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(Republished with permission of Carey Nieuwhof. He’s founding pastor of Connexus Church. Carey's also the author of several best-selling books. I subscribe to Carey’s blog, find him insightful and wanted to introduce you to his work. Learn more here.)

Sometimes, it’s the simple little things that get you further ahead in leadership than you imagine.

Simple things that, honestly, most of us forget because we’re too busy.

In the everyday hustle of answering 100 emails, jumping from meeting to meeting and moving in and out of dozens of conversations, we forget what really motivates people and makes them grateful.

And next thing we notice, morale has slipped.

Performance drops.

The mood has shifted.

And if we’re not careful, good people start drifting away, stepping back or leaving.

These three little things won’t solve any deep culture issues but it will help stop the day to day drift, discouragement and indifference that characterize so many workplaces.

The challenge is that in most settings, work becomes transactional. It’s all about getting things done, and we forget that the people we work with have emotions, feelings and things that motivate and demotivate them.

Don’t miss this: leadership will become transactional if you let it. So don’t let it.

Here are three simple phrases you should master and memorize to help your team stay motivated.


I know this feels like kindergarten…seriously, the simple phrase “How are you?” is a key to motivating your team?

Well, yes.

The reality is, as a leader you will always be tempted to restrict your conversations with your team to what they’re doing.

But as my friend Jeff Henderson once told me, wise leaders talk to a team member about how they’re doing just as much as they ask them about what they’re doing.

I start pretty much every one-on-one meeting with a team member with the question “So how are you?” And then I don’t let them give me a one word answer.

There are so many benefits to this. First, they’ll know you care, because you do. A surprising number of people don’t care how anyone else is doing, so that puts you in rare company.

Second, you’ll learn a lot about the team members you work with. Your conversation and relationship will be deeper and richer.

Finally, when things aren’t going well, having the deeper conversation allows you to sort through whether work is creating the problem or whether the problem is outside their job.

The default for most people is to blame work, but you’ll be surprised how many times an team member, after sorting through their issue with you in real time, will conclude by saying “You know, this doesn’t have much to do with work, but thank you for caring.”

That helps them (because they’ve isolated the issue) and it helps you (because the default in our culture is to hate our jobs and blame our bosses). You’ve become an ally in their desire to make life better.

Leaders who care tend to end up with teams that care.


I love this little phrase because it does two things. First, it expresses much needed gratitude. See below for more on that.

But second, it reminds people of the mission. And that’s the point. Just fill in the blank with your mission.

In our case at our church, I might say “Thanks for helping us create a church unchurched people love” or “Thanks for helping us lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.”  That’s a simple and succinct summary of our mission and vision.

In my company that runs my blog, books, speaking and leadership podcast, I’ll tell team members “Thanks for helping people thrive” because our mission is just that: to help people thrive in life and leadership.

What you’re doing with this simple phrase is connecting dots.

You’re helping your team members realize that they are directly helping a mission that’s bigger than you and bigger than them.

After all, nobody wants to work for you. You and I are not motivation enough.

But people are designed and created to work toward a mission bigger than you and bigger than all of us.

So go back to your mission, again and again and let people see how they’re accomplishing it.

Don’t have a mission that’s bigger than you? Well, that’s a whole other level of problem.

If that’s the case, then it should be no mystery why you have difficult attracting and keeping a great team.


Two out of three phrases listed here spring from gratitude.

Gratitude is a master virtue for leaders because most people feel under-appreciated or unappreciated at work (not to mention in life).

If you’re wondering whether that true, just ask yourself: do you feel adequately appreciated for all you do?

Didn’t think so. So let’s continue.

Here’s what’s at stake. If you don’t express your gratitude, that unexpressed gratitude will eventually become regret because once someone leaves, it’s too late.

A great leader, feeling unappreciated, decides to move on and your main emotion (after shock) is a profound sadness.

For that reason, leaders, unexpressed gratitude eventually becomes deeply felt regret.

Your best people will move on if they feel unappreciated or under appreciated.

Why? Because people gravitate to where they’re valued most.

You do. So does your team.


You know how else you can cast vision and motivate the team? Every time you send an email.

Bake these into your email and you can motivate every time you connect.

Something like:

Hi _________,

Hope things are going well for you!

Hey….(main subject)

Anyway, I appreciate you! Thanks for helping us move the mission forward.


See how simple that is?


Dr. JeannieComment