Being in a leadership position is hard work. You don’t want to be another buzzword-driven dictator, but you also don’t want to be seen as a pushover either. However, there’s nothing worse than opening yourself up as a phony and a fraud to your team. Doing so will only lead to disillusionment and distrust.
If you want to create a strong team of workers, ditch the cliches and forge your own path as a leader. Don’t ever be caught saying:
1. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Saying this is simply refusing to take or place blame for a team’s failures. Whatever was supposed to happen didn’t but it’s not because the stars didn’t align correctly. Somebody messed up. If it was you, admit it and work harder to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If it was an employee, privately discuss with them that they need to step it up, and provide them with ways to improve their performance. If it was the entire team, work with everyone individually and collectively in order to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, and how to avoid it next time.
2. “That’s probably not what you wanted to hear.”
As a boss, you can’t be wishy-washy about certain things. Regardless of the fact that you like an employee personally, you can’t let feelings interfere with business. It’s one of the hardest things about being a boss (if you’re not a sociopath, that is!). But by using this line, you show signs of weakness.
If you have to make a business move that might hurt someone, explain why you’re making the move. If they’re a team player, they’ll do what they have to do in order to keep the company moving forward. If they’re not willing to do so, you can’t be at fault for taking swift action.
3. “Perception is reality.”
This is just fundamentally silly. So if I look like I’m working hard, that means I am? I imagine the sentiment behind this awful phrase is that you want your team to look presentable, and to create projects and presentations that really “wow” your customers or clients.
But truthfully, reality is reality. Positive results should always trump an over-the-top presentation. If you focus too much on appearance, all you have is fluff with no content.
4. “I’m always open to feedback”
Don’t ever say this if you don’t mean it. So many bosses say they’re open to feedback, but when it comes their way, they shut it down immediately.
Furthermore, inviting feedback is not the same as saying you’re “open” to it. If you really do want feedback from your employees, ask them for it. A simple “What do you think?” goes a long way; it validates your employee, and will also allow you to get insight on your performance as a team leader.
5. “Failure is not an option.”
The idea behind such a blanket statement is to motivate your team to do its best. However, it’s entirely possible that you and your team will fail, regardless of the “mandate from above.”
If you’ve said that failing isn’t an option, and your team falls short of its goal, what will the other members think? How will you back up your words? Surely you won’t fire the whole group. If you want something done a specific way, make it clear to your staff why you want it done this way. Don’t just give a mandate; back it up with reasoning. If everything falls apart, refer back to the first section.
6. “Let’s not try and reinvent the wheel.”
This is one of those statements that’s meant to alleviate some of your team’s hesitation to jump into a project for fear of failure. Really, what it translates to in an employee’s mind is “You don’t have to work that hard on this project.” But your team should always be striving to do its very best in everything it sets out to do.
Of course, you don’t really expect true innovation, creation, and “a-ha moments” around the clock, but you shouldn’t stifle your team’s productivity by making it seem like you don’t care much about the outcome.
7. “It is what it is.”
This one just gets my back up for so many reasons. Imagine Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King, Jr. saying “It is what it is.” You can’t. Because they would never be so complacent. The only thing that’s absolutely certain in this world is death, and scientists are hard at work trying to thwart even that.
No policy or procedure is ever carved in stone. If something is holding you back, work to fix it. Don’t cop out and say “it is what it is.” That just makes you look weak in front of the team you’re supposed to be leading to success.
Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm9.staticflickr.com