Most effective and successful leaders look for their team members to:

  • Take initiative.
  • Be accountable.
  • Be problem solvers as opposed to problem pointer-outers.
  • Take calculated or measured risks when appropriate.
  • Be future focused and not dwell too much in the past (or their last job.)
  • Not place blame or point fingers.
  • Learn from mistakes.

If you are a member of ateam you are likely looking for these same behaviors in your colleagues or peers.

However, you may be sabotaging your efforts to foster these traits in your team if you are not modeling what you expect. You could be eroding your leadership effectiveness (or your leadership potential) if you regularly use the word fault. As in:

  • It’s not my fault.
  • Whose fault is this?
  • We need to discover who or what is at fault.

Using the wordfault can send the unintentional message that you are looking to assign blame even if you may not intend to blame or to sound less than accountable yourself. This communication behavior makes it more difficult for team members to feel comfortable and confident in taking initiative or being proactive. We can also sound like we are trying to pass the buck or be less than accountable ourselves. It also indicates that you are focused on the past instead of moving forward. 

Here are some phrases that a leader can use instead:

  • Here’s what I learned and here is what I will do differently next time (instead of “it’s not my fault”).
  • Let’s figure out what happened and how we can fix it.
  • Let’s try to determine what we can do differently next time.
  • What do you think went wrong and how can we avoid it in the future?

The above alternatives are powerful communication tools you can add to your leadership tool-kit, even if you haven’t caught yourself using the word fault in daily communication. Notice, they are all future focused and they all allow for growth and learning.  

Stop sabotaging or eroding your leadership success by minimizing your use of the word fault. Make it easier for others to be accountable and proactive.  

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.