Being Authentic Means No More Buzzwords and B.S.

One Piece of Paper Cover - SmallToday’s post is an excerpt from my upcoming book One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.  You can get your copy by clicking here and it’ll ship to you in a few weeks.  If you want to see how authentic you are as a leader and how much your team trusts you, you can take a quick 3-5 minute assessment by clicking here.  All that said, here’s an excerpt that covers why being authentic as a leader means you shouldn’t use buzzwords and B.S.

The only way I know to roll back the tide of all the meaningless jargon in our world is to say what you really mean.

Words spoken from the heart and the gut are clear, concise, meaningful, and genuine. They help ground you and your team. They signal that you are willing to take a stand for something you believe in instead of watering down your beliefs with complicated words so you will not offend someone or so your simple thoughts will sound more important. It is imperative that you realize such approaches have exactly the opposite effect.

Using buzzwords makes you sound less intelligent. Filling your leadership philosophy with obscure or difficult to define concepts diminishes peoples’ trust in you. Both behaviors are counterproductive and hinder you from reaching your goal of becoming an authentic leader.

That is why you are here, isn’t it?

Allow me to share a story that demonstrates the trouble jargon-filled leadership philosophies can cause, as well as how an executive avoided such a trap.

I know several executives who were members of the same senior leadership team. After a reorganization, their new boss, Jared, worked hard to get the team to gel. After several months of effort, it simply was not happening. The team members were mistrustful both of Jared and of each other. Team meetings were painful and one-on-one sessions with Jared were even worse.

The team was quickly devolving into chaos. Jared decided he would break through the dysfunction by getting everyone on the team to know each other better as people and as leaders.

He held a three-day long offsite where he and a consultant he knew well worked with the team members on leadership. They discussed what leadership meant to them. They related leadership to the corporate competency model. They discussed job descriptions and how they could make leadership stand out as a critical skill set.

The seminal event of the offsite required each leader to share their leadership philosophy with the group. The expectation was the philosophy would be a typewritten document they would read aloud.

Jared read his leadership philosophy first. It said all the right things. It emphasized the importance of teamwork, trust, hard work, and fun. He read it passionately and thoughtfully. When he finished ten minutes later, he asked every other member of the team to share their leadership philosophy with the group. After the third reading, the room sounded like a beehive from all the buzzwords.

Craig, one of the team members, grew more and more visibly uncomfortable and frustrated with every reading. By the time all the other team members finished reading their leadership philosophies, Craig’s lips were nothing more than a short, thin line covering his clenched teeth.

He gently shook his head from side to side as he stood to take his turn. He set his typewritten leadership philosophy homework aside and took a moment to look each of his colleagues in the eye. Craig’s gaze stopped at Jared. With a calm, clear voice Craig stated “My leadership philosophy is simple. Say what you mean. Do what you say.” He then turned and took his seat again.

With eight short words Craig had said more than every other member of the team – combined. Those two sentences enabled him to swat away the buzzwords and quickly share a clear articulation of his standards, his beliefs, and his code of conduct. Everyone on the team instantly knew what he expected of them and what they could expect of him.

Craig’s statement was practical and applicable to every interaction he could ever have at work. Just like that, he demonstrated the power of one well-crafted leadership maxim. As a result of Craig’s actions several members of the leadership team later shortened their own philosophies and the members of Craig’s team always knew how he felt about any situation and what he planned on doing about it.

So there’s your excerpt from One Piece of Paper.  I hope you enjoyed it and it gives you a good sense for what’s in the book.  If you want a quick sense for whether your team finds you predictable, take this quick trust assessment. It will take you all of 5 minutes but it will definitely get you thinking. CLICK HERE to take the assessment.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

– If you want to be a better leader and build trust with your team, grab a copy of my book One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership

5 Responses to “Being Authentic Means No More Buzzwords and B.S.”

  1. For the love of all things holy, why don’t more people understand this?

    Buzzwords, though clever when FIRST spoken, ultimately mean nothing. Or worse, they mean something different to each person saying them. That alone is a recipe for disaster.

    Meetings should all begin with a Buzzword Bingo card being passed out to attendees. The biggest buzzword offender should have to buy lunch for the bingo winner. Every time. See if you’ve got enough bandwidth for that paradigm shift…..

  2. Mike Myatt says:

    Hi Mike:

    While I’m totally on board with you in principle, I don’t believe buzzwords are universally a bad thing. The use of a buzzword is a choice – sometimes the choice is a good one, and sometimes it’s not. Here’s a post that takes a different look at the use of buzzwords:

    Thanks Mike – love your work.

  3. Mike Davis says:

    Thank you Mike Figliuolo. I guess I’ve been doing these ”maxims” for years but never calling them ”maxims” on one piece of paper. So today I did as you said and wrote all 32 down on a single sheet. Wow. This is ESSENTIAL. I think that I should TEACH THIS in my volunteer and consulting activities. What say you?
    Thanks from: Mike Davis,
    Management Methods Advisor,
    MMA Lean Associates Inc.
    Magog, Quebec, Canada
    Web Site:
    Facebook Web Site:
    Linked-In Site:

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      Thanks for the kind words Mike. Glad it was helpful. I encourage you to grab my book as it’ll walk you through the process in greater depth. I hope it helps and if it does, I’d be thrilled if you would point others in the direction of the book too! Thanks again.

  4. Kirana says:

    i totally agree. it’s how i was raised to deal with others, and i find it works when you work with others as well – in a team, leading a contract with consultants – while i ignored the corporate templates and leadership buzzwords. i think when you get down to actually getting something done, people just want to know they can trust what you say and that you’ll come through.

    but ironically, yet predictably, when you perform well management takes notice. then they want to groom you as a leader, but make you lead in ways that are further away from what raised the interest in the first place. you must communicate using these euphemistic terms, even with your own team, no camaraderie humour, you must not say things in this or that way, you must propagate this new phrase that is this year’s phrase for reflecting the company vision even though there are perfectly useable common words that’s easier for laypeople to understand instead. i don’t see why so much effort is made to turn something not that conceptually difficult, to something so complicated.

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