7 Common Phrases That Can Ruin Your Leadership Credibility

We’ve all been there: someone says something and you suddenly think I’m not sure I trust them now.

Credibility is like a currency that never depreciates unless you do something to undercut its value. If people think you’re credible, they trust you. They listen to you, depend on you, and follow you. But if you undermine that credibility, it takes a long time to earn it back.

In my work as a leadership coach, I help my clients learn to identify and avoid phrases that erode their credibility. Here are seven of the most common:

“To be honest…” People who are telling the truth don’t have to make a point of it. If you tell people you’re telling the truth, you’re actually warning them to be on guard. When you plant doubt in people’s mind, they lose trust in what you’re saying—and in your overall credibility.

“I’ll try.” In leadership, it’s important to be decisive and reliable. There is no room for “I’ll try.” If you’re going to do something, say so—and then make sure you do it. If you can’t make that commitment, don’t say anything. When you tell someone you’ll try, all you gain is sounding wishy-washy.

“Let me get back to you on that.” This phrase may seem harmless, but it sounds like a dodge. Know your capabilities and speak with confidence. If you’re asked something you don’t know, say so outright: “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out.”

“In my opinion…” This commonly used phrase undermines your point of view. Even if you don’t intend to, it carries a suggestion of bias. Instead, say “I think…” or “My experience suggests….”

“I could be wrong.” You may be shooting for humility with this phrase, but it comes off as uncertain and unconvincing. If you state a fact, do so with confidence. If there’s a significant chance you’re wrong, lead off with something like “It’s possible…” or don’t say it at all.

“On the up side…” When people hear this phrase, they know what’s coming: bad news with an attempt at comfort and possibly a poor attempt at humor. Don’t sugarcoat when you have something negative to communicate. Be forthright and honest, and you’ll always hold people’s trust.

“This is probably stupid, but…” Why would you qualify one of your thoughts as stupid? If it’s genuinely stupid, it’s better left unsaid. If it’s a question, just ask. And if it’s an off-the-wall idea, pitch it that way without calling it stupid.

When you’re in leadership, communication is one of the most important things you do. It’s how you convey information; just as important, it’s how you signal your credibility and strength. You can be honest and transparent without undermining yourself.

Lead From Within: Trust, credibility and respect all depend on effective communication.


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The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.


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