3 Good Reasons to Jettison Your Jargon

What’s the net net ROI of your IP?

Oops.  Sorry about that.  I’m just getting over a case of idiom illness.Whether you call it slang, jargon, or buzzword bingo, there’s an epidemic of corporate-speak going on in our organizations.  It’s so prevalent, many of us are not even aware we’re using it.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Acronyms were originally designed to save time, not create the need for a comprehensive ‘acronym glossary of terms’ your first day on the job.

As a leader, being intentional is key to your success.  This means being as intentional with what you say as with everything else that you do.

Here are three good reasons to jettison that jargon:

  1. Unconscious language shapes unconscious expectations.

How we talk shapes how we think.  Consider the example of  Melissa, the Executive VP of  a large company I work with.  At our most recent meeting, Melissa told me that she has banned the term BAU (Business As Usual) from her vocabulary.  Here’s what she had to say about it:

Everyone around here talks about BAU.  I hear people say “When we get through this rough patch, we’ll get back to BAU.”  The fact is, that’s not true.  Our business has fundamentally changed.  There’s no “as usual” for us to get back to.  If we keep saying “BAU”, we set up this tension and anxiety because we’re not where we were.  Well, guess what, welcome to the new normal, where the only thing that’s constant is change.

2. You’re setting up insider/outsider factions.

The structure of large organizations is built on separation:  functions, departments, divisions, geographies, etc.  Separation is bad enough without using language as yet another divisor.  Do you toss out phrases or acronyms that only a select few know? Without intending to, you’ve set up an exclusive club that shuts out everyone else who isn’t privy to your secret handshakes.   When people feel excluded, you strengthen a silo mentality. As such, those on the outside are less able and willing to contribute.

3. Using slang confuses simplistic with simple.

Let’s face it, slang serves as a shorthand.  As such, it makes things easier–for us.  As leaders this is simplistic.  Your goal shouldn’t be: How can I make this easy for me?  Instead, your goal should be simple:  How can I make this easier for others?

The challenge of “how can I make this easier for others (instead of myself)”  really resonates for me every time I lead a workshop for a group of people for whom English is not their native language.  If you haven’t done this–try it.  It’ll make you realize how much jargon you use continuously to try to express ideas.

Once you start to jettison the jargon, you’ll see the value derived from greater clarity.  Yes, it’ll take work.  But you’ll get a good ROI–ASAP.

What jargon has challenged you in your professional life?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.  

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