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6 Phrases that a Leader Should Never Utter

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Whoops!  We have all been there.  You say something in your role as a leader and immediately wish you could take back time by 10 seconds.  Your impact as a leader is influenced by what you say and how you say it.  As a leader, you want to engage and influence your employees so they can exceed the expectations of your clients.  What you say and how you say it are both critical when dealing with your team members.  It’s just common sense as you will see, but sometimes common sense is missing from the way we communicate.  

Below are 6 phrases that should never be “voiced by a leader”:

 1. “I don’t know anything about that…”

Then what do you know?  When someone says something is not their area, it is another way of passing the job to someone else. Even though, in some cases, this statement may be true, people may take it as a way to avoid responsibility.  Don’t point fingers.

Another way of saying this: “I am not as familiar with that program, but I will find the best person for you to talk to.”

2. “Gosh, Paul was supposed to get that to you…”

Who is Paul?  This statement is meant to pass the buck to others, and also denies your accountability as a leader. This can lower the degree of confidence people have of your abilities to take care of things and get stuff done.  Don’t point fingers. 

Another way of saying this: “I am sorry that you did not receive it, I will get right on it and see what we can do.”  

3. “I can do that for you…”

Please do!   Take it all!   This is a statement that some leaders may think has a positive influence because it implies taking control of a situation and getting the job done.  Unfortunately, it also takes away responsibility from others and makes them feel you lack confidence in their abilities.  Delegate effectively. 

Another way of saying this: “I can see you are having some difficulty with this, let’s plan out your next steps together.” 

4. “Don’t take this the wrong way…”

By saying this, rest assured that the person will take it the wrong way.  Statements like this scream that you are about to say something negative, or “constructive”,  and it is an attempt to cushion a statement or blunt its effect. However, this kind of communication also attempts to manipulate the person into feeling a certain way about your statement and is an attempt to control others.  Be direct. 

Another way of saying this: “This is what I observed…” or “ This is how it impacted me…” 

5. “Because I said so…”

Really?  Well then I will get right on it!  This kind of statement reminds us of a parent using their authority to demand compliance. You are not a parent to your team members. People respond best to leaders who allow them to think for themselves while still respecting the guidelines of the organization. And while it is ok to want to have respect as a leader, it should be earned and not demanded.  Using this phrase can frustrate employees and discourage them from seeking to understand why you are making a specific decision. 

Another way of saying this: “Let’s look at some alternative ways of getting this done” or “What is best for the client?”

6. “We have always done it that way…”

Old school.  Old ways.  Like a classic hotel that needs a re-model but does not want to change.  Creaky and dusty.  This statement implies that since you have always done things a certain way in the past that you must continue to do so in the future. You are not open to change and you seem incapable of adjusting to new ways of thinking.  Innovative thought goes right out the door. 

Another way of saying this: “Our current process has worked up to this point, so now we can look at some possible ways to improve it.”

Confident leadership comes from a place within yourself that is honest, transparent, and values-driven.  Every word that comes out of your mouth as a leader has impact.  Make each one count.  Be deliberate with your communication.  Think of why you are saying what you are saying and the outcome you want to have. 

Your organization deserves it.  Your team deserves it.  Your clients deserve it.  And you deserve to be heard.

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