Editorial: Cliché master management junkies

May 02, 2014

The motherload list of truisms that makes Mark Zweig’s blood boil.

One benefit of aging has been a certain calmness that I now have that I didn’t have when I was younger. That makes each day a little nicer for me (and probably everyone around me!). That said, one thing that still gets my blood boiling is the cliché-wielding management junkies both inside and outside of our industry. Some of them take their knowledge of the latest pop management psychology and buzzterms to a level where they even try (and sometimes succeed at) making a living off it as “coaches,” “facilitators,” and organizers of one sort of group or another where other management junkies congregate. Some of the blather these people put out is downright unbelievable. Do they know how they sound? For example, I got an email yesterday from a fellow who organizes get togethers for groups of business managers in our area. This is a direct quote from the email: “Our first session was centered on leading oneself, catalytic to our other qualities and capabilities being optimally valued.” This, my friends, is pure BS. The problem with using language like this isn’t that it makes me unhappy – the problem is it makes your employees unhappy. They will think there’s something wrong with you. They will think you are foolish. They will think YOU think they are stupid. But most importantly, they will lose respect for you and confidence in you. Here are some of the popular buzzwords and my reaction to them:
  • Mindshift. Our local TED talks are focusing on “mindshift” this year. What the Hell is that? Is it how to get people to change their mind about something? This is drivel!
  • Content marketing. There’s nothing new here. It just means give people information they value instead of just trying sell them something outright. We have been using this for 30 years. Let’s just call it what it is: useful information that will make someone read or listen to your marketing message and maybe even save it.
  • It is what it is. Really? I thought it is what it isn’t. There’s just no need to see this because you aren’t saying anything when you do. Is this supposed to be profound? I think not.
  • At the end of the day. I don’t care about today. I care about the beginning of the next day.
  • Onboarding. We used to call this “orientation.” I still do. Seemed like a perfectly good word anyone could understand.
  • Thought leadership or Change leadership. Thought leadership just means “knowing your shit.” That’s the way I plan on phrasing it. “Change leadership” just means “change agent.” Seemed like a perfectly good term as it was.
  • Raise the bar. Set a higher goal.
  • Think outside the box. Nowadays when you hear this you are supposed to say, “Think like there is no box.” I would just say, “Let’s pretend there are no constraints.”
  • Bandwidth. You hear this a lot these days. “We just don’t have the bandwidth.” What was wrong with “capacity?”
  • On the bus. I’m so tired of the “Good to Great” clichés I could write an entire article on that alone. Why is this book a bible to its zealot followers? I do not necessarily believe that what is good for a Fortune 100 publicly traded billion-dollar company is good for a privately held design/planning/environmental firm! And how about Circuit City and Fannie Mae as “great” organizations?
There are so many more clichés but I’m out of space. Forgive me if I go dance with the elephant in the room now after I get a drink from a firehose! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1054, originally published 5/5/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

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