Why Team Vocabulary Speaks More Than Words

I love team-building so I’ve disciplined myself to talk in a collective sense whenever possible. Team vocabulary is a big part of encouraging healthy teams. 

team vocabulary

I was talking with someone about the early days of church planting. We had not yet officially formed a core group and the initial staff members had not committed. As I told my story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”. Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?” The fact is I was talking about me most of the time. But I confused him with my verbiage by using inclusive words. I wasn’t trying to be confusing. It’s simply a habit I’ve formed. Team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams. 

I love team-building so much I’ve disciplined myself to talk in a collective sense whenever possible.

It always sounds so controlling, prideful, and even arrogant when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, church or organization.

As an example, take a worship pastor. I have worked with some of the most talented people. When I refer to them, I don’t say “He/she is my worship leader.” Team vocabulary says, “our worship leaders.” I don’t want to portray to them or others that they work for me. We work together as a team.

This may seem to just be semantics, but to me it’s an important issue for leaders to think through. If we truly want to create a team environment we must develop team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use words referring to me, such as:

  • When making a specific request – “I am asking you to do this for the team.”
  • When offering a personal opinion, which may or may not be shared by others – “I think we should…”
  • When asking a question or stirring discussion – “I wonder if we could…”
  • When giving a specific, personal compliment – “I want to thank you for the incredible work you did.”

For team vocabulary, however, I try to use a collective term.

  • There are so many opportunitiesLet me check with our team.
  • We have been stretched as a staff recently. We need to pace ourselves.
  • I am so proud of our team.
  • What do you think we should do? I really want to hear your opinion.
  • Our family ministries have had an exceptional summer.

Those are inclusive phrases. My advice is to default to words like “we” and “our” whenever possible – even if people have to ask you who the “we” is to whom you are referring.

The more we talk like a team the more our culture will feel like a team.

Have you had a leader who abused team vocabulary?  

(You may want to read my post on a leader’s vocabulary.)


This article about team vocabulary originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.