Have you heard the forbidden leadership phrase?
I bet you have. You might have even said it once or twice yourself, or some variation of it. I know I’ve said it. But using this phrase consistently is often the one thing separating normal leaders from great leaders. So, what is the forbidden phrase?
“Our people won’t.”
You might have heard the forbidden phrase worded a little differently in another context: Our team never, my staff won’t, our managers don’t, or at home, it might be our kids won’t or my teenager would never. You’ll probably hear a few qualifiers tacked on to that phrase, like “where I live” or “in this part of town” or “since they’re younger.”
You’re starting to see why this phrase holds people back, right? But here’s the reality: A great leader never says, “Our people won’t.” A great leader says, “We haven’t led our people to.”
Anytime we use a variation of the forbidden phrase, we’re not leading well. We’re casting blame. Using the forbidden phrase places limits on the people we’re trying to move forward! Remember, a great leader never gives blame—a great leader always takes responsibility. The same goes for a great coach, or parent, or LifeKids leader, or Host Team volunteer, or even a spouse.
Want to get away from the forbidden leadership phrase? Here are a few steps you can take.
- Show the people you lead why what you care about matters.
- Tell them again, and again, and again.
- Celebrate forward progress.
- Tell stories about someone who gets it right.
- Set the standard, and do more of what you’re asking than others do.
- Cast vision.
- Don’t give up.
What’s the main excuse you’re making for your team members, your volunteers, or your kids? What are three specific things you can lead them to do so you stop making that excuse? Over time, you can change the outcome. That’s what good leaders do.