Friday, 7 January 2011


A friend of mine gets enraged when he hears management jargon. He’s not alone. Lucy Kellaway, that brilliant writer on the Financial Times, recently listed some bệtes noirs – “office-speak” she ironically calls it. Here are some:

-    loopback
-    in this space
-    strategic staircase
-    living the values
-    letting the grass grow
-    And my least favourite “you can’t have your cake and eat it so you have to step up to the plate and face the music”

And the real problem going forward (ugh!) is that I keep reaching out to people (oh no!) incentivising them (aaghh!) to sprinkle their magic (I’m so sorry!) even if they didn’t think they had enough bandwidth (I feel sick!) to cascade (sob!) their thoughts with granularity (bang!)

Yes, it’s catching. Like swine flu it’s a pandemic. But sadly those most seriously afflicted seem to thrive rather than die.

So I thought we should create our own more helpful vocabulary. Eight verbs and one cliché –

-    Influence – instead of “telling” people start to “suggest” and “persuade” – in the best sense of the word and start “selling” rather than “imposing” your ideas. Be a good influence.

-    Give – sometimes by unconditional giving you can build a relationship. Not everything has a price.

-    Shepherd – not to imply that your employees are sheep but when it comes to ideas try to coax them out of people. You can see how “office speak” develops because it would be so easy to add “so we can shear the flock’s innovation-wool” (don’t you dare!)

-    Engage – grab people’s imaginations and get their attention. No one has perforce to listen to anything nowadays which makes management hard. People have to be persuaded to listen and to hear what’s being said.

-    Inspire – this is engagement on speed. Inspire by dramatising and telling great stories. Inspire by saying what you yourself really believe.

-    Converse – conversations not speeches are the future.

-    Discover – learn new stuff; find out what you can really do; go to new places.

-    Lighten – simplify and illuminate. Make life simpler if you can.

And the cliché?

It’s from Margaret Heffernan author and speaker who said “Nice is the new mean.”

Yes, that’s right, you don’t any longer have to be a bastard to succeed. Nor do you have to touch base about anything offline ever again…(there I go again!)


Nick Fitzherbert said...

I attended a seminar last year where one of the attractions was listening to a man described as CEO of a company which 'specialises in real time automatic contextual and user keyword retargeting'.

It all made quite good sense once he had been talking for a while, but it was hardly the best way to attract an audience.

Richard Hall said...


Nice one – I saw two horrors in Venice this Autumn – both names of conferences.

At the Danielli Hotel “Spatial awareness in contemporary Taiwan” and on St. Georgio Maggiore “Beyond entropy”.

At times a tropical island does seem preferable to all this stuff doesn’t it?