Do your organisation a favour – hunt and kill jargon

One of the most powerful ways for a leader to impact their culture is to kill jargon stone dead and encourage clear business communication across their team

The scariest part of the Dilbert Mission Statement generator (www.dilbert.com) is how familiar the phrases generated appear to us. It is easy to fill a whole presentation with impressive sounding language, that collectively, means nothing.

We are recommending a disruptive, customer-centric solution, that leverages our core competences.

And none of the audience dares to say that the Emperor has no clothes for fear that others will think them ignorant.

This jargon is not harmless, it obscures real communication. It means something different to everyone.

Dropping the jargon creates clear communication. You have to actually say what you mean, and be clear about what you are going to do.

And that leaves you vulnerable.

Jargon lets you get away with fuzzy thinking. If you communicate clearly, your colleague can actually judge if your ideas are any good. If you communicate exactly what you are going to do, you are exposed to failing to achieve it, without any chance to move the goalposts later.

“You don’t know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.”

Warren Buffet

You can get an accurate sense of how healthy the communication culture is in your company by bringing in an outsider with a fresh look to sit in one of your meetings. Afterwards, you can debrief – which words were well-known terms understood by everyone in the company, and which were confusing jargon?

Would your organisation benefit if you crusaded for clear communication? Like all culture changes, it will catch fire fastest is it comes from the top and you lead by example – you will need to eliminate all jargon yourself, making yourself vulnerable, before you can demand it of others. You will also need to reinforce this culture in meetings, requiring your team to translate whatever they say into clear English, not buzzwords.