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Talk like a leader: use ‘fat’ words over ‘thin’ words

‘Fat’ words are heavy with meaning. Words like ‘life’ ‘love’, ‘liberty’ and ‘the pursuit of happiness’ are fat with meaning and speak to people’s hearts.

‘Thin’ words like ‘agenda’, ‘plan’, ‘structure’, ‘re-organization’ , ‘cost management’ are big in meaning, yes, but thin in terms of resonance – the emotions they evoke in people.

Most organizations are run on ‘management speak’ – thin-blooded words that slip too easily into jargon. So, it’s time to ask, now that we are in turbulent times when you need to inspire people, reassure them, get them to step up to the plate, possibly even fire them (we’ll get onto that in a blog post in a day or two) despite no fault of their own…should you change your language?

Not in the way that George Osborne is apparently being trained to remove the letter ‘t’ from his speech patterns – a Blairism that took over the world of political speak and still jars on my ear.

I mean, think about the language you and your other senior managers use at work. Would your kids or your mother understand it? Is it ‘real life’ language or management-speak? And, if your culture has slipped so easily into management-speak over the years, you can raise the bar by moving up to ‘leader speak’.

That doesn’t mean speechifying a la Obama or Churchill (see the post below). It’s just that the language of management commonly de-personalises and disconnects – on purpose in many cases. Whereas the job of a leader is to connect with people. As Jack Welch put it:

“Your job as a leader is to get into people’s souls.”

So, monitor the language you and your colleagues use. And if it’s too management jargon-ish, start training yourself in de-jargonising. Time to talk like a leader.

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