The big list of things for leaders to stop saying

You’ve probably come across posts on words and phrases that women should take out of their vocabulary because they’re things that most men just wouldn’t say. I’m expanding that concept in this post to include words to take out of all leadership situations – men and women.

I mean, you can, like, choose to kinda keep them in if you want, but I just feel that they, like, kinda make you look weak, you know? Does that make sense?

So here’s the big list:

These things undermine your authority and confidence:

  • Kinda – great when you’re deciding what flavor ice cream you want, but not when you’re speaking as a leader
  • Sorta – as in, I sorta think… seriously, who’s going to believe that you know what you’re talking about?
  • Just – not always as obvious, but “I just” is really a form of justifying yourself. Not needed, leader!
  • I’m sorry, but – are you though? Or are you just saying that to soften the impact of what you’re saying?

These things just confuse people. You think they’re making you sound competent, but:

  • Jargony jargon – you might think that it makes you sound smart and on top of what’s current, but if your audience doesn’t speak jargon, they hear “blah, blah, blah” and tune out. And that includes acronyms!
  • Complexifying – again, doesn’t make you look smart. Being able to distill things into clean, clear concepts will bring more people along with you because they can follow what you’re saying.

These things undermine your professionalism:

  • Like – like, I was watching a show and, like, I counted how many times one person said “like” and it was over 75 times in a 20 minutes segment! I was so distracted by it that I actually kept score. It’s pervasive and we often don’t know that we don’t even know we’re saying it.
  • I mean – unless you’re truly clarifying what you mean, don’t say it – it’s just filler.
  • Literally – I thought this one had disappeared, but it’s making a comeback. And it is literally misused all the time.
  • That being said – what the hell does that even mean? What does it add? What are you setting up?
  • I’m not an expert – okay, then why are you giving me your words? See, that’s what it makes me think, and it’s not helpful.
  • Generalizations – These always bother me. Sweeping generalizations tend to make it appear that you haven’t thought things through and that you’re using generalizations to make your point because you aren’t familiar with the real data.
  • Gossip & speculation – I had a boss once who loved, loved, loved to gossip for recreation: to speculate about who was going to leave, get fired and all the other company politics. It affected me in two negative ways. First, I thought he’d been promoted to the wrong level because it was so unprofessional, and second, I didn’t trust him because I suspected he was using confidential information to fuel his speculations. Which leads me to…

These things undermine your credibility, trust and authenticity:

  • Lies – If your lies are discovered, you lose all credibility. And it’s hard to keep track of lies once you get started, so they’ll probably be discovered. But even if they aren’t, you know that you are dishonest – and people pick up on that. They won’t trust you if you believe you aren’t trustworthy.
  • Honestly, to be honest, If I’m being honest – okay, so were you not being honest all the rest of the time you were telling me things? Or are you setting me up now because you’re not going to be honest? Either way, I’m now watching to see.
  • I’ll try – this makes me think that you really aren’t committed. Is it okay if I just try, too, then? I don’t have to actually succeed, right?
  • Exaggeration – Why do you need to exaggerate? When I notice, I tend to doubt that you have enough data, evidence, or whatever behind you to actually make your point. So are you just making things up?

Use sparingly:

  • Does this make sense? – Sometimes you do need to check in and make sure you’re being understood, that the instructions or your reasoning is clear. But we often use it for validation when we’re insecure – and people know it.
  • I feel – sometimes that’s the appropriate phrase, of course. But don’t use it as a substitute for “I think” or “I believe”.  And don’t use it as a sneaky way to introduce instructions, as in “I feel we should do X” when you actually want to say “we are going to do X.”

What you can deduce from this big list of things not to say is that that you want to find the words, phrases and behaviors that do demonstrate your confidence, competence, clarity, professionalism, honesty, accuracy, trustworthiness, discretion and commitment.

That would be, like, just totally awesome. Honestly, those are literally some attributes of an admirable leader.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!



Are you interested in being the leader you are meant to be? Send me an email and we can set up a time to talk:

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