11 things managers should never say to their team (and what to say instead)

How would you describe your management style? So much emphasis is put on what divides ‘good managers’ from ‘great leaders’ that we often fail to notice how one-sided both of these terms can sound in the workplace.

Instead, managers are discovering that ‘coaching-style’ leadership brings out the strengths in a team by focusing on constructive feedback and asking questions instead of giving orders.

Research has shown that businesses who use coaching techniques towards their employees have been able to boost worker engagement and productivity by around 12%.

And 4 out of 5 of those on the receiving end of this approach report that they are working, communicating, and feeling better – with noticeable boosts to their productivity and business management strategies.

It’s no wonder coaching is fast becoming the ‘next big thing’ in management methods, with 65% of organizations planning to expand their coaching strategies over the next half-decade.

But there’s no need to mystify coaching-style leadership by labeling it as a complex new technique. While some companies are bringing in external coaches to boost performance, making the coaching style work for your business requires first and foremost a change of mindset and the development of a more open workplace culture.

In fact, just switching from making statements to asking questions can already set you along the path of excellence in coaching. Questions inspire trust and spark dialogue. They turn accusations, complaints, and even empty compliments into opportunities to develop.

For example, if you’re happy with something an employee has done, telling them “nice job” may give them an instant hit of pride – but it stops there. Instead, try asking “how did you find that task?”

Your pleasure in their performance will still come across, but this way you get to analyze, together, just what made it a success. It shows that you’re engaged in what they do, and not just their results. In short, it demonstrates empathy.

In tougher moments, asking analytical questions can prevent things getting personal. When somebody makes a mistake, instead of asking “why did you do that?” try “how can we improve on this next time it comes up?”

The world of work has changed, and employees both expect and respond to opportunities and respect in the workplace. We’ve put together a starter kit of 11 things you should never say, what to say instead, and how to apologize if you get it wrong.

After trying these for a few days, the coaching style of management should become second nature – and your team will begin to really perform like big leaguers.


Courtesy of: Headway Capital


  1. Seattle University School for New and Continuing Studies. (2014). Leadership coaching for organizational success. seattletimes.com
  2. Filipkowski, J. PhD, Ruth, M, Heverin, A. (2017). Building a Coaching Culture with Millennial Leaders. sarabarrie.com
  3. Hall, A. (2012).9 Things A Boss Should Never Say To An Employee. forbes.com
  4. Insperity Staff. (2019). 10 things great leaders never say to their employees. insperity.com
  5. Augustine, A. (2019). 5 Things Supervisors Should Never Say (Out Loud). themuse.com
  6. Thompson, P. DR. (2019). 4 Seemingly Harmless Phrases Leaders Should Never Say. themuse.com
  7. Strategy&. (2018). Where organizational culture is headed. strategyand.pwc.com
  8. Murphy, M. (2016). Fewer Than Half Of Employees Know If They’re Doing A Good Job. forbes.com
  9. Miller, L. (2018).  5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Best Employees. entrepreneur.com
  10. Hyacinth. B. (2017). Things a Boss Should Never Say to an Employee. linkedin.com
  11. Boogarrd, K. (2019). How To Gracefully Backpedal When You’ve Said The Wrong Thing. Fastcompany.com

This article first appeared on Headwaycapitol.com.