Weasel Word Wednesday #21 – manifest

I just spotted this word used in the headline of a press release and thought it warranted a quick post. Apparently by attending a workshop, you can

learn how to manifest with ease

From my understanding, it is most commonly used as an adverb, but when it’s used as a verb, you usually manifest something – you make it clear or evident to the eye or the understanding. For example, you might manifest an emotion by doing something. According to one poster artist during the US presidential election, Obama manifested hope. You don’t just manifest.

Regardless, I have been to enough business seminars to be very suspicious of people who manifest anything. Usually it means they imagine some kind of better future and if you believe it hard enough, it magically happens. Generally they’ve read a book called The Secret that specialises in this kind of blind faith.

I’m all for optimism and having a positive attitude, but YOU are the only person who can make things happen. You can’t just manifest – you have to actually do something!

Weasel Word Wednesday #20 – cadence

In a sales meeting a few weeks ago, I heard at least three different presenters use the word ‘cadence’, more than once. My weasel word antennae shot up. From the context, I couldn’t work out what it meant… something about doing something quickly, regularly or in a timely fashion?  Then it came up again in a company meeting yesterday, this time from HR.

A quick look in the Macquarie dictionary tells me:

cadence n. 1. rhythmic flow, as of verses; rhythm. 2. the beat of any rhythmical movement. 3. a fall in the pitch of the voice, as in speaking. 4. the general modulation of the voice. 5.  Music a sequence of notes or chords which indicate the momentary or complete end of a composition, section, phrase, etc.

From that definition, I can’t see any reason for it to be used it a business context, other than to hide the truth, confuse or attempt to impress. A perfect example of a weasel word. Here it is in context in extracts from a white paper written for sales executives:

[X]… should provide focused service delivery against KIs and have a regular communication cadence with the [salesperson]

Follow the cadence as outlined in the [X]  methodology (e.g. review meetings every 3 to 6 months), once the relationship has been established.

Next time I see the folk who used it I will ask them what it means. I’m looking forward to the answers already!

Weasel Word Wednesday #19 – gala

The use of this word isn’t restricted to corporate event types. Charities and not-for-profit clubs are amongst the worst offenders. It first came to my attention (or started to grate) as a member of a car club in NSW, when the club’s president decided that adding the word ‘gala’ to the front of every event made it sound more important. I was reminded of it today in an email I received about a fundraising dinner. And I can only imagine how many Australia Day ‘gala events’ are going on around the country as I type. In many cases, I think it’s used to indicate that the event is black tie or formal – why not say that?

Since the car club gala overload, I’ve heard it used often, for example:

  • gala dinner
  • gala presentation
  • arts gala
  • comedy gala
  • gala ball
  • gala party

In short, I think it’s a word that has lost its impact. Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  1. use it on its own – hold a ‘gala’ meaning festival rather than use gala as an adjective meaning ‘festive’
  2. drop it altogether and come up with a more creative name for your event.

Weasel Word Wednesday #18 – clock speed

I work in the IT industry, so of course I have heard the term clock speed in relation to how fast the processor in a computer goes. Nerdy perhaps, but perfectly acceptable. However, lately I have been hearing it more and more in relation to people, as in:

Jane has a very high clock speed.

What they really mean is that Jane is very productive or a quick worker. I dislike it because it’s another way of referring to people as an inanimate object, a resource or product, like ‘human resources’ and ‘alignment‘.

Thanks, cobber

At the register in a local service station buying fuel this week, I was amazed to hear the young motorbike rider in front of me in the queue say “thanks, cobber” to the attendant after his purchase was complete. I swear, I have never heard any Aussie under the age of (at least) 65 use this expression, referring to a male ‘mate’ or ‘friend’. I mentioned it to my other half, who says he’s heard it several times in dealing with local business people since we moved to Tasmania. So far, I haven’t noticed any particular differences in the English spoken in Tasmania compared to elsewhere in Australia. I am sure there are some differences… more research required.

Then it got better… later that day, having an afternoon drink with friends at a fairly upmarket establishment in Hobart, the waiter addressed my husband as “cobbs”! Is that the shortened form of cobber?

A bullfighter’s guide to fighting bull

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.

Weasel Word Wednesday #17 – intimacy

There is nothing wrong with using the word ‘intimacy. In the right context. However, in the business world we increasingly hear about ‘customer intimacy’ which sounds kind of creepy to me. There’s understanding your customer and there’s… creepy. Maybe the term evolved when customer relationship management or CRM went out of favour after so many failed implementations of software that was meant to do this job instead of people. Or perhaps it was just invented to keep consultants in work.

Last week I jumped to the wrong conclusion when I spotted someone on LinkedIn calling themselves an ‘Intimacy Specialist’.  Guess what… their business was about actual intimacy, advising people on human relationships, love and sex. At least it reminded me of the other use of the word, the one I dislike. I must give credit for the image used above: it comes from a blog post titled: ‘A Customer Intimate Strategy Can Leverage A Co-Creation Process‘. I am not kidding. Take a look.