9 Things Good Bosses Always Say

“Sprinkles? I’m sorry, Angela” and other effective leadership phrases

6 min readJun 28, 2021


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“Good Morning, Butch!” we cheerily sang as we walked across the shop floor to the break room early one morning to put our bag lunches in the fridge.

“Aww, f*ck off!” he replied to both of us as he flipped us the bird.

He was half kidding. Butch was the shop foreman at a rental place I worked at for my first real job at age 16. The day before, precisely at 5 PM closing time, I popped the half-closed shop garage door completely off its tracks by running into it with the rollbar of a lawn tractor I was putting away. He was still a bit peeved since he had to stay until 8 to fix it.

My best friend and I chuckled at Butch’s less-than-pleasant demeanor as we walked back through the shop to begin the workday.

While “f*ck off!” won’t make this “what you should say” list, he did say it in a humorous and “it’s OK you dumb bastards, I still like you even though you screwed up” sort of way — so it could make the list because of how he said it.

My point about Butch is that the list below all depends on the heart in which you say these things. Lip service or patronizing words just to “say what good bosses say” won’t work. It’s got to come from the heart. “F*ck off!” could be better than “I believe you can do it” if you don’t really mean the latter.

I’ve practiced and studied leadership for 25 years in military, corporate, and volunteer settings and I’ve seen plenty of good bosses keep the below phrases in their good boss toolbox.

#1. “How Can We Improve This (Process Not Problem)?”

A good leader is a communicator and collaborator. This question should be used when trying to improve a business process, but not as a disciplinary question towards a group.

For example, a boss saying “I noticed some of you have been arriving late. How can we improve this?” is a cheap way to correct people. Use specific and targeted praise or criticism instead. Shotgunning praise or criticism to an entire group has very little positive effect with praise and a large potential downside for morale with criticism.