A SURVEY undertaken
recently by the Institute of Leadership and Management gathered
together some of the most annoying boardroom clichés.
Here is a world where we
"touch base", take a look at "the big picture", "flag-up ideas",
risk "blue-sky thinking", and hear our boss reply reassuringly,
"It's on my radar." What a relief - clearly, "we're on the same
As the meeting proceeds,
we decide to "incentivise," "monetise", and "productise", and, when
we have run out words with "ise" at the end, we pluck the
"low-hanging fruit", which is a "win-win situation", a
"no-brainer". And now we feel the "synergy", and sense a "paradigm
shift" - always a sign of "best practice". And if we all give "110
per cent", "walk the talk", and "take ownership", we could "get
ahead of the curve", "take it to the next level", and get the "best
bang for your buck".
There is some unease in
the boardroom, however, as we ponder our next publicity stunt.
"Have we reached a 'jump-the-shark' moment?" Head of Strategy asks,
For those who do not live
in boardrooms, this phrase first described the American comedy
Happy Days, which, towards the end of its run, as it began
to tire, began to use stunts to keep the audience engaged. In one
episode, this meant that the Fonz, the star of the show, literally
jumped over a shark on water skis. It was the beginning of a slow
but inevitable end.
Since then, the use of
"jumping the shark" has broadened, reaching into business to
describe the moment when a brand or design's evolution loses the
magical qualities that initially defined its success, and it starts
the decline towards commercial oblivion.
Some worried boardroom
discussion follows. The Operations Director asks: "Is this 'mission
critical'?" Someone else says: "Failing to plan is planning to
fail," for no very obvious reason; the head of HR stands up and
demands that we "work smarter, not harder", after which the CEO
bangs his fist on the table and says: "Bring me solutions, not
But this is more about
words than leadership. The overuse of any word or phrase leaves it
as thin as the atmosphere on Mars. Like a drifting boat, it becomes
ever more distant from the moorings of meaning. The cliché is the
language of the lazy, who seek only to kill the life of this
present moment. It is practical atheism; the disengaged talk of
those who live out some fake persona in the world, grasping for
borrowed speech because they have no fresh springs in
There may be no "I" in
"team", but there's a lazy and numbing one in "cliché".
Simon Parke is the author of A Vicar, Crucified (DLT,