When it comes to getting what you want at work, you can type up multi-page memos, get to the office early every day and spend months anticipating your boss’s every need. And all these behaviors are valuable. But sometimes, it’s what you tell yourself — and others — that helps you truly get ahead.
Here, powerful women across industries share the words that mean the most to them, and the ones they invoke when they’re trying to make a major move.
Most importantly, a power statement is what resonates with you — what makes you be the best, most professional and polished version of yourself.
1. ‘Keep the future in mind, not just the present.’
“Many years ago, I took what some might think of as a step back in my career by taking a less-defined role to work with a team I truly believed in. It was the best thing I could have done. It allowed me to broaden my experience, which long-term allowed me to have a broader role. It taught me to always balance short- and long-term goals. If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith earlier in my career, I would have never built the relationships with my co-founders that ultimately led to us launching M.Gemi.”
— Cheryl Kaplan, president of M.Gemi, Boston
“Throughout my career, I have been asked to do things that I could have easily said ‘no’ to, but because I chose not to, my business grew — and so did I. The areas where I have taken the ‘yes’ approach generally fall into three categories:
"1. Working on projects that I have never done before, like doing a keynote speech for the first time, giving a training outside of my usual niche (customer service training or sales), diving into a coaching or consulting project that is different from the norm.
“2. Working with people or industries that are unfamiliar, like a concrete company or a moving company instead of my usual corporate business.
“3. Going to events, meeting people or speaking at places that I would never have expected to lead to anything, but then they did.”
— Liz Bentley, executive coach and founder of Liz Bentley Associates, New York City
“There’s something really powerful about not having all the answers. It leaves room for personal differences and also empowers those I’m working with. In the worlds of both medicine and yoga, there are rarely hard-and-fast answers that apply to every person, so it’s an important phrase when training our teachers to work in medical settings.
“When I use it in running my business, it empowers my employees to seek answers and find a way to make things happen.”
— Tiffany Cruikshank, wellness expert and founder of Yoga Medicine, Seattle
4. ‘But what do you think?’
“It sounds counterintuitive, but whether you’re the boss or not, asking this question can be empowering to those around you. Taking the time to garner that extra feedback or to absorb those fresh perspectives can ultimately help you all succeed. Plus, nobody likes a know-it-all. You get valuable input when you open up to other people’s ideas.”
— Andrea DeVos Abraham, founder of Woosh Beauty, New York City
5. ‘How can I do better?’
“For me, it’s all about improving daily. Asking this question to yourself, your boss and the people you work with can make you maximize your resources, work to your maximum potential and constantly strive for improvement.
— Alison Bernstein, president of Suburban Jungle Realty, New York City
6. ‘I’m sure your offer will be fair.’
“Using this phrase is what helps a potential client or boss think of you as a partner. It invites collaboration.”
— Jeana Anderson Cohen, founder of ASweatLife, Chicago
7. ‘Does this bring me joy?’
“In life and in business, the question I’ve used most often is ‘does this bring you joy?’ As an entrepreneur juggling business and family, my time is very precious, and I constantly ask myself this question to help prioritize what’s truly important. I also pose this question to the team I work with, and to whoever asks me for advice.”
— Shilpa Shah, cofounder of Cuyana, San Francisco
8. ‘Fail fast, frequently and small.’
“Many of the best ideas lie in uncharted territory in some capacity. There is no playbook on how to perfect success. Mistakes and failures are unavoidable and are actually essential for paving the way. The key for my team is ensuring that we experiment in small, but meaningful ways, and that we openly share our learnings so issues will ultimately result in valuable growth.”
— Ashley Merrill, founder and CEO of Lunya, Los Angeles
9. ‘What’s in it for the customer?’
“Business can feel complicated when you get mired in operational details. Often, there is a pull to come up with what’s possible or what’s a slight evolution of what worked last year without always asking this ultra-basic and critical question. It’s not about what product or service you want to make or feel is possible, or how you want to sell — it’s simply about delighting the customer in a way they value enough to purchase over all the other choices in the world.”
— Jessica Herrin, founder and CEO of Stella & Dot, San Francisco
10. ‘Everything’s a number.’
“This is the phrase that I use the most when I am trying to influence my team to think rationally, rather than emotionally, about business decisions. My goal is for them to think about the big picture instead of making of-the-moment decisions. They need to understand that our choices need to not only be made from the gut (what we think is right), but to also have data that supports that choice.”
— Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers, San Francisco