Every now and then, the editors at Cody’s ConsultantSpeak Style Guide (not to be confused with the A.P. Style Guide, the Oxford English Dictionary or Roget’s Thesaurus) publish an updated Top 12 list of grossly abused and overused ConsultantSpeak words and phrases.
For the uninitiated, ConsultantSpeak is the “inside baseball” jargon used by a large percentage of the professional working world.
I’m guessing it’s called ConsultantSpeak because, having represented a couple of The Big Four accounting firms and a host of strategy consultants, I was always hearing (and reading) new words and phrases that they, and they alone, understood (but were later adopted by the business community at large).
In any event, due to the Coronavirus, my editorial board has advised me to update my Top 12 list with three, new ConsultantSpeak words:
1.) Pivot: Every CEO, CMO or CCO is constantly peppering her or his commentary by declaring how critical it is to pivot the business and adapt to the New Normal.
2.) ReSet: See Pivot for explanation.
3.) Furlough: Many businesses had to announce they were being forced to furlough employees due to the pandemic’s impact on their bottom line. Sadly, and especially in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, the ConsultantSpeak word furlough has now been replaced by another F bomb: Fired.
But enough with the new additions.
Here’s the previous Top 12 list. See what you think. (Note: We follow the David Letterman approach of counting down from 12 to one):
12.) “There are no bad ideas”: Why does every brainstorm have to be prefaced with this introductory phrase? C’mon. There are LOTS of bad ideas. Why is it politically incorrect to say, “Wowza, Mike. You REALLY missed the mark with that thought! Ugh.”
11.) “Marinate”: We once employed an account supervisor who HAD to use the word marinate in every e-mail or phone call with clients or colleagues (“Let’s do this. We’ll marinate on the ideas and come back to you with a recommendation STAT!”).
10.) “Solutions provider”: Do you know of any white collar organization that doesn’t refer to itself as a solutions provider? Many of these very same companies also yearn to be a disruptor. Alas, few businesses have disrupted and problem solved at the same time. But there’s a pot of gold waiting for anyone who can.
9.) “Synthesize”: I can’t think of too many meetings I’ve attended in which someone didn’t suggest we synthesize our ideas before finalizing a program. Does synthesize mean prioritize? If so, why not say so?
8.) “Socialize”: Arguably my favorite ConsultantSpeak word, socialize simply means sharing ideas with teammates. So why not use the word sharing? The answer is obvious: Some consultant decided that synthesize sounded a whole lot more sophisticated (and, in consulting, the more sophisticated the word and phrase, the higher the fee).
7.) “Circle back”: “OK, well let us think through what you’ve told us and circle back with a recommended strategy.” Why do we have to circle back? Can’t we just come back (or go back, if you prefer)?
6.) Hard stop”: “Just a heads-up before we begin that I have a hard stop at 3pm.” Ok, well what time does your soft stop begin? Should we factor that into the conversation? And is a soft stop a two-minute warning for a hard stop?
5.) “Walk back”: “You’ll just have to tell the reporter we need to walk back that quote. It’s taken out of context.” You may disagree, but I believe the Trump Administration deserves full credit for popularizing the words walk back (as well as their ugly step sister, walking back).
4.) “Shifting sands”: You don’t hear this one very often, but it can be a killer when used properly. “Look we’re dealing with shifting sands and no one knows how this will turn out.” Not having grown up in the desert, I never knew sands shifted. But I immediately understood the meaning. And for the editors at Cody’s ConsultantSpeak Style guide, “That’s gold, Jerry. Gold.”
3.) Yada, yada”: Since we’re speaking of Seinfeld, I’ve often wondered if the Generation Z workforce knows why yada, yada, has replaced etc., etc., in most e-mails and text.” #ElaineBenes
2.) “Sunset”: This is a beautiful ConsultantSpeak word to let you know that an underperforming person, product or service is being shown the door (See: Furlough).
1.) “Review and revert”: Review and revert is the Babe Ruth of ConsultantSpeak. I didn’t invent it, but I fell like a ton of bricks for the phrase when a long forgotten BNY/Mellon client responded to my draft of a press release by telling me he’d review and revert. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.😎
So what say you? Do you agree with our editorial board’s Top 12 list? Would you suggest we drop some and add others?
If so, please socialize the blog, ask your friends to marinate on it before they synthesize their thinking and circle back to you with a response.
In other words, please review and revert.