12 Stupid Things to Stop Saying to Your Team Immediately

We all have our leadership blind spots, and sometimes even the most intelligent leaders say things that are—well, just stupid. And then they’re surprised when, predictably, they get the opposite effect of what they want.

Here are the 12 stupidest things you can say to your team, but they must be stopped immediately.

“Do it my way.” If you hire a group of talented individuals to use their skills and expertise to do a job, then tell them to do it exactly the way you would do it, you’re bound to alienate and disempower them.

“That will never happen.” Using the word never closes a door, and it makes you sound unprofessional and limited. Nothing is impossible—there are always opportunities and options.

“Do you know what I mean?” It’s always important to make sure you’re connecting with people and that everyone’s on the same page, but you need to find a way to do so that isn’t condescending and annoying.

“It’s none of your business.” Anything that pertains to the project or the team is everyone’s business.

“That was my idea.” If you’re caught up who gets credit, you’re not concentrating on what’s important. As a team, you do things together to accomplish great things. Focusing on individuals—especially yourself—is inappropriate on a team project where the goal is a collective accomplishment and result.

“You’re doing it wrong.” There are many ways to tell people they seem to be moving off track. It’s important to remember that people do things in different ways, so they may just be taking a different approach. If you think someone is in error, enter into a dialogue instead of making pronouncements.

“Before you say that, let me tell you . . . ” Why would you want to shut people down or tell them not to speak? Communication is key to great teamwork, and you want to encourage people to express themselves. Listen before you speak.

“I already knew that.” Even if it’s true, listen again. Maybe this time you’ll learn something new.

“Because I said so.” This phrase, the hallmark of halfhearted parenting, will make people roll their eyes and lose all respect for your leadership.

“You must have misunderstood.” Sometimes people do misunderstand, but it’s unprofessional and disrespectful to assume that a miscommunication was entirely the other person’s fault. You don’t want to make people feel they’re not smart enough to understand what you want from them.

“What’s in it for me?” This phrase shouldn’t even be in a leader’s vocabulary. What’s in it for us? is more like it. A team is a collective, and what happens to one happens to all.

“I’m the boss.” They know you’re the boss. And you wouldn’t have to remind them if you acted like their boss—by letting them do their job, empowering them, supporting them, and helping them develop.

Lead from within: We have all said stupid things without being aware of them. When you’re in a leadership position, it’s especially important to think before you speak.



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  1. Charu

    05. Apr, 2019

    Great article.

    Always a pleasure to read your insights.

    Reply to this comment
  2. WK Taylor

    08. Apr, 2019

    Along this same vein… from the 1980s…
    How to Kill Ideas

    Don’t be ridiculous.
    We tried that before.
    It costs too much.
    It can’t be done.
    That’s beyond our responsibility.
    It’s too radical a change.
    We don’t have the time.
    That will make our other equipment obsolete.
    We’re too small for it.
    That’s not our problem.
    We’ve never done it before.
    Why change it? It’s still working OK.
    You’re two years ahead of Your time.
    We’re not ready for it.
    It isn’t in the budget.
    Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
    Let’s form a committee.
    Too hard to sell.
    Top management would never go for it.
    We’ll be the laughing stock.
    Let’s shelve it for the time-being.
    We did alright without it.
    Has anyone else ever tried it?
    It won’t work in our industry.

    Regards, Wil Taylor

    Reply to this comment
  3. Dan Schuder

    08. Apr, 2019

    Add to the list: “I appreciate the initiative but I’ll have (insert name here) handle it.” In other words I either don’t want you to grow in your position or I want the credit, and rewards, for this to go to me or one of one of my favorites.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Dennis Palos

    08. Apr, 2019

    You forgot “It is what it is” an overused fatalistic term that should not only diminish morale, but also diminish motivation to work things out as a team.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Judy Harmon Holmes

    11. Apr, 2019

    I can’t help but think of the ways in which these statements also apply to parents and teachers. They are always leading their children and students as well as constantly modeling how to talk to one another.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Shaun Smith

    14. Apr, 2019

    Great information! This really makes one think about how they treat other people. Thank you very much!

    Reply to this comment

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