All of us share the ideal of creating inspiring organizations. But as I travel globally working with corporations, healthcare, academia, politics and not-for-profits I often find myself lost in a sea of jargon and buzzwords.
Here is my Top Ten list of most cringe-worthy buzzwords:
10. Core Competency (or Leadership Competency). This meaningless phrase immediately translates the simple into the complex. Everyone practices a certain level of mastery. Mastery is an essential requirement for achieving high performance in any field. High mastery = high performance. Let’s just call it what it is.
9. Corporate Values. Have we so completely abandoned our ethical compass that we need a rulebook, or a poster, or a rah-rah corporate conference to create a to-do list of empathetic behavior? How about just living the Platinum Rule? And how about assuming that human beings are naturally generous and trend towards willing the good of others? Two percent of the time we will be let down we can can live with that.
8. Mission Statement. If we held a world conference and invited all attendees to place their mission statements in the center of the conference hall, shuffled them all up, and then asked everyone to retrieve one randomly, most would not know if they got their own mission statement or someone else’s. Mission Statements are the ultimate blandness, not to mention conceit. Most companies I talk to either can’t find their Mission Statement or, if they can, they can’t recite it. And if they can, they are not inspired by it.
7. Vision Statement. Did Gandhi, Christ or Buddha have mission statements? The idea is laughable. We have numbed ourselves at too many corporate off-sites (another clumsy buzzword) into believing this mumbo-jumbo stuff is important. Martin Luther King did not have a vision statement he had a dream and dreams are what we are lacking at the moment and it is dreams that high-performance individuals and organizations create and pursue.
6. Empower. Who are we kidding? In today’s volatile, regulated, Internet-transparent world, power is retained at the center and close to the top. True empowerment is delgating complete authority and responsibility to another, so that they are free to make any decisions they choose in their domain. Too few leaders feel personally secure enough to delegate completely and therefore give meaning to the word “empower”. When they do, it is inspiring. Only those leaders who are sufficiently confident in themselves are able to feel this confident in others. All others should refrain from using a term that is “all hat and no cattle”.
5. Reach Out. “Thanks for reaching out!” Are we dealing with orphans or destitutes here? These are our colleagues – what on earth are we trying to say with this phrase? Do we mean “Thanks for calling”?, or “Thanks for your help”? Or, “I really appreciate you”? If so, let’s just say it in English.
4. Product. Few of us have “products” that we make or sell anymore. Yet I hear banks talking about their “products”, ski resorts refer to the guest experience as a “product”. All this is a throw-back to an industrial age when we manufactured things on assembly lines, and it gives away our attitude – some still think of customers and employees as means of production. It is demeaning to both.
3. Customer-centered. How does this make employees feel? If the customer is “Number 1″ then what does this make all the people who serve customers – “Number 2″? I especially see this in healthcare – there is much talk these days about being “patient-centered” – how does this make the nurse feel? (And don’t get me going about “evidence-based healthcare!). How about simply committing to being “people-centered” and respecting all humans equally? This will include suppliers and vendors, shareholders, stakeholders, unions, regulators, media, employees and customers – in fact, all people. Maybe even more than people – the Planet too.
2. Consumer. OK, I get it. You think I am an object to be manipulated so that I disgorge my money to you in exchange for consuming what you offer. Surely we can be more honoring in our descriptions of each other than this? I am a person, a human being, and I hope you will respect my sacredness and partner with me for the good of us both, and others too. I do not wish to be demeaned as a “consumer”.
1. Engagement. My number one bete-noir. If the clutch is engaged, the car works – period. I’m looking for something far superior than this. I want to be inspired, passionate, exhilarated, delighted. I want to fall in love with what you do, what you sell, what you stand for, how you help me to grow and excel, how you make a difference and change the world – Apple, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines. I won’t settle for being “engaged” and no amount of “engagement surveys” are going to inspire me to the great heights to which I aspire, and of which I am capable.
Oh, what the heck – let’s add one more:
11. Diversity: Diversity enables us to see the differences in others, to distinguish and separate them into various categories. Inclusion, invites us to do away with these distinctions and include everyone as equals, without distinction. If we love others, we will not see their differences because they will not matter. We don’t need programs for this. We just need a heart.
Let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of MBA-speak, buzz-words and jargon that drags down our souls. Buzzwords are one of the causes of the lack of inspiration in organizations today. We can change this. Let’s use our beautiful language in a way that is creative, empathetic and inspiring so that we all have a spring in our steps and love what we do, why we do it and who we do it for.
(Thanks to Jessica Malnick for the graphic – http://www.blog.jessicamalnik.com/2011/12/12/buzzword-bingo-12-words-that-need-to-die-in-2012/)