top of page
  • Writer's pictureEarl Breon

Remove These Phrases Of Failure From Your Leadership Lexicon

Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard them all before. That one phrase that is so insanely stupid that you ask yourself, "How did this person tie their shoes this morning?" The most terrible part is that you have likely said one or more of these your self. I know I have. And, I kick myself for it every single time!

The good thing is these aren't usually fatal unless they become habit. Then they go from phrases of leadership failure to phrases of failed leadership. The difference? Failure is temporary and you can recover. Failed is past tense, you aren't failing you have already done it! Game over, please try again.

So, what are these phrases of failure?

1. If it aint broke don't fix it!

Now, this phrase may be fine to use if you are talking about something mechanical but when you are talking people and policy it sounds pretty dumb! The truth is the best time to fix people, policy, procedure or any other non-mechanical aspect of business is when they aren't broken. That, my friends, is called IMPROVEMENT.

Your goal should be to find continuous points of improvement for yourself, your organization and your teammates. What do we call that? LEADERSHIP. So, ditch this one to the curb and get to fixing everything that isn't broken to avoid leadership failure! Replace with:

"It aint broke, now is the time to fix it!"

2. It has worked X years so far, why change now?

This is a slight variation of number 5 but that subtle difference is important. This is the phrase that follows after you have defeated, "If it aint broke don't fix it!" Why? People fear the unknown and change is moving from the known to the unknown.

The longer someone has been with an organization the scarier change tends to be for them. That means, in general, change is scariest for leaders. Too, bad! Show some courage and embrace smart change that moves your organization forward.

Change purely for the sake of change is bad. Change that is inline with adapting to modern requirements is good. In fact it is a great way to stay relevant and not transition from leadership failure into full on failed leadership.

Replace with:

"It has worked for X number of years, how do we keep it working for X more?"

3. Just trust me!

While it is true that trust is an important factor in leadership this phrase points out one glaring truth. As Albert Einstein put it, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." You just broadcast to the team that you don't understand what you are talking about well enough.

The worst part is you tossed a golden opportunity out the window because this phrase is also seen as a communication killer. The message you trigger in your team's mind is, "Their mind is already made up and they either think my points are invalid or I am too dumb to understand." Not exactly an inspiring message, huh?

Leadership relies on brokering both knowledge and communication. This phrase of leadership failure just killed both of those!

Replace with a reasonable and simple explanation and open dialogue.

4. Not my problem!

To put it bluntly, bullshit! It is your problem. It became your problem for two very distinct reasons. The first is you decided to take up the mantle of leading people. When you do that their problems become your problems. Second, this person (or these people) trusted you enough to bring the issue to your attention.

That means they have gifted you the privilege of being their leader and you told them to go away. Again, pretty inspiring huh?

Even if it truly isn't your problem you should treat it as if it were. Listen, gather information, and offer a solution. That solution may simply be to talk to the person whose problem it really it is but that is a far better one than, "Not my problem!"

Replace with:

"Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

5. Any positive phrase followed by a negative "but".

This one is number one because it is so easy to do. In a 140 character culture where brevity is valued the word "but" is used a lot to combine thoughts and shorten conversations. The problem?

The best way I have heard this described, and I can't remember or find who said it, is that "but" is the greatest eraser ever invented. It doesn't matter what phrase or sentiment you place before it this one word erases it all away in an instant. Think about this phrase; "That was a great presentation but, you did drag on a bit and your graphics were a little fuzzy."

What did you hear? You drug on too long and your graphics were fuzzy. The entire compliment of having a great presentation disappeared and you feel like you did a crappy job. Even when your friends remind you of the compliment you follow with reminding them of the negative comments.

Replace with:

There are two ways to fight this phrase and turn it from a leadership failure into a leadership success. The first is to break it up into two distinct sentences.

"That was a great presentation. My only advise would be to shorten it some and clear up your graphics!"

Much better, right?

The second tactic is to reverse the order to negative phrase with a positive "but".

"You drug on a bit and your graphics were fuzzy but, that was a great presentation!

In both instances you get the words in that show points of improvement and you don't make the person feel like a failure.

Avoid these 5 phrases of leadership failure

By avoiding these phrase you will increase your communication with your team and your overall leadership capabilities. Sure, you may slip up and use one here or there, just recognize it and recover. Leadership isn't about perfection, it is about improving!

39 views0 comments
bottom of page