Archive for November, 2006

Workplace Jargon

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Workplace jargon–and the degree to which employees dislike it–was the topic of a recent article on BBC News’ Web site. According to the article, one-third of the 3,000 people surveyed by a company called Investors in People feel inadequate when their managers use trendy, wordy terms, such “blue-sky thinking”, “out of the box”, and “pushing the envelope”. (One of my personal favorites is “drill down”.) The corporate employees in the survey would prefer that their managers stick with basic language and forget the over-used jargon.

“Bosses need to lead by example, ditch needless jargon, and concentrate on communicating clearly with their employees,” says Nicola Clark, a director of Investors in People. Amen!

To read the entire article, go to BBC News. I learned about the BBC report from Melcrum Communications, a UK-based publishing company that regularly conducts research and sponsors conferences on corporate communications. Their specialized publications are valuable resources for anyone whose main responsibility is communications–or who recognizes that all the people in any organization can benefit from their sharpening skills. Check out Melcrum’s publications, research reports and services at Melcrum’s Web site. A fun article on workplace jargon is in the Source for Communicators online newsletter.

Stories in Advertising

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I love Google’s new employee recruitment advertising campaign. Aimed at finding exceptionally bright, “hip” engineers, the ads showcase employees who typify success in the Google culture.

Each full-page display ad (appearing in the news section, not the classifieds) briefly tells the personal story of an extraordinary individual. Today’s ad in the Seattle Times features the story of Steve Yegge, who graduated from high school at age 14, then pursued his musical talents for several years before serving in the U.S. Navy and earning a college degree.

Each ad features a small photo of the employee as a child. In the call to action, Google invites people to check job listings on their Web site and submit a resume for any that seem a good fit. The ads end with a note that childhood pictures are optional. It’s a perfect line for concluding an engaging ad that brings warmth and personality to the usually faceless aspect of large companies.

Connecting people on a personal level is one of the primary benefits of using stories in organizations. These ads are exceptionally fine examples of how to execute the concept.

Leadership Communications in Politics

Friday, November 10th, 2006

In media training sessions with my clients, I recommend that they use political interviews as “refresher” classes to sharpen their communication tools. Experienced politicians are often very skilled communicators who seamlessly make the point they want to make regardless of the question asked. It’s a skill that any leader would do well to learn–and it’s also a skill that can easily be misused to manipulate an audience.

During the recent campaign season, and especially as we enter the next prolonged presidential campaign, I find myself wondering if the electorate takes the time to evaluate the stories they’re told, or if most merely respond to the story that makes an imprint on their emotions. What do you think?

Common Ties through Storytelling

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

One of the benefits of using stories in organizations is that sharing stories with a group of people helps to build connections. In any story you hear, there usually is a part that you identify with, even though the specific experience may not be the same.

When people discover their commonalities, they form bonds that lead to more effective relationships. Once they know one another better, co-workers find that they work together better and support one another more readily. The end result is that customers get better service because everyone in the organization is focused on team work rather than protecting individual interests.

The same principle is true when any group of people shares stories. Inspired by the community-building aspect of storytelling, the founders of a new Web site have created a forum for sharing personal stories. Check it out at

Made to Stick

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

What makes one idea stick–and another just slide right through your mind without so much as a pause? That’s the topic of a book to be released in January 2007 called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die… The authors are brothers Chip Heath and Dan Heath, both with impressive academic and business credentials.

Their book identifies six common traits of ideas that are memorable. One of those traits is…guess what I’m going to say…the use of stories. To read an excerpt of the book, go to Made to Stick.
Write and tell me what you think about what they have to say. I’d also welcome your tales about your experiences of using stories as a communication tool, especially as a leader. Did storytelling make a discernible difference in getting your ideas across? Did you hear various versions of your own story come back to you? Did people still mention it weeks later? Do tell!