He Spoke These Words and was Fired!

Human beings have a real knack for reading body language. Body language is sometimes enough to get one fired. However, would you like to know what really does the trick? Check out the list below. Repeated use of these phrases does not go unnoticed. The following are the top phrases that undermine direct reports with their supervisors and hopefully will serve as a gentle reminder to be mindful of your professional persona.


We all know people who intentionally say “I” to draw attention to themselves and their accomplishments. Many do it without thinking. They fail to realize that if they would substitute the word “we” it conveys; 1) They lead a team, and 2) They value the team. “I” conveys that no one wants to work with you or that you prefer to work alone.

“We’ve always done it that way.”

Maybe you should just sit in the corner and tell everyone who passes; “I’m not changing, I don’t care what you say!” Then, may I suggest you place your thumb in your mouth, curl your knees to your chest and gently rock back and forth.

“Like that’s gonna happen.”

No one likes the guy who brings everyone else down or throws water on the fires of “new vision.” Didn’t your mama tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? Perhaps mama will let you move back home during your unemployment.

“I was just doing as I was told.”

OK, great… Here’s another command: Head up to HR and pick up your check. This fails at a deeper level than you simply not wanting to take the blame. It actually serves as a direct indictment of your supervisor. It’s amusing how Mr. “I” (above) finally makes the shift to “We” when the wrong decisions are made.

“We’ve got a problem.”

This may not seem like a big deal, but if all you do is point out the problems, you are not the troubleshooter you think you are. I would always tell my leaders, “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you are prepared to give me two or three possible solutions.” Still better, just fix it.

“Did you see… Have you heard…”

Gossip in the workplace is an immediate character red flag. As a supervisor, I’m not stupid… If you are talking about Jennifer when she’s not around, the last thing I am worried about is anything you are pointing out about her. I am more concerned about what you are saying about me in my absence. Do you want to talk about your co-workers? Your new friends in the unemployment line might love to hear what you have to say.

“Sorry, I’m late.”

Life happens, but it is estimated that it takes a year to eighteen months to purge the perception of a single late showing. That is, it will take eighteen months before a colleague would think to say; “Rick is always on time.” In a high trust, high team setting, five minutes early is on time and on time is late. Attention to schedule conveys personal organization, preparation and that you give priority to others.

“I’m busy.”

Good. You are supposed to be busy! So is everyone else around here. What are you saying… Do you want special recognition? Geez. Maybe you should walk around the office telling others how unimportant and insignificant they are. However, you would need to get down from your high-horse before you could do that. I hope that’s not too much trouble.


Don’t be afraid to say no if the reasons are right. I would much rather hear a “No” than to hear a “Yes” accompanied by a failure to act. “Yes” cannot serve as space-filler, lighthearted commitment or an appeasement. A “Yes” demands action and you should never say you are going to do something that you are not committed to doing.

“I quit!”

Great… See ya!

That was easy…

The workplace is where you have an opportunity to build respect among your peers and craft your personal sense of excellence. If you find yourself regularly using any of the terminologies above, you may have a wake-up call on the horizon. If you get to the bottom of the list, and you remain blameless … congratulations. Would you like a job?

BR Rick Curtis

The Reverberation Principle

I was asked once again to write a 400 word article for Star News. A monthly publication for Law Enforcement personnel. Here it is.

Easily stated, “You get what you give.” No one knows this as well as you. As a leader, you give respect, and it returns. That’s the way we are built. Innately we understand this simple but profound truth yet we frequently fail to employ the knowledge as a method of containing the situation. Whether it be at home, at the office, or in the streets, it is sometimes easier to rely on a little “command presence” to get the job done. Don’t misunderstand. Command presence is sometimes the answer, however, it is not always the answer. Many a situation can be diffused by that calm, authoritative, yet respectful voice. Even the ancients understood this to be true.

Proverb 15:1-2 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.

We get into trouble when our mouth belches out foolishness.

We need to exercise wisdom in the use of every one of our tools, whether it is pepper spray, the black-and-white, our sidearm, and yes, even our voice. Think of it from the other perspective. How many people have rode the plastic because they simply could not control their mouths? It is no less crucial for us to understand that simple reality. Our voice, properly used can save our life. Used improperly it can get us killed.

Think about all the times in your life when your words got you into trouble. In fact, I would bet that your words have come back to haunt you far more than any other action in your life. Put that in the forefront of your thinking. Professionalism begins with self-control and respect returns like an echo.

“The story is told of a young boy who lived with his grandfather high in the Swiss Alps. Often, just to hear the echo of his voice, the boy would go outside, cup his hands around his mouth, and shout, “HELLO!” Up from the canyons the reply reverberated, “HELLO…HELLO…hello…hello…” Then he would call out, “I LOVE YOU…I LOVE YOU…I love you…I love you…”

One day the boy seriously misbehaved and his grandfather disciplined him severely. Reacting violently, the child shook his fist and screamed. “I HATE YOU!” To his surprise, and shocked at the sound of his own voice, the rocks and boulders across the mountainside responded “I HATE YOU… I HATE YOU…I hate you…I hate you…”

Now for the realist. You’re on the street, you’ve given your respect. Does it always come back? Of course not. But once in a while, especially when you least expect it, it will, and it will feel great.


A few blog posts ago, I spoke about seeing the gifts in other people and encouraging them in that gift for the sake of their own fulfillment. Furthermore, I stated that if we compliment them for our own gain, that we are being unethical and our actions will not succeed. I would like to convey an experience I had with a church member many years ago when I was pastoring a church in the Los Angeles area.

It concerned a man named Mark.

Mark was a member of our church. Like many members, he had his problems, but none so great that the Lord could not use him. I had heard that Mark played the guitar and was quite skilled. While I had occasional thoughts like; “I wonder why Mark has never tried out for the worship team?” they were simply passing thoughts.

One day, I noticed Mark during the worship time. He was solidly committed to the Lord in those moments. I could just see it. So, after the service, I stopped him as he was exiting. “Hey Mark, hang out for a second, let me finish shaking hands. I want to speak with you.”

Now I know what was going through Mark’s mind, “What did I do now?” When I finished, he came to me, “Yes pastor!?” “Mark, I just wanted to tell you that I was watching you during worship today, and you were really ‘in the zone.’” He smiled; “Thank you.” …Confused stare. “That’s it, I just wanted to tell you that watching you blessed my heart.”

I know exactly what happened next. Mark probably walked away thinking, “I don’t know what pastor saw, but if he saw it, maybe I was really a blessing to him and others, maybe God could use me.”

It wasn’t three weeks later that I heard Mark was rehearsing with the worship team. It took a man of God to catch a glimpse into the spiritual, and be willing to convey what he saw. You need to seek those glimpses into the spiritual when you are with your people. God will reveal what he wants or needs you to see.

WARNING: My experience with Mark cannot be manufactured. You cannot manufacture things to praise others for. God will reveal who and what you are to encourage with your words. You need to be sensitive and watch. People need to hear genuine, spirit-led praise from their leaders.

About Words…

The people that God has entrusted you with, they look to you for Godly leadership. Here are a few things that I have found to be important:

1. People need to be asked.

2. Expectations need to be defined

3. Accomplishments need to be rewarded.

People, by their nature, desire to live up to their leader’s expectations of them. If no expectations exist, then there is nothing to motivate or challenge them to action.


Do you know what BOLO stands for? It stands for Be On The Lookout… Watch for the men and women like Mark. You will find them. Those who are deeply committed to the things that drive your organization but they have not yet found their Stream of Excellence within it.