"Sorry, my fault!" and nine other phrases the best managers say at work.

Anyone who’s managed a team has wished for some kind of checklist, where you could somehow tick off a few boxes and know you were on the right track.

Leading colleagues, straight-up, is quite difficult. You’re not just worrying about your own work, you’re responsible for other people’s—and equally, if not more importantly, for their professional and personal well-being while they’re on the job.

Everyone has their own way of managing, too. This can be influenced by a bunch of things: your industry, the size of your team, the set-up of your office, your personal experience, even just your personality. So getting it right is not as simple as Googling “how to be a good manager“.

This is where specific advice is helpful. The kind you can take in at a glance (rather than paying for it in an MBA), and weave into your own MO.

Like this:

This graphic draws on the advice of Inc. Top 100 leadership coach Gordon Tredgold to provide ten key phrases good leaders should be saying. And it’s about as close to that checklist as you’re going to find.

1. “What do you need from me to make this a success?”

When you’re supported by your boss, you feel empowered to do your best. Easy.

This question is also a great way to get employees to take ownership of a task, and be more proactive about gathering the resources they need to do it.


2. “Sorry, my fault!”

“When accountability starts at the top, the rest of the team will model it,” Tredgold writes for Inc. He’s right—if people aren’t worried about unnecessary drama around slip-ups, there’s less incentive to hide them.

And more simply, your team will be less stressed if they know you don’t expect everyone to be perfect (including yourself).

3. “I value your contribution.”

Everyone you manage has (hopefully) been hired for good reason—so this is partly just good business sense. At a management level, it’s a way to remind people you’re listening to them, and make sure they see how their work adds to the project as a whole.

The boss of Pepsi thinks all bosses should make it known when they leave the office. What do you think? (Post continues after audio.)

And as Tredgold writes, “There is the added benefit that they become more committed when they are more involved.”

4. “What did we learn from this that we can use next time?”

This works for both successful and not-so-successful scenarios. Like so many of these phrases, it’s about making sure employees have a sense of agency and accountability in their work. No-one wants to be on a hamster-wheel, doing the same tasks over and over without learning something. It’s boring.

5. “I have complete faith in you.”

Don’t micromanage. Let your staff do their job—and own some responsibility.

6. “You’ve done a great job!”

Then shout them out for a job well done. People need to know when they’ve done well, just as much as when they haven’t. It motivates everyone in the office and reinforces the sense that you’re all in it together—and that good work doesn’t go unnoticed.


Positive feedback should always be part of communication.

7. "What do you think?"

Let other people problem-solve too, and encourage them to practice speaking up. Other perspectives are always useful, and often crucial.

8. "How could we do this better?"

Fail smart, as they say. And make sure the people around you do it too. If you find you're repeating the same feedback over and over, it's obviously not getting through. Throw the ball back in your colleague's court. Get them to think about it—they might have a better idea than you.

9. "Do you have capacity to do this now?"

They might. They might not. (Be just as careful of people who say "yes" too much as those who say "no"—ultimately it's on you to make sure they're not over-stretching.) But by asking—not telling—you're more likely to engage your employees with whatever it is you're asking them to do.

10. "Thank you."

This is the biggest one. Yes, you're at work. Yes, you're all getting paid. But you're also human beings, trying really hard to create something together. And you've made it through the week without punching each other. (If you haven't, you might need to re-read the chart).

And that's worth acknowledging.

H/t: Inc.