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Leadership: What Did That Mean, Exactly?

A few weeks ago Tom Stern wrote a post about buzz words. Talk about timing! Today was a perfect indication of what a buzz word can do, or many of them. One of the organizations I work in called in a trendy, high ranking consulting firm to help them change their organizational structure. Not only did they want the consulting firm’s strategy and words of wisdom but wanted them to help leadership with the change management strategy to get the employees on board with their strategy.

A few weeks ago Tom Stern wrote a post about buzz words. Talk about timing! Today was a perfect indication of what a buzz word can do, or many of them. One of the organizations I work in called in a trendy, high ranking consulting firm to help them change their organizational structure. Not only did they want the consulting firm’s strategy and words of wisdom but wanted them to help leadership with the change management strategy to get the employees on board with their strategy.

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That’s great, right? It’s always a good idea to take best business practices and trends into consideration to look at best possible chances for success. Even more paramount for this organization was to look at the impact it would have on its people and to be able to articulate the changes to such an extent as to create buy-in and enthusiasm for every stage of this reorganization.

Again a great idea.

I was Shadow Coaching a client into the Executive Committee meeting when the consulting firm presented their plan to the ‘powers that be’. So many buzz words were flying around and on a screen larger than life that I almost wanted to duck for cover. Not only was I appalled at the languaging they used but at how clueless they were that everyone around the table was lost and trying to figure out what they actually meant.

This consulting firm didn’t pick up the body language that screamed “WHAT THE H—-!” The people around the table struggled to come up with the questions that would give them clarity while not feeling like fools for not comprehending the meaning of all these trendy buzz words. Not only didn’t they understand the presentation but felt intimidated and stupid in the process… not how any high level executive wants to feel!

So what happened? The consulting firm did not get the go ahead to move forward on a strategy no one could understand and the organization’s momentum was put on hold until they could get another firm in place to fine tune the restructuring and get this going. All for the sake of sounding ‘cool’?

It’s not trendy to talk so “out of the box” that the people hiring you think you’re speaking a foreign language. So next time, before you start throwing in some of these buzz words, take into account the message you want to get across, both verbal and subliminal. Plain and simple works too and is something people can actually have a conversation about.

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If you’re the decision maker in an initiative where you’re bringing in a trendy consulting firm, first check and see just how ‘trendy’ they are and if they’re so out there that you need an interpreter to figure out what they’re saying. They might think they’re the end all and be all of consulting firms but are they giving you what you want and what you and your people can understand? Dialogue is conversation between two or more people, not being talked at with jibberish. That’s really expensive in every which way, people, time, money and energy.

Donna Karlin • Executive and Political Shadow Coach™ • Ottawa, Canada • •www.abetterperspective.com

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About the author

Donna Karlin CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder and principal of A Better Perspective® & The School of Shadow Coaching, has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching® with global political, government, business and senior organizational leaders in the public and private sectors. Donna capitalizes on almost 30 years of experience in coaching, consulting and training to help clients and their organizations evolve into their level of excellence.

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