance of creating a culture that fosters diversity of thought,” Ellis says.

Source: NFIB

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