Leaders know that their work lives can be very busy and that sometimes means we don’t always think before we speak. It’s not that we deliberately make poor word choices; it’s just that we don’t always weigh how our messages may come across. But words and phrases matter because they are a reflection of who we are. People we interact with can form opinions and judgments about us based on the way we converse.
Have you ever been in a professional situation where you were confused or upset by the way someone spoke to you? This past week a leader I worked with barked out: “I need the information by tomorrow or else forget about it.”
Wow! What kind of statement was that and what were the implications if the material was submitted a day later? There was no explanation about the need for rushing the information or the urgency behind the request. Just a blanket phrase. To say the least this leader’s words put a real damper on working with him.
Leaders need to think about the impact of their words on others.
Here are five phrases to eliminate from your leadership voice :
1. “I’m Too Busy, Find Someone Else.”
I am sure you are all wondering why this is on the list for elimination. Of course we all need to be honest when we are swamped and just can’t pivot to help out a colleague. The thing is that we may not be able to jump in at that moment but later in the day or week might work too. So in a sincere leadership voice you may want to say: “I really want to help you out but I am in the middle of a project. Could I get back to you this afternoon or tomorrow?” Now that sounds like we care but need to be open about a timeframe.
2. “You Don’t Have The Skills.”
This phrase is just a pure attack on someone’s worth. It is a definite no-no. There are several ways to coach or mentor a team member who is in need of stronger experiences or knowledge.
A leader’s words can either grow a person’s worth or cut it down.
3. “This Is A Do Or Die Situation.”
Right off the bat this statement sounds a bit melodramatic. Even if there is an extreme time crunch, it is essential to share the “why” . Make sure to clearly present the nature of the urgency and your belief in that person being able to meet the tight deadline. Perhaps a better way to say this would be: “I am in a real bind with completing this assignment and I would so appreciate your expertise in partnering with me on this.” That certainly sounds different than the original phrase.
Related: 5 Leadership Empowerment Strategies
4. “Shape Up Or Ship Out.”
No one appreciates being given an ultimatum. Besides, leaders owe it to their team members to see an entire picture and understand why something is not working any more. Some more effective ways to approach this may be:
5. “No One Will Ever Take You Seriously.”
This is just a mean phrase that will never be helpful or heard. Think about ways to be compassionate to help your colleague become a stronger communicator and persuader. Offer to guide them when they want to share an idea with the team. “I really want the rest of the team to hear your great suggestions. Can I give you some tips on how to share them more effectively?”