Ten Words Not To Use With Working Managers

When a person moves from labor into management they enter a whole new realm of communication, including vocabulary.

Quite often I hear them talk about and ridicule ‘biz-speak’ or ‘corporate-speak’. It’s not that they cannot grasp these concepts, it’s just that they have never experienced them. Some of them are meaningless to the blue collar manager; others you will want them to understand. Before you use words, phrases and acronyms be sure your audience understands them.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a comprehensive list. Nor is it all-encompassing. What I mean to say is – this is not the whole list.

  1. EBITDA – Oh, yeah, that’s the capitol of that country over in…where is it?
  2. Synergy – is that an explosive or bio-fuels? It’s teamwork. Teams communicate well, avoiding chances for miscommunication.
  3. “Drill down” – Huh? How deep do you want the hole in the ground, the board, the concrete? Investigate, study, keep digging much better.
  4. ROI – What, you can’t spell? ROY is my dog’s name. This is one of those that you will want to teach them about. Understanding ROI as it applies to their actions and business unit will help them make better decisions, and that will support the organization’s overall ROI and bottom line.
  5. Action items – A term that sounds more macho and businesslike than “to do” list. Use plain old “gotta get this done”.
  6. Bandwidth – just how much room ARE they going to take on the football field?
  7. Best practices – Sports?
  8. Paradigm – this isn’t the ante for a poker game. – Most often used as ‘paradigm shift’. The easiest thing I can up with for this is to simply say, and show them how to THINK DIFFERENTLY!
  9. Scalable – if you aren’t referring to fish, don’t use it. Say “Make it so that it can grow or shrink as we need”
  10. Cash flow – Actually this is a term you will definitely want to use after you demonstrate and they understand it. A word of caution – use a visual and interactive discussion with them to get them to understand the term. Once they understand it, then work through how their job or department affects cash flow. This should result in their understanding of the need for certain actions, such as timely invoicing which relies on such things as timely service ticket completion, customer signatures and expense report completions.

What to do?

If you feel the need to use words, phrases and acronyms, use this check list:

  • Don’t use corporate speak or other words to show that you are ‘superior’.  It only serves to embarrass yourself.
  • If you can’t explain them, don’t use them. Not being able to explain a word doesn’t mean you don’t know what it means. Like the word ‘moron’. Everyone knows what it means, but how do you define it? Well, you could use words like ‘idiot’, but then you would have to define that word. Make sure they are defined and that your audience understands and agrees with that definition.
  • If you can’t define it or explain it try making a game of it.
  • Make it visual and memorable. I used several rolls of quarters, a couple of invoices and some field tickets to explain a simple version of cash flow to some IT field techs. Before the demonstration they didn’t understand why management was always on them about timely paperwork. They didn’t realize what it cost them personally to have to spend money on loans to make payroll. I also think that after the example they got a feeling that it may not be quite fair to corporate to have to start the next week in the hole.
  • Remember – you are NOT dealing with stupid people – or you wouldn’t have promoted them, right?

I am curious. What other words, phrases or acronyms would you add to this list? Leave a comment below.

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  • Dave Rothacker

    Value-added; value engineered; ubiquitous; core competency; outside the box; anything with the word “integrated” in it; fast track; ownership; deliverables…

    I could keep going but I am getting a bit nauseated because an unknown force is sucking the oxygen out of my work area. 🙂

  • Nathan Corliss

    How about a Phrase “Through the continuous improvement process and brainstormed execution, we will maximize potential productivity utilizing lean tools to ensure unparalleled levels of profitability and potential growth, while reducing our capital investments and overhead costs” oh…..so we are going to do it better, faster, and cheaper.

  • Funny. And I’m sure all words rising managers encounter.

  • Analysis. Buffer, rope, and all of the terms used in TOC and Six Sigma. I don’t know why people find it necessary to create a new vocabulary that separates them from the subject matter experts.

  • @joy
    I was wondering if someone would bring up Six Sigma. Thank you for that.

  • David Porter

    Bart – I love the list. I use a number of the words but you are absolutely right that they often have more fluff than substance. Great post.

    David Porter

  • Charles T Wilson

    Big words get in the way of customer or client communication just as often as obfuscating (BW alert!) internal stuff. “Sustainability” is a recent one on my hit list – it can mean so many different things to different people that it becomes meaningless without a long, drawn out treatise….
    Rather than being able to “define” your words (feels like the treatise) I like the old adage: explain it to your mother or in my case my 8-year old granddaughter – and in 25 words or less.
    Finally, let’s make sure everyone remembers communication is a two-way street. In a working or customer relationship, if one side doesn’t understand there’s a responsibility to ask and get clear. Not always easy, I know.

  • Bart Gragg

    Charles – agreed on all points and the last one, when someone does not understand the meaning, they should definitely ask.

    As I listen to even educated people, I am more and more frequently hearing the misuse of simple words such as “weary” instead of “wary” and the like.

    When someone I call up says to me “We should talk more often!” I reply “Your phone dials out, too, you know?”

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Effective and Efficient Meetings. How about let’s have meetings start and end on time and take care of business.

    These words and phrases are not for blue collar manager only. I work with salespeople and I am undoing these past years of consultant speak. These terms have become normal and do not carry the punch they once did. Getting back to speaking in everyday language helps people stay with you and understand your point.

    Speaking human is one of the ways to be different today. I have made a few more points on this in my blog http://salesmanagernow.com/maintain-a-selling-edge-be-different