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15 Phrases Effective Leaders Will Never Say

15 Phrases Effective Leaders Will Never Say

Being a leader is all about guiding people toward your vision using a consistent balance of communication, action, and encouragement. We can influence change through our actions. Leaders make change happen. What used to work as a leader—spouting out demands, drafting huge outlines for your team to follow, and using negative reinforcement—doesn’t work as well anymore. An effective leader needs to connect with the people they lead. Creating a shift in the way you communicate will help you attract a tribe that will follow you with dedicated loyalty.

Here are 15 phrases that you will never catch an effective leader saying.

1. “I can’t.”

This is perhaps one of the most detrimental phrases for not only leaders, but everyone else, too. Saying “I can’t” limits your action to doing only the things that you believe you can. If you don’t believe in yourself, how will others believe in your vision and themselves? Instead, a better question is “I will” followed by “How?” These two phrases inspire creativity and innovation, two characteristics apparent in all leaders.

2. “I don’t care.”

Saying “I don’t care,” basically says that you don’t have an opinion. Although it may often be said in disregard of a particular idea, it still communicates a lack of regard and a lack of drive. Good leaders say “I’m interested. I care.” It shows they are driven and passionate about executing their vision. They realize that caring for each unit of their organization, from the smallest member to the largest change, is important.

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3. “I’m in charge.”

If you want people to resent you from day one, say this phrase. The need to tell people that you’re in charge indicates that you’re not actually in charge. This phrase makes the difference between managers and leaders. Managers often use this phrase to to bark orders from a safe place to a submissive team that works from fear. Leaders realize that the strength of their vision and effectiveness of their leadership is rooted in the drive and passion of their tribe. By simply not saying this phrase, leaders empower their team to contribute to their vision. And by doing so, they open themselves to innovation. Leaders establish respect and build followers through consistent action, not fearful words.

4. “You don’t understand.”

Telling someone that they don’t understand shuts them down before even making an effort to help them understand. Great leaders realize that if there is misunderstanding or if their vision is unclear to the members of their tribe, then it is their responsibility to help their team understand. “Check this out!” or “How can I help you?” are effective phrases leaders use to open up a dialogue to enable members to figure out what they are trying to execute or convey.

5. “Can I?”

Waiting for permission to change something is the quickest way to keep it the same. Followers ask permission before changing a system. Leaders only make the changes they believe in. The ruthless pursuit of the most efficient and effective way makes a great leader. The best leaders don’t wait for permission before making change. They create change through action and ask for forgiveness later.

6. “It’s impossible.”

Saying this phrase in response to an idea or action shuts down any possibility of it ever happening. Faith and confidence go hand-in-hand with leadership. Effective leaders instead ask the question: “How can we ____?” These phrases create inspiration and motivation, two key components of a good leader. It is absolutely essential for a leader to believe. Leaders of an organization—the ones who truly believe in what they are a part of—are confident in their beliefs.

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7. “Let’s wait” or “It’s not time.”

No leader ever became great by waiting for the perfect moment to execute a project or idea. The best leaders realize that the timing will never be perfect. “Let’s do it now” and “We can work it out” are ways that great leaders execute ideas and change in an organic way, adapting to the obstacles of their execution as they unfold. Adapting to change during this execution also supplies new strategies for dealing with change.

8. “People won’t like me.”

Worrying about whether people will like you or not will ensure that you stay the same and only make small ripples in the ocean of an organization. Great leaders create huge waves and build their following by changing the status quo. Society thrives on habitual routine and most people do not like change. The best leaders will have a healthy awareness that not everyone will like them, and that they cannot please nor make everyone happy. Being confident in their beliefs and vision allows them to maintain this mindset.

9. “It’s always been done this way.”

People who use this phrase usually maintain a calm cruise through their daily lives. While there’s nothing wrong with this mindset, a great leader will realize that innovation is absolutely necessary in order for people to believe in their vision and follow them. “What if?” is a question that great leaders ask themselves daily when confronted with a system that they believe could be executed more effectively. Just because a system worked in the past doesn’t mean it still works today. Leaders understand that, and are constantly in search of ways to improve upon systems using innovation and strategy.

10. “I did it.”

Any statements that use “I” when referring to accomplishments of your organization or team is never going to establish leadership. By using “I” statements, individuals place themselves on a pedestal of selfish pride. Effective leaders take a position of humble confidence in their role and lavish pride for their team. A successful leader realizes that she is only as good as her group. By saying “We did it!” or even “Y’all did it!” and lifting others up above themselves, leaders empower their tribe members to continually strive for greater success.

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11. “I know enough.”

This statement indicates that an individual has learned everything there is to know. It is a surefire way to get passed by others in the quest to be the best. Since leaders strive for the best, you’ll always hear them asking the question “Why?” or “How?” Asking the right questions it essential for any leader to become great.

12. “It’s too difficult.”

This phrase indicates a challenge. The difference between a leader and a follower is that followers often shrink away from challenges while leaders see them as opportunities. Leaders pave the way through challenges and obstacles by saying “Let’s do it” or “We can”. It takes a lot of creativity to overcome obstacles. It also takes a lot of faith. Leaders have both of these characteristics, and they’ve developed them by plowing through the obstacles and boundaries that seemed too difficult to their followers.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

—Henry Ford

13. “It’s not personal; it’s business.”

The problem with this phrase is that it’s always personal to the person that you say it to. Where people are involved, there’s always a relationship at stake. And great leaders realize that the relationship they have with their members is one of the most important aspects of creating a successful team that will carry out their vision and goals. If an individual can’t engage their team on a tangible, relational level (instead of like a machine), their tribe is destined to resent their leader, or they just won’t care enough to perform to their top potential.

14. “I don’t have time.”

People that say “I don’t have time” have not prioritized or managed their schedule effectively to invest in the things that really matter. This phrase indicates an insulated mindset that doesn’t have schedule flexibility or relational connection with others. But having the ability to connect with your team, family, or organization is what makes an effective leader. Saying “Let’s find a time” or “I can make time for you” are two of the most supportive phrases that engage and connect leaders to their team, and in turn establish their follower’s worth.

15. “It’s perfect!” or “They’ll be perfect.”

Perfection is an illusion. And the people that wait for the perfect prototype, perfect time, or perfect people, usually don’t make much change. These people are often the most unaware of their imperfections, which makes them liable to judgement of others’ imperfections because they cannot see their own. Leaders believe in beginning something, and reinventing it until it works. They will say “It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.” They realize that imperfection and the discovery of flaws (personal and product) is all part of the creative process to establish something worth standing behind.

“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future and go there. People will follow.”

—Seth Godin.

Featured photo credit: Brooklyn Morgan via unsplash.com

More by this author

Chris Talambas

Chris is a writer and professional physical therapist.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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