3 things to start saying right now

Signal your commitment, professionalism and empathy with powerful phrases


Illustration of two women talking

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Story by May Busch, a former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe, who is now an executive coach, speaker, advisor, author and executive-in-residence in ASU’s Office of the President.

In today’s working environment, commitment, professionalism and empathy are key.

These are the qualities senior leadership looks for, and these are the things people want in a colleague, boss, partner or teammate. 

Maybe you already have these traits. Then the question is, how do you show it? 

Pay attention to your soundtrack

Imagine you have a recording of yourself at work in the last 24 hours, what does it sound like? 

Are you often complaining instead of encouraging? How often do you tell people what to do rather than help them grow?

How your soundtrack lands with others is a critical part of your personal brand and reputation. 

So here are three things to start saying at work right now: 

“What else can we be doing to achieve XYZ goal?”

A simple way to signal your commitment to the team, organization or mission is to ask this question in your meetings or one-on-ones.

This question taps into the wisdom in the room and shows you are dedicated to doing everything to achieve your goal. 

“This was an important learning experience. What I’ve taken away from it is ABC, and here are the actions I’m taking to address it.”

A great opportunity to signal your professionalism is to acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake. 

Not only do you take accountability, you also close the loop and indicate what you’ll do going forward. 

Illustration of two people talking

“Pay attention to your words and choose language that makes you sound like the committed, empathetic professional you are and aspire to be.”

“Tell me more about that” or “I’d love to hear about that”

When someone shares something, take the opportunity to “double-click” on what they said and ask them about it. Then listen.

This presents the opportunity to find out more about someone and demonstrate your interest and investment in them as a person.

This also gives you a chance to find out valuable information — what caused your team member’s frustration? What caused a conflict? What made their project such a big win for them? 

Look for your opportunities 

Every day you have opportunities to show your commitment, professionalism and empathy. It’s up to you to make the most of them.

Pay attention to your words and choose language that makes you sound like the committed, empathetic professional you are and aspire to be. 

Notice which phrases you use that land well with others and which you’d like to change. Keep experimenting and practicing so that sounding like a leader becomes your new normal.

What will you start saying?