The Most Underrated Phrase in Leadership

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The most important relationship in an organization is between the manager and the employee. This relationship ultimately makes up a large majority of one’s employee experience. Think about your career and the experiences you have had. A lot of these memories come down to how someone managed you.

My experiences with my direct managers throughout my PR career are the primary memories — good, bad or indifferent — at those companies.

Today’s evolved work environment has changed how these relationships are built. I was fortunate to meet every manager in person throughout my career. In today’s era, that might not be the case. Employees may spend their entire time at a company never meeting their manager in person. 

It’s a significant shift in how we build trust and rapport and deliver feedback.

Leaders in recent years have been focusing on improving the value of 1:1 meetings, including the frequency and length. 

However, we also need to address uncertainty. Recent data suggests that people are nervous about talking to their managers. In a study by Humu, 49% of employees feel anxious before 1:1 meetings with their manager.

One way to alleviate the stress is to focus the meetings as less transactional (status reports) and more constructive and conversational (quality of work). 

A constructive and conversational approach to 1:1 meetings is essential during difficult conversations.

One example: Think about times throughout your career you received harsh feedback. Examples might include:

  • “We’re taking you off the account.”
  • “I had to rewrite your plan.”
  • “You’re not getting promoted yet.”

Throughout my career, I’ve heard stories about people’s heightened stress and anxiety levels, not just because of the content of the feedback but even more so because of the lack of context.

This is why we need to consider using the most underrated phrase in leadership: “And here’s why.”

When delivering a difficult message, include this phrase in the context.

  • “We’re taking you off the account, and here’s why…”
  • “I had to rewrite your plan, and here’s why…”
  • “You’re not getting promoted yet, and here’s why...”

This is essential when giving positive feedback as well:

  • “We’re giving you a bonus, and here’s why…”
  • “Here’s an extra paid day off. Thank you for your work, and here’s why…”
  • “We’re giving three months additional fully paid parental leave, and here’s why…”

Evolving your 1:1 conversations and taking a few extra moments to share context will reap enormous rewards for those you manage, ultimately making you a more respected and impactful leader that your employees will want to emulate.

Speaking of taking a few extra moments: I think you are all fantastic PR leaders and trusted advisors, and here’s why: With little fanfare, you are helping build essential relationships to support the missions of companies and organizations you care about. 

You’re doing so often understaffed, under-supported and under pressure with constant challenges from leadership who constantly ask to show your value. I know your worth. I see your worth. Thank you for all you do! 

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