Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

This book is awesome! I mean a must read even if you only read one business book a year. Recommended to me by Val August, it was a quick and easy read that was engaging and entertaining from the front cover to the acknowledgments. The three authors are all from Deloitte Consulting and they have designed "bullshit" detecting software to eliminate corporate double-speak from business communications. What a concept!

I was laughing out loud by page 7, which is always a bad sign for my kids. It means I will read to them aloud. Since my chair (the official chair which no one is supposed to sit in except me) is positioned strategically between the rest of the house and the refrigerator, they cannot escape this. Since it was a Sunday and there was a chocolate cake on the counter, my son heard lots of excerpts from this book. I'm sure the experience has enriched him.

In all honesty, I can say I recognized myself in the examples in this book, but I also recognized everybody I work with! This really should be mandatory reading for anyone who is issued a corporate email account, and certainly for those who make presentations to the rest of the company. It's funny precisely because it is so real. They speak a lot about the need for authenticity, and the "voice" of this book is totally genuine in the best sense of the word. I was really knocked over when I kept seeing the phrase "Woo hoo!" throughout the book because I use that too. I liked both the style and substance.

An interesting quote that echoes the work of Scott McKain: "There are too many nice people with clear messages who fade into the din of business with no real impact because they didn't realize they were in show business. Whether it's writing or speaking, you're an entertainer." This quote is on the page right before the chapter entitled "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll for Business People." These three people know their subject and their audience.

One final side note is in the acknowledgments where they thank their book designer for "mercifully liberating us from our own self-imposed hell brought on by The Great Cover Debate." It's truly a brave new world when Design and Show Business are now an accepted part of our corporate vocabulary.


Denise said...

Mr. McKain's quote hits a little too close to home. I have never been able to "act" well enough around the right people... I say the right things only to have some more talented "actor" sing them louder and with more showmanship than me, and who do you think gets all the rewards?

I have read many business books and articles--I recently read The Tipping Point. I find them entertaining but pure common sense... The validation leaves me feeling hollow.

I am an avid reader who prefers the classics and historical novels. Currently I am reading Team of Rivals and I just read 1776. However, I am not opposed to reading other books, so I will keep reading the blog.

Thanks for the invitation.

Val August said...

Well, I have to say that I too laughed out loud for pretty much the same reasons Catherine mentioned. But I was brought to the reality that it is used much to often when I recently read an email by a Vice President in my company laying out the job descriptions of two recently hired Directors. It was full of run on sentences and all the buzz words that would never have made it past the "bullshit meter" if there was a filter on their computer for such a thing. It is not that these newly hired individual weren't good choices. I am sure that they are. But it is the perfect example of how not to communicate if you want to connect with people and have them understand what you just said, know what will be expected and be able to be accountable for what was just said.

What the book proved to me was this: It is okay to not use fifty cent words. That speaking in one or two syllables is preferrable. Using buzz words is really all about you and wanting to make you look good to others. People use those big words and that "much ado about nothing" diatribe because they don't really know what to say. Finally, that speaking clear and concise so that the receiver can walk away knowing what they can count on is where it is at.

It doesn't mean that having an excellent vocubulary isn't necessary. It just means knowing that there is a time and a place to use it.

I no longer feel the least concerned about my place in the business world just because I choose to speak in pure and simple English.

Denise, saying the right things the right way is clearly more impactful than you think. If you can say the right things and be a little more passionate, even better. The showmanship is rarely good. The actors are often fooling only themselves. And the people who operate with vision and good guts, get what you have to say regardless of how good your showmanship is.

I love the quote..."They are a legend in their own minds". That is what the "bullshit meter" can filter out.