You can tell a lot about a leader by what they say.
Sometimes you can tell even more by what they don’t say.
If you listen carefully, you’ll discover that there are some words and phrases that just never pop up when effective leaders speak.
Do any of these appear in your own leadership communication?
1. At this time…
Think about it.
When a leader is asked, “Will there be layoffs at the company?” what does it mean if a leader responds by saying, “Not at this time”?
The leader is essentially saying, “There will be no layoffs today, but there could be tomorrow.” Or perhaps there really will be no layoffs. In other words, adding “At this time” to any leadership announcement renders it meaningless.
Take the “At this time” out of your leadership vocabulary.
2. If this is true…
This one is being heard far too often today.
A leader will hear a rumor or allegation against a member of the team, and rather than searching for truth will say, “Johnson, if these allegations I’m hearing about you are true, then I have choice but to let you go…”
Our culture today has replaced fact-based decision making for “allegation-based” decision making. This is simply weak leadership.
And you can spot it the moment a leader utters the phrase, “If this is true…”
3. People are saying…
Be wary of the opinions that are formed or the decisions that are made based on the “People are saying” reasoning.
“People are saying we need to change our product.”
“People are saying we should lower our prices.”
“People are saying we should add a traditional service in our church.”
Each of these statements begs the question, “What people?” “Who are these people saying these things?”
By all means, keep your eyes and ears open for feedback from a variety of sources. But remember that “People are saying” is the beginning of a decision making process; it’s far from the end of that process.
Here’s the point. When you’re a leader, you know that people listen to your every word.
So choose your words carefully.
And pay as much attention to the words and phrases you don’t say, as you do to the words you do say.