Why Using the ‘Forbidden Phrase’ Just Makes You Look Bad

When your staff isn’t performing the way you think they should or as well as you know they can, it’s time for you to take a look in the mirror.

What are you doing as a leader that’s encouraging or supporting these behaviors? In other words, how are you condoning or promoting your staff’s underperformance?

As a leader, you have to ask how you’re impacting any positive or negative happening in your newsroom. What’s your role?

I thought about this aspect of leadership as I was listening to Craig Groeschel’s leadership podcast entitled The Forbidden Phrase.

Why Using the ‘Forbidden Phrase’ Just Makes You Look Bad

The forbidden phrase, according to Groeschel, is “Our people don’t…” or “Our people won’t…”

I hear variations of this phrase from student journalists.

“Our staff doesn’t meet deadlines.”

“Our staff isn’t motivated to do their jobs.”

“Our staff doesn’t respect me as a leader.”

The list of complaints goes on.

My response typically is some variation of “What are you doing to encourage that?” or “Why are you allowing that?”

Leaders tend to justify their complaints with excuses about things like age, geographic location and generation, Groeschel said. Think about how many times you’ve heard a student media adviser say something about “this generation of students.” These are all excuses, Groeschel said. He said:

You can make an excuse or you can make a difference, but you cannot make both.”

Instead of saying “our staff doesn’t…,” say “We have not led our staff to…” This makes the development of your people your responsibility. As Groeschel said:

A great leader never gives blame. A great leader always takes responsibility.”

Here are some ways Groeschel said great leaders move their people to desired actions:

  • Repeatedly show them why what we care about matters,
  • Celebrate any forward progress,
  • Set the standard and purposely do more than we would ever ask anyone else to do,
  • Cast forth vision, and
  • Never give up.

Are you doing these things in your newsroom or are you busy blaming others for things that are you responsibility? If you’re blaming, it’s time to flip the script and work to become the leader you want to be.

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