The Most Powerful Leadership Phrase

"I've got your back" might just be the most powerful leadership and team-building phrase.

The effect of this phrase to encourage, empower, and build trust was recently highlighted by a member of a team that I lead. This individual, filled with enthusiasm, had bypassed a guideline and made a decision, that would normally be mine.

Roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities are important but in a startup or agile team that is 'falling forward,' it is also important to encourage ownership and progress over perfection.

Leadership is a Conversation

leadership is a conversation - Andrew Bryant SpeakerI believe that leadership is a conversation, a one-to-one conversation, or a one-to-many conversation. In the New Leadership Playbook, I outline twelve conversations that leaders need to have with their team or organization.

The conversations are guided by seven principles, one of which I have already mentioned, progress over perfection. Waiting for things to be perfect can stifle creativity and productivity. The leadership principle that guides our conversation is to examine whether actions are moving us toward our objectives.

Therefore, when I had the feedback conversation with my team member, I pointed out the fact that she had bypassed a guideline in her enthusiasm, but the impact of doing so was positive and moved us forward.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

"Nothing, leave it be" was my response, and I followed up with:

"I've got your back"

Leadership is about Trust

The exact origin of the expression, "I've got your back", is not known although it can be traced back to the era of sword fighting when warriors would fight back to back in order to protect each other's vulnerable side.

Trusting that we are not going to be stabbed in the back gives us the confidence and courage to do our best work.

My team member was mortified that she had bypassed the guideline and offered to roll back her actions and apologize. By observing that her actions were moving us forward and letting her know that she is trusted, has built her confidence and made her feel part of the team, I know this because she sent me a voicemail to tell me so.

Being Human while Driving for Accelerated Results

As managers and leaders, we are under pressure to deliver results, but if we forget that we are humans and work with humans, we can be counterproductive if we push too hard.

Leadership is like driving a racing car on a wet track, too much acceleration, or breaking and you will spin out!

I talk about this concept in my motivational leadership speech, 'Accelerated Results through Self-leadership'. If I had insisted on my team member retracting her decision and following the guideline it would have slammed on the breaks of her enthusiasm. And if I had not alerted her to the guideline and the reason for its existence, she might bite off more than she can chew in the future.

How hard is it to have a conversation?

Well, we are all busy, but the few minutes that it takes to pick up the phone and let someone know that you have their back will reap massive rewards in terms of trust and clarity.

In my work as a leadership consultant and coach, I find that leaders are great at broadcasting but sadly lacking in creating conversation and dialogue.

Is this a skill that you need to develop?

Give it a try, I've got your back.





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