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Author Topic: How to talk the talk  (Read 1559 times)


  • Barfly
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How to talk the talk
« on: December 30, 2011, 12:41:42 AM »

So you want to become a Principal and have thought of enrolling for an online MBA course. Think again!

A few years ago I had to work under a Principal who talked the talk. He had been appointed by a new Board of Trustees led by an ex-SAS officer who was determined to make our college a 'centre of excellence." They got really excited when they found that this guy could attach 'meta' to any word used in education.

My first impression of the man was that he was a smarmy bastard. Nothing that followed in the next 3 years did anything to change that opinion.

As his decision making processes depended on whoever was last out of the door of his office before a meeting I made a point of escorting him to the Conference Room.

Anyway, if you want to walk his talk then this item from the world of business may help you ... in a meta-phorical way.


OPINION: Want to know a secret?

The vast bulk of our business leaders are not particularly bright. That's not to say they are stupid. Far from it, in fact. Most are driven, motivated and have an innate ability to spot an opportunity or to motivate others to do the work for them.

The fact remains, however, that in most cases they are no smarter than you or me.

This may provide some comfort to students who have just finished school or graduated from university with a less-than-impressive record.

The simple truth is that academic achievement only occasionally translates into success in the business world. Although a great result won't hold you back, a stellar academic record doesn't necessarily guarantee you will vanquish your competitors in the quest to climb the greasy pole.

It's a phenomenon that is on display across every segment of the business world. Academics with doctorates under their belt can often be seen toiling away for a reasonable salary in a company led by someone with no tertiary qualifications at all, who is raking in the big bucks. How does this happen?

It is usually the case that those who secure the top spots are those who speak the lingo, who can strike a rapport with those in power.

This doesn't require a university degree, although most universities, cash-strapped as they are these days, have latched on to the idea that teaching business wannabes how to communicate with each other can be lucrative business in itself. They spend years doing it and charge a fortune.

And so we have seen the birth of the MBA, the masters of business administration, a qualification often dispensed to those who never even studied at undergraduate level. But that's another story.

If our bosses can't be bothered getting a degree, then why not subvert the process altogether? With summer coming on, why spend the festive season with your head stuck in the books when you can loll about on the couch, drink beer and watch the cricket?

Given 2012 is likely to be even tougher than the year that has just passed, here is a quick guide to mastering the art of saying absolutely nothing but sounding hugely impressive, which could land you the job of your life without having to waste years and thousands of dollars. The trick is to understand that humans are social animals. We like to congregate. We crave assurance. And we love to form groups and to identify with those groups.

As long as you know the code, the keywords, you will be immediately embraced by the gang and absorbed into the rarefied world of commerce – a world in which the dilettante reigns supreme.

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Like all languages, it is constantly evolving. Take the term "going forward". This was the single most important phrase in the language up until about a year ago. Completely superfluous to any sentence, it added absolutely no meaning. And yet it was a phrase so pregnant with meaning. For it screamed out: "I am one of yours. I belong."

Under no circumstances should you ever use this phrase again. A subtle change has been mandated, so as to weed out the pretenders. From now on, we are "moving forward", a slightly warmer, more inclusive term than its predecessor.

Regardless of this subtle shift, it is a term that should be used frequently – not in every sentence but in at least every third sentence.

The key to sounding like you know what you are talking about is verbosity. That involves using as many useless terms as possible and spinning out a two-sentence explanation to at least 20 minutes. This is no easy task.

But liberal use of the word "leverage" always comes in handy.

Technically it refers to debt, which in these straightened times is a no-no. But don't let that hold you back. The word can mean anything you want it to. For instance, expressing a desire to "leverage the firm's core competencies" is bound to get the juices flowing from those you are trying to impress. Again, the beautiful thing is that it means absolutely nothing, so no one can ever hold you to account for not delivering.

The original book on management theory clearly was penned by an unemployed oil executive. A decade ago, every business was described as a "platform" connected by "pipelines" and you had no chance of employment if you neglected to mention them.

Those terms are still in use, but to a far lesser extent, and it would be wise to mention them only sparingly. These days, you should merely have a "multi-platform strategy" and "business in the pipeline".

When it comes to industry, you need to be in the space. Perhaps it has something to do with the pick-up in the energy game and the downturn at Nasa. But these days, you have to be in the "retail space", "the supply-chain space" or any other space you care to mention.

The reason for this is that management skills should never be limited by industry. Running a steelworks, or a condom manufacturer? It's all the same thing. It is just a different space.

Never talk "about" anything. You talk "to" an issue, or "provide colour" on an event. And, of course, if you really want to impress your credentials as a savvy manager during tough times, at being able to slash costs, you should be sure to mention your ability at picking "low-hanging fruit".

For advanced players, if you really want to lay your credentials down, nothing beats a good acronym.

This is rather more difficult to master, as it usually involves highly technical terms that your inquisitors won't be on top of, and hence they may ask for an explanation.

If you grab a stockbroking analyst report – any of them on any day – you can familiarise yourself with the basics.

Talk about EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and compare it to the PCP (previous corresponding period) on FYE (full-year earnings). If you want to get really daring, you throw in the WACC (weighted average cost of capital). But beware, a startled chairman may ask you exactly what that is.

Your correspondent has never progressed beyond BOGOF (buy one, get one free) at the EOFYS (end of financial year sale), so I won't even pretend to explain WACC.

Always remember that if you need to negotiate your way out a tricky situation during a job interview, just start jawboning on about "risks", or "moves to the upside", or "moves to the downside". This sounds so much classier than a simple rise or fall.

By this stage, you should have the interview panel in the palm of your hand. That key to the executive dunny is within your grasp. The "ducks are in a row" and you've delivered some valuable "face time".

This could well be a "win-win" situation.

I have my standards. They may be low, but I have them.
- Bette Midler


  • Barfly
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Re: How to talk the talk
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2011, 05:49:42 AM »
I'll read this all later, but have to say
The vast bulk of our business leaders are not particularly bright.

Err, no shit, Sherlock - does anyone who's worked for any businesses still think they are? Management level positions are nearly all inhabited by the ordinariest of people.  It has become like a cult in the work world, with people reciting their mantras in the hope of achieving enlightenment (or at least impressing the next person up the chain). It is a farce, compounded by the ridiculous jargon and people's adherence to it. I'm still coming to terms with the fact people can study it at university.
The worst thing is that it seems to rest on the ability to be able to completely dehumanise yourself in nearly all interpersonal interactions. It's certainly alienating for the employees, those that aren't sucked in by it anyway.

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: How to talk the talk
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2011, 11:03:55 PM »
This phenomenon is part of why Devo's song Mongoloid  is so dear to me. uuuuuuuuuu
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)


  • Barfly
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Re: How to talk the talk
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2012, 04:31:39 AM »


  • Barfly
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Re: How to talk the talk
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2012, 06:01:39 PM »
Peter Principle