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knowledge powerOur leadership credibility has many components, one of which is how we organize and articulate our thoughts.  In your daily workplace interactions, become aware of those around you and how they communicate – in email, voicemail, meetings, or conference calls.

  • How well do they articulate their message?
  • What words and phrases are used?
  • What tone or pitch of voice?
  • How are they received overall?

In my work with emerging women leaders, there’s one area of communication that can be especially challenging, not to mention sabotaging – our use of powerless words and phrases.  I see it and hear it all the time, and often it’s completely subconscious.

But when you begin to look and listen for it, you’ll know what I mean.  Phrases like:

  • “I’m sorry…”
  •  “It was a team effort…”
  • “I’m no expert…”
  • “I was just doing my job…”

If you’d like to improve your leadership credibility, a great place to start is by banishing those phrases above and replacing them with more powerful – or at least neutral – phrases.

Old phrase:  “I’m sorry.”

New response:  Remove this completely, unless there is a true need to apologize.  And if there is a need to apologize, do so once and then work to objectively solve the problem.


Old phrase:  “It was a team effort.”

New response:  It’s OK to acknowledge something was done by the team; that’s part of what makes us strong collaborators.  But where we fall short is to publicly acknowledge our role in the team’s success.  Try this instead:  “Thank you for acknowledging the team on this project.  There were many people involved, and my role as the [your role here] made a difference [in these areas].”


Old phrase:  “I’m no expert…”

New response:  Remove this crutch phrase (and mindset) completely.  Instead, focus on the research and preparation you’ve conducted.  Phrases like “In my research,” or “In preparing for this meeting/presentation,” help to remove that crutch.  Or go right to your findings or recommendations:  “I propose,” or “I recommend…”


Old phrase:  “I was just doing my job…”

New response:  This is typically in response to a direct compliment – we try to defuse it or play it down.  For a more powerful response, try this:  “Thank you for noticing my work.  I appreciate it,” or very simply, “Thank you.”

The first step in removing weak language is awareness.  If you catch yourself falling into the trap of using a weak phrase, first ask yourself why and work to uncover the reasoning behind it.  Then next time, use one of these phrases instead – you’ll see how others begin to respond differently and your leadership credibility increases.


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© 2013 Impact Instruction Group

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