In some organisations there seems to be a love-fest with saying things that mean nothing or using entirely the wrong words or phrases to describe what you want to do.

Add in the wide variety of corporate jargon and you can have a recipe for confusion and inaction.

Recently I saw an apt cartoon that read “Seriously, if I hear the word Strategic one more time I am going to hurl!”

I agree! What people misusing terms like this don’t realise, is the corporate cringe that accompanies it. (Slap forehead-Not again!)

Strategic is LONG term Structural planning, Tactical is SHORT term actionable. You don’t solve the problem of a photocopier out of paper by developing a team strategy… You just fix it…

Many years ago working in the US, I learned a game to play at management team meetings. (You may have a version you have used) each of the department managers would pick a several terms of jargon prior to the meeting and then as each one was used, it was subtly marked off the list. The first person to complete their list whispered ‘Bingo’.

It was a fun way to remain aware of ‘nothing’ words or phrases. Politicians are famous for speaking a lot and saying nothing but they are often left in the dust by corporate leaders.

I have, over the years, noted that the issuance of this kind of waffle has a direct relationship to distance from the front line – effectively the further from where the money is made, the more waffle. (I am thinking of calling it ‘Bentley’s theorem’)

Here are some gems I have heard in the past:

“Re-crystalising our objectives”:

Translation: What the hell do we do now?

 “Reinvigorating team synergy”:

Translation: “How do I stop you people fighting?”

 “Feedback is a gift”:                      

Translation: “I think your work is crap but I don’t have the moral courage to actually say that and then help you get better. By the way it’s not re-giftable so don’t you dare give any to me!“

And my favourite:

Paradigm shift: Defined by Urban Dictionary[1] as:

Has no real meaning, but people like to pretend it does.

E.g. “Now that I am the manager, we are going to experience a paradigm shift in the marketing department”

If you want to have fun in a meeting you can politely say: “I’m not really sure what that means – can you explain please?”

If they waffle again you can ask: “Can you help me with a way to explain that in plain language to my front-line people?”

This kind of language is often used to disguise the fact that the person speaking has no idea what to do or how to do it.

When questioned they will often say:

 ‘Let’s take this off-line and discuss after the meeting”

“Translation:  “I don’t know what it means, so I can’t explain it to you”

As a leader it is best to avoid any kind of jargon. If you can’t say it in plain language then don’t say it. You need you people to trust you so being straightforward, even if the news is bad, is the way to go.

While some good, in terms of behavioural awareness came out of the ‘self-help craze’, people who walk around spouting Guru talk are usually not acting on any of the principles they espouse or misunderstand them completely.

As the old saying goes-“Beware of the man on the street corner saying his prayers” because isn’t it funny how the most pious/conservative/rigid/judgemental people often turn out to be the most corrupt…

You don’t need to walk around using catch phrases, jargon, corporate affirmations or frothing company values.

People are smarter than you may think and you will get a reputation as someone to be ignored or parodied.

If you lead well and people trust you, they will absorb the company values (provided that they actually mean something and apply to everyone in their jobs).

Avoid talking about your philosophy or beliefs, instead incorporate them into your everyday behaviour.

That’s what being Naked is all about.