In his latest blog, Don't Be a Powerless Leader, leadership coach Don Blohowiak says "Any intentional attempt to lead comes across as a sales message and thus, especially among young people, triggers skepticism and defenses." I'm telling you, that sentence so resonated with me, I almost swooned. Somebody has finally said it. Someone has finally told "the emperor" in fine and simple terms that his clothes are trite, meaningless, and boring.
Nothing triggers my skepticism and defensiveness more than practiced dialog from a "leader." I've known leaders who speak almost entirely in buzzwords. I don't know what the practice is supposed to convey, other than shallowness and lack of imagination on the part of the speaker, but it drives me nuts. It's the very reason that the Dilbert comic strip both amuses and discomforts me. The practice of jargon-talk is absurd but it's also common enough to become fodder for a nationally syndicated comic strip. If Scott Adams' enormous audience can relate to it, that means that managers across the globe are speaking in jargon. And if the comic strip can't shame them into stopping, then what are we to do?
I suggest creating a congressional bill that will require all business managers to be wired to an electric shock machine that will issue a painful jolt each time one of the following phrases or words is uttered:
- Push the envelope
- Reinvent the wheel
- Bring something to the table
- Gain traction
- Step up to the plate
- Carve out a niche
- Smoke and mirrors
- Level playing field
- Deep pockets
- Core competencies
- Low-hanging fruit
- Anytime a noun becomes a verb, e.g., "Let's dialogue with him" or "We'll have to incent him."
- Any of the -ize words, e.g., monetize, commoditize, componentize
And there should be a special extra zap for these horrendously overused devices of listener torture:
Can you suggest some more?
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.