Management Speak – Removing the BS

19 April 2017 / by Ashley Freeman

Wake Up!

I was excited when my alarm radio woke me up earlier this week! The newly appointed People Director of a cool UK organisation was being interviewed within the headline news. He was being asked about the story that his company has been accused of having a bullying culture.

I was excited that my working world of people and culture was in the news. I think this is the real battleground in business and should be talked about more in the mainstream business media. I was happy that his title was People Director rather something ‘HRish’, ‘Commsy’ or ‘Engagementy’.

Great start to the day. Until he opened his mouth. Of all the roles in any organisation a People Director needs to be able to communicate clearly and compellingly to his/her audiences. This guy drooled boring, confusing management speak that gave the impression of prevarication. Yet if reduced to ‘human speak’, what he was saying could have come across well.

I have no opinion on the story itself, just how he told it. I’m passionate about taking the bullshit out of business. Everyday at INVOLVE we try to help our clients connect with their people as powerfully as possible. What a duvet cowering way to wake up!

Where the rubber meets the road!

So, we decided to have a competition in the office that morning to see how many words we could get the interview down to without losing any meaning! Below are the word for word answers in the main interview and underneath what I wish he’d said.

Interviewer: “How do you plan to turn things around?”

People Director management speak: “Well look I think we gotta do 3 things: We gotta do a lot of work on well-being and culture, we gotta do a lot of work on our management and leadership because water flows downhill and it’s important that the leaders represent the organisation in the right way consistently and I think we gotta build trust and that’s gonna come from working on the plans that Jonathan spoke about and his action plan and really drive those plans and being able to communicate internally that we’re making progress against those plans.”

How people really speak: “We’re going to do 3 things; work on well-being and culture, work on our management and leadership and we’re going to build trust internally.”

Interviewer: “Does your jaw drop that things were allowed to get that bad?”

People Director management speak: “See I’m very sad about where we are today but I think the critical thing is that we move forward* and start to drive a change. We’ve just started our first culture survey, we’ve had 85% response rate, that’s just for our employees and every year we’re gonna be running this and we’ll start to build engagement with our people so I think moving forward* we can certainly leverage* some of the experience that I’ve had in corporate life and drive the change we need to make.

How people really speak: “I’m very sad about where we are today and I think the critical thing is that we start to change.”

Interviewer: “But the same Board is in place, so how on earth can you change?”

People Director management speak: “Well look we’ve seen significant change. We’ve got a new Chairman, we’ve separated the Chairman and President role. We’ve made huge change on the executive team. One of the nice things for me was coming in early on and being engaged in the recruitment process both of our new CEO but also of our new Performance Director. I’m new to the organisation, we’ve promoted internally to the Sports role. And we’ve just created, and this has been a big activity under Management and Leadership, new Leadership Teams. We now have a team of Operational and Executive Leaders and we are starting a journey of getting those people to move at the same direction at the same pace both on strategy and on culture. I think those are the 2 things we need to make sure we do consistently now.”

How people really speak: “We’ve got a new Chairman, we’ve made huge change on the Executive Team and we’ve just created new Leadership Teams.”

Interviewer: “If the forthcoming report is damning should The Board go?”

People Director Management Speak: “Well look, one of the key parts of the action plan is the governance element. And the governance element is very much around the way that we govern our organisation and that will enable us to make the changes that we want to make in order to come up with a plan that will address our governance issues as well. And that’s part of the trust building that I mentioned as the 3rd part of the plan that I hope to execute.”

How people really speak: “We are working to address our governance issues and that’s part of the trust building that I mentioned.”

Let’s touch base on this if you have the bandwidth!

I’d love to hear from you. Did you hear the interview and if so what did you make of it? If not, did I just get out of the wrong side of bed that morning?!

Feel free send us any comments or examples of when plain english has been substituted for plain awful!

Email me at or call me at the office on (0) 20 7720 0105.