Are Your Word Choices Undermining Your Leadership Credibility?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Few transitions are more intimidating than moving from a staff position into a management role. Suddenly, you’re expected to lead the people who have been your peers. Some of these folks may be older than you. Others may be tech geniuses. To succeed in your new role, you’ll need to transmit your thoughts and ideas into words that motivate and portray credibility.

In a Work Smart piece for Fast Company, Judith Humphrey outlines the kind of statements you should make if you want to be perceived as a strong leader. Humphrey also talks about what to avoid. Her biggest no-​no is using the word 'just.' That word “waters down your own statements and hints that you may even doubt your own convictions and ideas.” Here are a couple of suggestions for what to say in specific situations that often make managers uncomfortable.

Delivering Feedback

When leaders meet with employees to talk about performance issues, they’re sometimes too vague. The goal in these situations is to explain what didn’t work and to talk about how to make improvements. These conversations aren’t easy and you might feel the word ‘just’ creeping into your dialogue. Drop it. Stay strong and tell the individual that their performance wasn’t satisfactory. Then, open the door to the future by talking about specific steps they can take to improve.

Showing Humility

Team members count on leaders to make decisions. However, leaders aren’t always going to make the right decisions. It's difficult to admit you made a mistake. It's even more difficult to come across as humble when admitting that you made a mistake. The language you use in any such announcement should be candid. You still need to show team members that you’re strong and capable, and that you’ll continue to make decisions and that sometimes you’ll be wrong. Remember to thank them for their support.

While word choice is key in helping you maintain your role as leader, tone is critical. Kill any tendency toward upspeak when you talk. If you turn the end of every sentence into a question, you come across as uncertain and insecure. Deliver your thoughts as strong statements, choose the right words and make eye contact with your employees. When you show confidence and determination, your employees won’t be confused about what you expect from them.