Death By Pronoun

Jul 27, 2015

Below are three dangerous areas that become very evident when my clients and I journey deeper into EOS and become more precise and accurate with corporate language and


  1. Death by pronoun.  Everyone understand what I am saying here?  Using pronouns instead of nouns is just lazy and is a breeding ground for more lazy.  (Yes, profanity in my world is a form of pronoun =;- ) )   Pronouns create confusion and complexity. Stop.

Leadership Challenge: Ask your folks to stop using pronouns, start by having them replace he and she or him and her with real names, like John, Jane, Julie, Josh.  One tactic we use to remind everyone is when they are talking about children, spouses etc. etc. have them use the child’s formal name. Example: “My Son” becomes Bobby.

  1. Death by hiding behind confusing, non-sense language. Anybody know what I am saying here? You have a teammate who dodges everything by just repeating or spouting blather. His words form nice sentences, but the content is worthless.  Barbarians were called barbarians by the Greeks because they spoke Bar-Bar, what the Greeks called a different language.

Leadership Challenge: This comes out especially on remote worker conference calls… Example: During a video call, David, our remote worker, will be called on for his opinion… while David is clearly “multi-tasking” on another screen.  Shaken awake David goes into a 48 word recall of a few words he sort of heard that form clear sentences, but, really misses the point, it is non-sense.  Don’t let this slide, call David out, ask him to clarify his statement using very precise company language.

  1. Death by non Engaged Employees who refuse to use our language. This is the biggest take away from my clients that I want to share.  Listen to how your employees speak, if they are engaged, bought in, they will be very precise with your corporate nomenclature, you can hear it.  For example, if a culture refers to fellow workers as “Teammates”, that is the nomenclature, the correct word, not “Employees”.

Those that are not engaged will be loose with their language.  It just comes out and they do not even know it.

A recent example was when a COO insisted on calling Teammates, Employees.  The COO did not care, did not agree, or just did not get it… “We call our fellow workers Teammates, not Employees!” said the CEO over and over and over. Finally, with this awareness of language precision being a direct measure of engagement, this bulky iceberg scraping along the company’s hull woke up the owners and they made the necessary moves they needed to make to get an engaged person into their COO seat.

Leadership Challenge: Make a list of your folks and then start listening, I mean really listening. Are they repeating your language, are they using the correct words, are they using them in the correct context?  Rate each on a scale of 1-10 with a 10 being someone you know is engaged and is precise…  If you are rating them below an 8, imagine what your customers and partners are thinking.

Hope this helps. Comments and contributions are welcome!

* Nomenclature: is a system of names or terms, or the rules for forming these terms in a particular field of arts, sciences, business, work.  Quick examples:  Port is port, starboard is starboard on a ship, boat, plane… there is no right or left.  There is a bow and a stern… there is no front or back.  We go forward or we go aft, not front or back. Very precise language leaving nothing to chance.

Bonus: I am sure you all remember this little tid-bit below. I had it posted on everyone’s workstation at Layline.  We did a ton of telephone work and our language precision was a huge competitive advantage.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

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