There are just some phrases out there that can drive us up a wall. From “sorry to bother you, ” to “I assumed” and everywhere in between, we all have room to grow when it comes to removing un-productive and downright distracting phrases from our leadership vocabulary. 

Here are four phrases that would serve you well by removing them from your regular communications with others. 

#1 People don’t want to work anymore

Why you should remove it: You are putting the blame of your shortage on others while dragging down the morale of those that do currently work for you. 

These types of signs began popping up in business after the first year of the pandemic.

This phrase really just entered mainstream popularity in 2021. Initially posted at a few restaurant drive-thrus, the phrase and subsequent variations on the theme began popping up in businesses in other industries. I think for some leaders, putting up a “no one wants to work here anymore” sign is an effort to relieve pressure off of the staff that is in the building. In reality, what you are asking customers to do is to lower their standards as soon as they enter the door. 

Think of the impact that the phrase has on your team. If you say that people don’t want to work, then what is compelling them to stay there? Are they a loser for working somewhere that no one else wants to?

Use this phrase instead: What can we do to make the culture and role more compelling to others? Yes, standards and expectations are shifting in the job market. What can you refresh, overhaul or move on from (See Ep 223: Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals)  in order to make a  place a compelling place where people would want to work. Although money does play a part in the equation, it’s not the full answer. What else do you provide and what experience can you give others that join the team?

#2 Does that make sense?

Why you should remove it:  It shows a lack of confidence in your communication skills and can be a distraction to the other person. 

This phrase is often rooted in good intentions. You want to make sure that the person understands the information that you are trying to convey to them. Said enough, and this phrase can slow down a conversation and frustrate the other person. It can also cause the other person to question your confidence in your communication skills.  

Does that make sense, can be used as a crutch as you are presenting to others. When overused the other person may begin to anticipate all the stops that will have to happen in order to affirm you during the conversation and may be less engaged as a result. 

Use this phrase instead:  Any questions? or I look forward to hearing your questions and feedback. This subtly shows that you are confident in yourself and in what you are presenting and still gives the other person a chance to ask any clarifying questions or outright say that they don’t understand.  

#3 Just

Why you should remove it:  It can sound apologetic and undercut what you are really trying to say. 

How can one word undercut your message? Look at the difference between, “I just wanted to let you know,” and “I wanted to let you know” The first can come off as apologetic and very non-confrontational while the other communicates what you really want.   

Inserting the word “just” in any statement automatically lowers the power of the rest of the statement. We have coached leaders for years to avoid the sandwich-style approach to feedback. (Say something nice, give feedback, say something nice) because it dilutes your feedback among other things. The word “just” does the exact same thing in your regular dialog with others. 

Use this phrase instead:  Just stop saying “Just”.  Take the weakening qualifier out and let your statements, thoughts, and opinions stand on their own.  

#4 It is what it is

Why you should remove it:  The phrase inspires no motivation and communicates your lack of ownership of the situation. 

Ah, my most hated phrase to hear in leadership and life! After all the hosts have ribbed me at one point or another about this phrase on the show, there are multiple reasons why you should exterminate this phrase out of your leadership talk. First, think about the message that you are sending to the receiver. You are basically saying, “This is awful, I’m not on board and we’ve got to deal with it.” A leader that resigns themselves to the situation around them is not a leader that inspires you to follow them. 

The phase also invites other people to complain, now or later, about the situation or scenario as well. This either further degrades trust in the problem at hand and also gives others an excuse to not have ownership in the problem either. 

Use this phrase instead: It is what we make it.  This acknowledges that yes, the situation isn’t ideal, but we have full ownership in our part to play and can make the best of the issue. It’s a twist that makes an overly pessimistic view on things into one that is positive and sees the obstacle as one that we can overcome together. 

Remove these four phrases and you’ll be on your way to communicating more effectively while encouraging others to take a positive approach towards any challenge. 

Make a better tomorrow.