As leaders, one skill that may not come immediately to mind, and yet yields such extraordinary gains, is connecting to the emotional needs of our employees. It is essential to tap into how we communicate to proactively create a positive environment where employees want to work and succeed.

This idea of connection can be so much harder than we anticipate. Why? Soft skills often fall off of our radar when we make plans to develop our skills. We know that our employees want to feel purpose  and make difference in their work. How do we help them to connect to purpose? By showing them how their work aligns to the goals of the organization and celebrating as we move closer to those goals. When leaders take certain actions at least 97% of the time, they are more successful connecting with employees and being an effective leader. We call these actions Leader Always Actions.

Leader Always Actions

There are three tactics listed that make a real difference for employees and leaders:


This tactic is borrowed from our healthcare colleagues. It establishes positive relationships, focuses on process improvement, and harvests wins. These one-on-one conversations with employees are about asking three strategic questions:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What barriers can I help address?
  3. Who can I recognized for work  that has made a difference for you?

Cascading Communication: Using Key Words at Key Times

Communicate the right message, in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience. Think about the groups in your organization who often don’t get the message. How can you key word a message that will reach them?

What Gets Recognized Gets Repeated

Recognition is not just about being kind. It paints a picture of what right looks like. Recognize those who do good work and live out the organization’s values. One way you can do this is with WOW cards. A WOW card is a simple way to say, “You WOWED me when you…”.

Introducing your new leadership practices to your team:

When you begin using these new practices, employees might start to get suspicious. Why the sudden change? Is there something odd going on here? Introduce your new practices to your team using this tips:

  • Talk with your team about the new actions you are going to take.
  • Show your excitement and be transparent about the new leadership practice.
  • Clearly state your intended outcome—to learn from them, recognize the good work that is occurring, and communicate transparently at all levels.
  • Give it time. Results don’t happen overnight. Stick to it, and you will start to see the impact.

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key words for successful communication