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The Gobbledygook of Management Speak: Why Executive Assistants Should Keep It Simple.

There's a peculiar language that has taken root in organisations everywhere. It's a language full of jargon, buzzwords, and convoluted phrases that seem designed to confuse rather than clarify. This is the realm of "management speak," and while it might sound impressive, it's often more of a hindrance than a help. For executive assistants, the key to effectiveness lies in keeping things simple and clear, avoiding the temptation to overcomplicate with unnecessary jargon.

The Pitfalls of Management Speak

Imagine you’re an executive assistant, and your boss sends you an email that reads:

"We need to leverage our core competencies to create a synergistic value proposition and pivot strategically amidst disruptive innovation." What does that even mean? In plain English, it might simply mean: "We need to use our strengths to adapt to changes in the market."

Management speak is filled with phrases like "circle back," "move the needle," "low-hanging fruit," and "run it up the flagpole." While these terms might sound sophisticated, they often mask the real meaning and make communication less effective. The goal of any communication should be clarity and actionability, not confusion and delay.

Real-World Examples

Consider these common management phrases and their simpler alternatives:-

  • "Leverage our core competencies" - Instead say: Use our strengths

  • "Create a synergistic value proposition" - Instead say: Offer something valuable together

  • "Pivot strategically" - Instead say: Change direction

  • "Disruptive innovation" - Instead say: New, game-changing idea

  • "Touch base offline" - Instead say: Discuss in person

  • "Move the needle" - Instead say: Make progress

  • "Low-hanging fruit" - Instead say: Easy tasks

  • "Run it up the flagpole" - Instead say: Get feedback

  • "Boil the ocean" - Instead say: Tackle a huge challenge

  • "This idea has legs" - Instead say: This idea is promising

  • "Circle back" - Instead say: Follow up

  • "Bandwidth" - Instead say: Capacity

  • "Pain points" - Instead say: Problems

  • "SWOT analysis" - Instead say: Analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

  • "Quick wins" - Instead say: Easy successes

  • "Blue ocean strategy" - Instead say: Finding new opportunities

  • "Touch base" - Instead say: Check in

  • "Align stakeholders" - Instead say: Get everyone on the same page

  • "Actionable insights" - Instead say: Useful information

  • "End-to-end solutions" - Instead say: Complete solutions

By using clear language, you not only save time but also reduce the risk of miscommunication. Everyone knows exactly what's expected, leading to better outcomes and a more cohesive team.

Executive Assistants: The Power of Simplicity

To be effective, you need to be a master of clear communication. This means cutting through the management speak and delivering messages that are concise and easy to understand.

Management speak exists primarily at middle and senior management levels but is rarely heard at senior executive or board level. If you want to impress as an executive assistant, then clear, straightforward communication is your best tool. When you avoid jargon and speak plainly, you make it easier for everyone to understand and act on what’s being said. This can lead to faster decision-making, fewer misunderstandings, and a more productive workplace.

Whenever you receive a request filled with jargon, feel empowered to ask for clarification or translate it into plain language before passing it on. This not only improves your own understanding but also ensures that the message is clear to everyone involved.

A Call to Action

Let’s start a movement against the overuse of management speak. Encourage your colleagues to embrace simplicity and clarity in their communications. Lead by example by choosing straightforward language in your emails, meetings, and reports.

In a world where time is money, and efficiency is key, keeping it simple is not just a good idea—it's essential. As an executive assistant, you have the power to foster a culture of clear communication in your workplace. Let’s ditch the jargon and focus on what really matters: getting things done efficiently and effectively.

So, next time someone tells you to "leverage your core competencies to create a synergistic value proposition," just smile and say, "Got it. We’ll use our strengths to make a great product."

It’s that simple!

About the Author: Richard Arnott, BA, FInatAM, FIToL, is a Director of BMTG (UK) Ltd, and the author and lead presenter of the groundbreaking, globally recognised Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program. Richard also sits on the editorial board of Lucy Brazier OBE’s Executive Support Magazine.

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