Leadership Podcast: The Forbidden Phrase

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In this episode, Craig discusses three words that shouldn’t be part of a leader’s vocabulary: Our people won’t. This is the forbidden phrase. Some variations include: our team never, my staff won’t, our volunteers don’t, our middle managers refuse to, our sales force just doesn’t, or my kids won’t. It’s important to watch for qualifiers to this phrase, based on geography, demographics, age, education, or cultural differences.

Any time we say some version of the forbidden phrase, we’re casting blame. But a great leader never gives blame. A great leader always takes responsibility. Instead of casting blame, cast vision. Here are examples of how to make the shift.

• Show them why what you care about matters.

• Tell them again, and again, and again.

• Celebrate any forward progress.

• Tell stories about someone who gets it right.

• Set the standard and do more of what you’re asking for than others

Over time, you can change the outcome. That’s what leaders do.


  1. What is the number one excuse you are making about your people?
  2. What are three specific things you can do to lead those you influence to the desired result?


Have a question for Craig? Email him at leadership@life.church.

When you’re not the top leader in an organization and you see the culture needs to change, how do you choose when to leave or fight?

Be careful answering this question. No organization is perfect. You might just be going through a frustrating season which will pass, but you might be in a place that's causing you to compromise daily and make you feel like you're betraying who you're created to be. Ask yourself:

• Are the values slight differences or massive differences? Describe them.

• Can you continue to make a significant difference? Or do the differences in values limit your ability to do what you can do?

• If things don’t change significantly, can you see yourself being supportive of leadership two years from now? Or will the value difference cause too much frustration?

• Do you think your values are so different that it would be a relief to most of your leaders if you moved on to a different place?

• If you are married, what does your spouse think?

• Based on your answers, what do you think you should do?

What are the practices that contribute to an unhealthy staff culture and what are the practices that contribute to a healthy staff culture?

Unhealthy Practices

Unclear vision and values

Weak communication

Avoidance of tough issues

Little or no true feedback

Limited ability for the whole team to contribute

No goals or directions, no celebration of wins

Healthy Practices

Clear, compelling vision/values

Strong communication

Addressing problems and issues quickly

Open, honest, and transparent feedback

Unlimited contribution from the whole team

Clear goals and directions, wins to celebrate

Remember, you don’t have to know it all or be perfect as a leader. Be yourself. People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.