Work-Speak You Should Never Use

OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE

I have two full-time jobs: mothering and writing. Interestingly enough, they both require me to watch my language.

I’m not the only one who should be watching my language at work. You should be, too. I make a living off of words, so I am familiar with which ones are the good ones. There are some words and phrases in use in offices all around the world today that are not doing anybody any favors. In fact, I would argue if you use any of the following words at work on a regular basis, you might be a tool.

Language You Should Never Use at Work

Work hard; play hard. When I sold mobile phones (not a career highlight, I might add), I had a manager that said this one a lot. It was long enough ago that if you are still saying it, you are definitely not trending. The phrase implies you are working all your waking hours during the week and likely to drop out of a helicopter with some form of waxed wood attached to your feet all weekend. Frankly, I’m exhausted just describing you. Everyone needs downtime—even Mr. or Mrs.-Headed-to-the-emergency-room-again-this-week. Take yours so you can be useful at your job.
Efficacious. This word bugs me so much I can’t even come up with funny things to say about it. Say effective for the love of Pete, and spare me the ridiculous-sounding derivation. You don’t sound smart; you sound idiocious.
Stretch goal. Forgive me if I misunderstood the definition of the word goal, but I was under the impression that all goals are a stretch, hence the reason it’s a goal. The word stretch is redundant. Or perhaps stretch goal implies this goal is the one for those that want to accomplish something…you know, the work hard, play hard set. The regular old goal must just be for the poor schlep that goes to the store on Saturdays and does some laundry instead of jetting to Spain and running with the bulls in Pamplona.


Utilize. Please just say use instead. Sure it’s common and monosyllabic, but it’s enough. Every letter more than three that talks about the “use” of something subtracts 15 points from your IQ.
Synergy. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you don’t know what this word means so don’t use it. Good luck Googling it, too. According to my search, it means that a group has exceeded the ability of its most capable member. It is also stated to be difficult if not impossible to achieve. In fact, my source compares it to a Chimera or a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology.

My guess is you don’t want that thing around the office. Besides, the second definition of Chimera is “something that exists only in the imagination and is not possible in reality.” So if you are talking about Synergy earnestly at work, it’s the equivalent of talking about Big Foot like it’s a real thing.

Listen, I know that jargon is just part of living around other people. I understand it better than most. That’s why I use the word “potty” with no sense of irony most of the time, even when the children aren’t around. Not to mention the majority of my day is spent avoiding jargon inappropriate for the little ears around my office.

We also know there are some words that certain people just can’t pull off. Take, for example, the word posse. I never call any of my mom friends “my posse.” I am neither a rapper nor a sheriff hunting for a fugitive. I can’t use the word without sounding like a dip wad. So I don’t.

There are some words we all need to let go of in emails, PowerPoint presentations, and conference room banter. They make you sound awkward and in some cases, idiocious. So save your slang for the break room posse. When it comes to work, we all need to watch our language.

So what do you think? What are some corporate speak words that make us sound like dip wads? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Huffington Post’s: 10 Rules for Aspiring Women Writers

Found this on my Facebook feed (thanks Missy Cretcher) and knew I had to post this. It addresses women writers in the headline, but I think these concepts apply no matter which door you choose at the public restroom.

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10 Rules for Aspiring Women Writers

Print it out and keep it where you can see it everyday. And keep up the good work!

A Playlist to Celebrate the Joys of Cold Calling

Tired businesswomanCold calling stinks…but it works. Ask any seasoned sales professional and they’ll back me on this.

I spent my entire career trying to prove cold calling, or prospecting, didn’t work, convinced each day that I took on this distasteful activity I was wasting my time. Some days it amounted to nothing. On those days I felt vindicated for thinking my sales manager was a real tool for making me do it.

The other days, however, when I landed the big accounts as a result of my cold calling, I learned the bittersweet truth that cold calling stinks, but it works.

I Googled sales songs. There are plenty of playlists to get you pumped up at a sales meeting and plenty to help you go get ‘em at the Trade Show. I noticed, however, that there is a real void as it pertains to playlists to pick you up after enduring repeated and sometimes hateful rejection while cold calling.

Consider this void filled. Here is a 30-minute playlist with not a single song from this century that can take you from depressed to deliriously optimistic after suffering the indignities of cold calling.

We’re Not Gonna Take It:

Been dismissed by rude gatekeepers, hung up on, sworn at, and escorted from the building? We’re Not Gonna Take It will restore your self-esteem. Bonus points for anybody who turns around and shakes his or her fist at security singing the chorus like Dee Snider in the video.

I mean cold calling can really make for a tough day:

Okay, maybe not that tough. Yeesh.

Mr. Blue Sky:

Constant rejection can create a negative attitude in the most positive sales professional. This song is the perfect antidote for what Tony Robbins calls Stinkin’ Thinkin.’ Mr. Blue Sky will cheer you up with its pure awesomeness. In fact, I assert that this song is almost as awesome as their hairstyles.

Man in Motion:

For a song that will make your braver, and stronger than a 1980s heartthrob in a mediocre Breakfast Club for twenty-somethings movie, look no further than Man In Motion from the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack. The movie was cheesy, and so is the song, I guess, but I always feel like I can sell ice to Eskimos after I listen to it. With lyrics like, “Just once in his life, a man has his time. And that time is now that I’m comin’ alive!”, be sure your windows are rolled up because you are bound to embarrass yourself otherwise singing along to it.

Proud Mary, Ike and Tina Turner:

Listen, cold calling is tough. Who can deny that Tina has survived a lot? She’s tough. Considering what she rose above, surely a few hang ups and door slams pale in comparison. Proud Mary empowers us all to take care of business while oozing fierce determination and confidence.

Author’s Note: My kids took a video of me dancing to this in my office while I was writing this post. They are still laughing about it. I don’t care because they don’t know how to post on Facebook yet!

The Gambler:

I don’t ordinarily cotton to country music, but nobody can deny that this hit by Kenny Rogers teaches us all about negotiation and the art of closing gracefully with the sage wisdom, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” After all if you did happen to get the sale, you never count your commission while you are still sitting at the table in the new client’s office. There’ll be time enough for countin’ on your phone in the parking lot!

Eye of the Tiger:

If ever there was a song that could make you believe you had sales superpowers, it’s this one. Back in high school, I once listened to Eye of the Tiger 18 times in a row before a big swim race and then swam a full 3 seconds faster than I ever had. For those of you that didn’t ever swim competitively that’s a lot! But if you don’t believe me, believe him:

He pities the fool who doesn’t listen to the song after a hard day of cold calling.

La Copa De la Vide (Cup of Life):

I don’t know where you were in 1998 for the World Cup, but I was pounding out a living with a poorly rated radio station in Kansas City. My paycheck was 100% commission, and my client list was the yellow pages, which is a recipe for starvation if you don’t figure out how to prospect. For you millennial-types, the Yellow Pages was an actual paper book that listed businesses by their type with their landline phone numbers (No, really). This song made sure I didn’t starve. My cup of Ramen noodles runneth over thanks to Ricky Martin’s incredibly motivating song.

Ricky: Do you really want it?

Me: (thinking of dinner) Yeah!

Ricky: Do you really want it? Here we go. Go! Go! Go!

Me: Ale! Ale! Ale!

I took music appreciation in college. I don’t remember my professor’s name, but he said something that has stayed with me to this day:

Miss Ince, is it really necessary to arrive five minutes after class starts every day?”

Just kidding. He did say that, but that isn’t the one I was talking about just now. He said that music comes the closest to expressing the inexpressible. Now, of course, he was talking about classical music, not classic rock, but I think the concept applies either way.

So when you need to express your frustration with a rough cold calling day, then pick yourself up, dust off your Nine West pumps, pick up the scattered sales accouterment strewn across the pavement after getting tossed from yet another office building for “soliciting,” by some overzealous ex con, and play this playlist as loud as you can stand it—while you find another office park to conquer.

What songs would you add to the playlist? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

 

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com.or email me at terri@terrilively.com.

Photo Credit: Kalim from Fotolia.com

Darth Vader’s People Management Skills Get Results


When I first managed a team, I had big ideas of the kind of manager I wanted to be. I wanted to be fair, just, trustworthy, and approachable. My goal was to be a kinder, gentler boss that my team thought of more as a friend than a manager.

I quickly learned that this approach has some drawbacks, not the least of which was that I wasn’t getting the results I needed. Where had I gone wrong? I was practically puking fairy dust and butterflies at my team, but it wasn’t working. I was beside myself with disappointment.

In my despair, I turned to my comfort movies one weekend and discovered the mentor that I had been lacking up to this point in my career: Darth Vader.

Now he isn’t for everybody—just the managers who really need results.

Here are just a few lessons we can learn from Darth Vader’s people management skills in action:

Read your management books. A few years ago, a popular book “The One Minute Manager” made the rounds on every manager’s reading list. Author Ken Blanchard suggested that managing people should never take more than a minute, whether it was negative or positive. He informed us all that even a reprimand should take no longer than one minute.

Darth Vader takes no more than one minute to whip this underperforming commander into shape when his efforts to build the second Death Star are falling short of expectations:

Don’t waste time with disappointing performances from your team. All managers will face a hard decision when someone on the team whose routine poor performance foretells their future dismissal. Since most people don’t relish being the bad guy, however, many managers drag it out longer than they should, which can result in lower morale for the rest of the team.

Darth Vader embraces being a bad guy and acts quickly:

Also Darth Vader gets bonus points for the immediate and crystal-clear communication of his expectations and the consequences of not meeting them to the ill-fated team member’s replacement: Coming out of hyperdrive close enough to the remote ice planet Hoth alerting the rebel alliance of your presence, bad; not disappointing Darth Vader, good.

Consistency is key. As a manager, treating all your team members the same is essential to building a team with a foundation in trust.

Darth Vader is consistent—disappointing news is always met with a gasp:

Want to pursue a questionable pet project? Don’t forget to manage up. Middle managers need to manage both down and up. Be sure that you are giving your boss the information he or she needs so you can get the green light to pursue your pet project—like converting the last hope of the Jedi to the dark side of the force.

Everyone has a boss, even the Sith Lord:

Embrace technology. These days, it’s important for managers to make sure that they are able to use technology to make their jobs easier and earn the respect of their team. It doesn’t instill much confidence for your team about your ability to lead effectively if you are constantly asking them how to sync your phone to your tablet or “What Instantgram is?”

Darth Vader loves technology, and he uses vintage stuff! Just look at what he is able to accomplish using technology from the late 1970s:


Use a recruiter when you are too emotionally invested in the candidate. If there is someone that you really, really want to join the team (a long lost son perhaps?), be sure that you can disguise your intensity. If you can’t, however, use a recruiter, otherwise your negotiation with the candidate can end in maiming, screaming, and his or her leap to certain death.


Darth Vader won’t ever be on the speaking circuit. After all he died a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. His lessons live on, however, for all middle managers to use in their daily struggles to manage the team to the best of their ability.

Are his methods extreme? Sure. Did he have any friends at work? Not so much. But what he did have was results, particularly in project management. Before you decide Darth Vader’s style is not for you, remember that his methods resulted in the completion of two fully operational Death Stars.

Who is your managing mentor? Please share what they taught you in the comments below.

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com or email me at terri@terrilively.com.

5 Days: An Interesting Fact about Novels from Real Simple Magazine

5 Days: An Interesting Fact about Novels from Real Simple Magazine

Reading my favorite magazine, contemplating whether I am going to enter the Life Lessons Essay Contest (again), when I found this interesting fact on The Simple List, page 6 of the July issue:

5 Days

[is] How long the effects of reading a novel linger in the average person’s mind, according to a December 2013 study from Emory University in Atlanta. For 19 days, researchers took MRIs of undergraduates before, during and after reading Robert Harris’ 2003 thriller, Pompeii. Interestingly, the area of the brain linked to movement and physical sensation, which showed persistent changes throughout the reading, continued to do so almost a week after the students had finished. After that, the experience may have faded. Ciao, Pompeii. Hello, library.

Of course, we all know that there are some books that change your life. But it’s good to know that at the very least, you can change a reader for almost a week!

Alone Time is Good for Your Work

There is no question that being alone is a part of being a writer. John Irving said that he knew he needed to be a writer because he wanted to be alone.

Now, I’m generally a friendly person. I like to be around people. Many have joked that my name is very appropriate. It is in many ways. But like Irving, I also like my quiet time. For me that time comes to me when I am swimming.

When I am swimming, a different element surrounds me in a cocoon of peace, calming in its familiarity. Cool water and muted calm broken only by the echo of my breath in my ears and the rhythmic chunk, chunk, chink of my strokes as I power myself along the surface, legs kicking behind me like the roll of a paddle churning behind a riverboat.

Alone to think,or to listen to my thoughts as they roll past my mind’s eye, mental clouds against a blue sky of brain matter. My unfocused eyes peering out from the goggles, watching the sunlight dance through the water, shimmering and bouncing on the angles of the tiles like little white flames burning in the water.

Here I can fly, just like the dreams I used to have so often when I was young but now less frequently. I am suspended in the air soaring over the pool floor, a superhero with the power to change my mood, my stroke, and my course.

I still love swimming but too often a pool is elusive. A schedule dominated by the needs of others does not lend itself to the scarce nature of pool availability. As I pass, it beckons with lanes of possibility. But with a sad glance and a commitment elsewhere I pass by, an opportunity missed.

Today was not one of those days and like old friends I found my reassuring rhythm again. I was away from the daily responsibilities and commitments and back to myself. If only a respite, it is a welcome one that can help the call of duty feel less painful and more joyful.

Life is simple here. Stoke left, stroke right, breathe. Repeat. Stroke left, stroke right, breathe. If only all of our lives were this simple.

I find inspiration in the calm I get from my swim time. My advice to you is to find your “pool” and immerse yourself in it today.

Why You Need to Hire a Writer

Woman working online

Everyone thinks they can write. Chances are if you went to school or read a book every couple of weeks you probably can.

But the time it takes you to write is another story. That time you spend trying to remember the rules of grammar that are as dusty as the AP Style Guide you bought in college that’s still lurking on your shelf is time you could be using running your business or doing what it is the that you do best.

I am a writer. That’s what I do best. Whether it’s fiction, a blog post about something technical or a marketing piece about how great a widget you have when compared to the competition, telling stories is an area where I excel. Yeah, I know, bragging is tacky…but modesty isn’t really what gets you noticed when you freelance.

For the past four years, I have written about everything from infertility treatment to marketing for funeral homes to how to organize a garage. I’ve written brochures about Pilates, Printing Services, and Online Banking services, to name a few. One thing that all of these projects have in common is that my clients, who were perfectly capable and qualified to write these things themselves hired me to do it for them so they could go on about their business.

Your time is valuable. Each day that you spend doing activities for your business or your employer’s business earns you an hourly wage, whether you are paid by the hour or not. When you spend 2 hours writing a web page or a blog post, you spend that money whether you bill yourself or not. That’s two whole hours that you could have been calling that lead, researching that new supplier, or developing the next latest and greatest widget that the world has ever known.

So the reason you need a writer is simple: Your time is too valuable to spend writing your marketing, fiction or blog post. Outsource it.

There are a number of ways to outsource. You can contact me, of course (and I hope you do). But there is also Elance.com, where you have your pick of writers all over the world who are just waiting by their keyboards, ready to go. Also, you can just Type in Google, “Hire a Freelance Writer” and you will get pages and pages of writers available to free up your time so you can get back to work on your business.

Chances are that you can write your own project. Chances are it will probably be pretty good. But at what cost? Don’t waste your valuable time when there are a number of professional and affordable outsourcing options that are just a call or click away.

What will you do with the time you free up by outsourcing?

 

cropped-2013_0109_006-1.jpgTerri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. She helps professionals that want to grow their influence and enhance their content for publication. For the past 15 years, she has been helping her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at http://www.terrilively.com.