In leadership, it is important to remember that subtle changes can bring big results. These subtle changes might be in the words we say. Here are a few commonly used words and some suggested replacements that may make a big difference in our leadership:
1. Where we typically say “I”:
Let’s try “We.” The great leaders quickly realize that they are nothing without their team. Success is the culmination of many hours worked by several people. Be generous with giving credit. Point out the work of others. If someone wants to talk about success, let that be the perfect opportunity to praise our teams.
2. Where we typically say “No”:
Let’s try “Test it out.” Pilot studies are great practices that help determine what ventures may succeed and what may fail. These experiments also provide our team members with the opportunity to learn from experience in a relatively low-risk situation.
3. Where we typically say “Never”:
Let’s try “Not now.” Especially when it relates to systems or models. Never is a promise, and our team members and constituents expect us to keep our promises. I have seen many leaders regret that they used the word “never.” There is great pain in explaining why “never” became “now.” Of course, there is a time for “never,” but make sure that it is the right time.
4. Where we typically say “Unskilled”:
Let’s try “Skilled.” This is about valuing people. Everyone has a skill set. It just might not be the right skill set for a particular role. As Albert Einstein put it,
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Leaders must try to match skill sets with responsibilities. Team members may better fit another role. They may even better fit another ministry, but they are not unskilled.
5. Where we typically say “Can’t”:
Let’s try “Why not?” “Can’t” is defeatist. Alternative options go unexplored with “can’t.” When faced with a challenge, ask “Why not?” Why are we not able to overcome this challenge? Sometimes, the answer to this question uncovers a solution.
As leaders, we are always considering how to improve our teams and ourselves. We cannot overlook our words. Leaders’ words are powerful, and a few subtle changes can transform our leadership and our organizations.