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  • e.wulfe

3 Powerful Three-Word Phrases

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Authorities may differ slightly in their lists of the top leadership qualities. However, most agree on the criticality of demonstrating compassion, transparency, and decision-making capabilities. Each of the following three-word phrases reinforces one of these key traits and communicates both the type of leader we are and our organizational values.

I Hear You

These magic words can be the model of compassion. Showing compassion is extremely important in building trust, loyalty, and stronger connections with our team.

Venting at work is inevitable. When a team member is upset, worried, or negative, it can be tempting to add a “join the crowd” echo, one-up them by comparing our own hardships, or let the comment pass by completely.

Instead, “I hear you” is a powerful and compassionate first response. It is a calming mechanism that hits home two important messages. First, we care about that team member. Being a good leader means caring about the people we are leading. Since we also need to communicate that we care through both our words and our actions, “I hear you” is a nice reinforcement.

Second, this phrase conveys empathy. I hear you” does not mean “I agree with you.” It says, “we get it” and lets the person know we are acknowledging and validating that this is how they feel. We can take it one step further. As explained in a Harvard Business Review article:

“Empathy is the tendency to feel someone else’s emotions as if we were

feeling them. Compassion, on the other hand, is proactive. Compassion is

an intent to contribute to the happiness or well-being of others.”

If we follow “I hear you” with “how can I help?”, we demonstrate empathy, care, and compassion. When we utter either phrase in a group situation, our modeling of empathy and compassion will have a positive ripple effect across the group.

Ask Me Anything

“Ask me anything” is a potent phrase. I believe it epitomizes the leadership value of transparency: being open, honest, and accessible.

Transparency in leadership is consistently rated at the top of employees’ list of workplace needs. It is also a top factor in determining employee happiness. This is certainly understandable. The desire for transparency is rooted in self-preservation. When employees sense that the truth is being hidden, the natural tendency is to worry, lose morale, spread negativity, and fill the information gap with speculation. Obviously, some information is sensitive. But “I can’t tell you” should be the exception and not the rule.

As leaders, we need to demonstrate transparency through both our words and actions. We need to practice what we preach. Here are some practices that will improve our transparency as leaders:

  • Include employees in the loop whenever possible, even when the news may be difficult to hear.

  • Accompany assignments and requests with context and background so the team understands why this is a priority or why we are taking this approach.

  • Share our messes, not just our successes so the team both learns to trust us and learns from our mistakes.

  • Adopt an open-door policy and invite and respond to all feedback, even if it is negative or critical.

Transparency is not accomplished by a single act. It needs to be established by our words and actions over time. If we are honest and transparent with our co-workers, we will earn the same in return. And the positive impact on our workplace culture will be exponential.

Let’s Do This

I am a fan of this phrase for three reasons. One of the most important characteristics of a great leader is decisiveness. “Let’s do this” shows decisiveness and lets the team know we stand by our decision. There is nothing wishy-washy about this phrase.

This phrase connotes a belief in both the idea and the team, with a willingness to press forward even if we have not figured everything out yet. Balanced leadership means we are grounded in both our heads and our hearts. Although our brains love data and it would be nice to have research backing all our decisions, great leaders have confidence in their intuition and making decisions based on their gut feelings.

“Let’s do this” also conveys team cohesiveness, and we are ready and willing to do our part. It strikes me as a rallying cry that just exudes positivity. It creates an ownership mentality, where every member of the team feels like they are part of something big and can make a difference.

I enjoyed reading Jeremy Kingsley’s clarity on the subject: “A boss says, ‘do that.’ A good leader says, ‘let’s do this’.”

Our words matter. Each of these phrases may contain only three little words, but together they pack a punch. Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying “There is power in words. What you say is what you get.” If we incorporate these three-word phrases into our leadership vocabulary, we will set the tone for strong leadership values and reap so much in return. When our actions mirror our words, our trustworthiness and leadership impact will soar.

To learn more about my classes and approaches to develop conversational competence and other communication skills, email me directly at or fill out the inquiry form here and I'll be in touch.


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