Many ingredients and varied recipes cook-up a successful career.
Some are universally required. Others are situation-specific. Some are learnt. Others are drawn-out. And since the best of us are a little bit born-leader and a little bit made-leader, we hire for values, passion, energy (and so on); knowing we can train and develop the rest.
But those who make the decision on who gets the job or wins the promotion aren’t going to look too hard at any of that if the attitude isn’t right.
Here are a few phrases indicative of attitudes best avoided – if you want your best professional qualities to shine through.
“That’s not my job”
We all have our responsibilities. However, to hear continually that this isn’t your job paints you as not being a team player, and has you – and everyone around you – focused on what cannot be done. It also suggests a lack of other key career-developing assets like contribution, learning, flexibility and delivery focus. Instead, get positively involved to support finding a solution – and the better-placed person to help with.
“That’s not a good idea”
Over time, your team and colleagues are going to be reluctant to share if every opinion and idea is quickly shot-down. Foster creativity, innovation and collaboration by catching your objection and instead asking “how would it work?”
“It wasn’t my fault”
This is only ever heard as defensive and makes the focus of the conversation apportioning blame rather than moving to a solution by understanding the issue. Take the higher ground and get committed to a solution as you succinctly and comprehensively walk-through the issue.
“I think …”
Discounting phrases like “I think”, “my feeling is”, “you might not agree, but” reduce the impact of your message and make you seem far-less authoritative. Become attuned to this and replace these words and phrases with stronger alternatives such as: “I recently observed”, “I feel strongly that”, “I recommend”. Do this and your ideas will be more respected – the same ideas that previously were lacking traction.
“I don’t know”
If you don’t know the answer, best not to cover it up. But “I don’t know” can come across as laziness and unwilling to take a positive step towards a solution. Instead: “let me find-out the answer to that” or “we don’t have that yet – where can I get some help to pull that together?” Be thinking: positive intention towards a solution.
This is another of those statements that hint at an attitude of inflexibility, unhelpfulness or problem-focus – all of which run counter to ingredients necessary for a successful career. Those who get the job or win the promotion are embracing of change, up for the challenge and ready to plug the gaps in their skills or knowledge in order to deliver. Demonstrate that by pinpointing the issue and suggesting a solution or alternative.
This common qualifier is tentative, non-committal and lacking in confidence. If there’s something here that gives you cause for concern, call it out. Be adult about your objection and reason with your counterpart. A constructive argument is not an example of the system not working. It is working – and your discussion will likely output a better solution delivered with more commitment.
Regardless of whether what’s being presented is, in fact, impossible, this phrase is extremely negative – and no one wants to work with that. So keep it constructive. What needs to be re-architected to make it possible? What compromises would make this doable? What alternative options are there?
The importance of language
The language we use is important in two directions. Firstly: it reflects our internal working model to the outside world. Secondly: it also contributes to the construction of that internal working model.
By listening for – and upgrading – our language, we can not only demonstrate a more positive attitude to those around us; we can instil within us habitually positive attitudes that will serve us, career-long.