As the owner or manager of the business, you have a variety of responsibilities including managing a team of people. You not only have to manage teams and departments, but you have to motivate people.  There is a defined line between being a leader who coaches and one who criticizes.

There are employees who need to be micromanaged; if you are not keeping a check list of their responsibilities, they may not get done. There are self-motivating employees who have bosses who micromanage even if they don’t need it. Both have negative affects on the work environment.

Regardless, people make mistakes, they need to be properly trained or they just might not understand something.

How you communicate often defines how you lead and sometimes it’s all in the phrasing.

When correcting an employee here are some suggested word changes that could motivate instead of deflate someone.

  1. Don’t ask why?: Why questions often put people on the defensive. When a mistake is made, a boss might ask: why did this happen or why did you do this? Instead, consider rephrasing. How do you think this could have been handled differently to avoid this mistake? What plans can we put in place to avoid such a mistake?
  2. No more, you should’ve: Another way to transform a problem into a teachable moment is to consider changing the phrase “you should have,” to one that is more empowering. “You should have” are also deflating words. Instead, use the phrase, Next time or In the Future… This way the person knows she made a mistake but she has an opportunity to do it better in the future.
  3. Question the question: It was once said that “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” How do you do that? Answer a question with a question. If a staff member is questioning you and you need time to think, put the responsibility back on him by asking for further explanation. What do you mean by that? This is also helpful if the employee is upset and making accusatory statements or critical comments.
  4. Acknowledge don’t argue: Author Sam Horn wrote a book and coined the title Tongue Fu! And, one of the many lessons she shared is the importance of acknowledging someone’s feelings or issues. You may not agree with staff but they do have their own feelings about the workplace, so acknowledge it. “I hear what you are saying, but I don’t know why you have an issue with this.” That statement infuriates. How about rephrasing it to something that motivates. I understand how you feel and I think we can work this out so your concerns are addressed.
  5. Show that you care: People want to be understood. Your staff needs to know you care. Instead of saying something like, “Now, that is not true. Management does appreciate the team.” When someone is upset, start by reflecting what they said: So, you feel like management doesn’t appreciate you? Instead of saying, “don’t be ridiculous, we don’t treat that team better than yours.” Instead say, “So, it seems to you like we treat Bob’s team better than your team?” Don’t tell someone how they should feel. Instead, articulate that she is understood. Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t feel like we don’t communicate well with you. Consider saying, “So you want us to have more staff meetings so we can improve the way we communicate.?”

Vanessa Denha Garmo is a Communications Strategist and Leadership Coach with Denha Media Group and the Communications Evangelist Institute