Managers are the linchpins of every successful business. After all, they’re credited as being the most influential factor in employee retention — people leave managers, not companies.

As I mentioned in my last column, a full two-thirds of the American workforce are either disengaged or “actively disengaged” at work. It follows, then, that there must be a lot of crappy managers out there.

So if you’re a manager, how can you be a better one?

The answer can be found just by looking at our own industry. So much of running a successful aquatics facility requires a matter-of-fact approach to management, particularly since we employ so many young people. The root of that success is simple: effective communication.

It may sound clichèd but how you communicate with your employees is vitally important. Why? Well, think back to an experience with a good manager. You likely had a positive relationship or connection with them. How was that connection, or rapport, built? Through continued communication over time, which establishes trust. And we know that trust leads to engagement, which then, of course, leads to productivity.

A key part of what managers do is to provide employees with feedback. I spoke with a long-time friend who’s had a successful career managing many different teams. She stressed the importance of framing feedback in a positive way. Here are a few takeaways:

• Don’t use the “F” word. In this case, the offending word is “fail.” It’s a word that can only be applied in the past tense, which shuts down communication and offers no opportunity for improvement.

• Instead, use phrases such as, “You’re not there yet.” This is an encouraging, forward-facing affirmation of your faith in their ability to improve. The implied, “but you will be,” indicates that you’re invested in their success and will be there to support them.

• Answer the “why” whenever possible. When people understand the underlying reasons or principles behind performing certain processes or tasks, it’s easier to accept and, ultimately, take ownership of it.

What all of the above really seeks to do is offer employees a larger sense of fulfillment in the work they perform. If, as I said earlier, managers are the linchpins, then employees are the wheels that propel companies to success. Communicating in this positive way lets them know their efforts are appreciated, and that you are there to help them succeed.