I have finally read ‘Why business people speak like idiots – A bullfighter’s guide‘, which has been sitting on my shelf for a few months. Crappy presentation clip-art like the bullfighter here is one of the many aspects of poor business communication that the authors are fighting against.
Far from focusing on corporate-speak as I expected, this is a book about action. The authors identify four reasons why business people turn into ‘business idiots’ as they call them. I am not sure that I buy these reasons. But I love their practical examples of how to cut the bull and get real. Tell stories, pick up the phone (don’t email and copy the world), keep a sense of humour, show that you are human, tell the bad news. Recognise that most people are so bored at [insert business meeting here] and your job is to entertain. Otherwise, what is going on inside the heads of your audience is a whole lot more interesting than what you are presenting.
Words and tone do feature prominently of course. And all of us are guilty. It is only through awareness that we can remove the ‘bull’ from business conversations. Here are some I know I have been guilty of saying: touch base, deliverable, deck, thought leadership. Some I hear a lot in my company: reach out, utilise, transformation, align. And I knew I could smell ‘bull’ when people at work started talking about establishing a ‘centre of excellence’. I kept asking what made it different from any other large office, but no-one had an answer for that. This book provides a useful description: “vortex of incomparable splendour, hub of magnificence, apex of awesomeness. No-one likes anyone who works in one of these.” Otherwise: it’s meaningless like so much other corporate bull.
It’s not a terribly funny book. Maybe I’m the wrong nationality for the humour. There are some fantastic Americanisms in there that I would never hear from a non-American, like ‘soup to nuts’. I always wondered what that meant and I’m still not sure. That said, I loved the piece about SGPs (standard generic photographs). You know, the photo library shots your company has on its brochure. Where there is always an appropriate gender and ethnic balance. Anyone over 40 is wearing glasses. And they feature people pointing, waving, looking interested.
As the authors say, go and enjoy a long run of ‘Take Your Personality to Work’ Days. And join the league of bullfighters.