5 Life-Changing Things You Should Tell Your Colleagues Today

(By Jeff Haden)

It’s easy. Just pick someone who did something well, and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year…” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then.

I ran into a former colleague. “You worked at the plant for almost 20 years,” he said. “Is there anything you wish you could go back and do over?”

I don’t really regret strategic errors, or poor tactical decisions, or career missteps (I made plenty of those — I was the king of CLMs, Career Limiting Moves.) I certainly regretted those mistakes at the time… but today, no, not really.

Instead I most regret the things I didn’t say: To employees who reported to me, to peers, and to at least one person I worked for. Those are the moments I’d like to have back, because those few moments could have made a tremendous difference in the lives of other people.

While in those cases it’s too late for me, it’s not too late for you. Here are five things you should say — today — to people you work with:

1. “That was great how you…”

No one receives enough praise. No one. I failed to tell countless people how well they performed, how awesome they were…

It’s easy. Just pick someone who did something well, and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year…” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. (Maybe a little more impact, because it shows you still remember what happened a year later.)

Also feel free to go outside your functional area. Unexpected praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

2. “Can you help me…?”

One of my biggest regrets is not asking a fellow supervisor for help. I was given the lead on a project he really wanted. To his credit, he swallowed his pride — he was senior to me both in tenure and perceived status — and told me he would be happy to help in any way he could.

Even though I could tell he really wanted to help, I never let him. I decided to show I could handle the project alone. I allowed my ego to be more important than his feelings.

Asking someone for help implicitly recognizes their skills and value. Saying, “Can you help me?” is the same as saying, “You are great at that.”

And there’s a bonus: You get help.

3. “Can I help you…?” Then flip it around. In some organizations, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. Many people naturally hesitate to ask. But everyone needs help.

Don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes… can I help you finish that?”

Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help.

4. “I’m sorry I didn’t…”

We’ve all screwed up. There are things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, or step in, or simply be supportive.

So say you’re sorry. And don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.

5. “I’m sorry I let you down.” I was assigned to lead a project in a different department. It was a project I definitely didn’t want. So I let it slide. I let other people take up my slack while I focused on projects I was more interested in.

My manager had stuck his neck out to get me the project so I could get broader exposure but I, well, I didn’t care. Eventually my manager said, “Everyone knows you’re really busy… so they’ve decided to handle it themselves.”

I felt bad, but I never said, “I know you went out on a limb to help me, to help boost my career… I’m sorry I let you down. I promise it will never happen again.” That one statement would have chased a very large elephant from the room.

The biggest elephants are emotional elephants. It’s up to you, not the other person, to chase them away.

Source: LinkedIn, Business Insider

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