Workplace Wisdom

What’s Your Catchphrase?

I was working with the president of a financial services company the other day. Our conversation moved quickly and easily over multiple, diverse topics, including a couple of new ways to motivate his sales force, techniques for probing more deeply into clients’ needs, and tips for letting people know that he disagreed with their views without using the truth as a weapon. I like working with him because not only is he very intelligent as many business owners are, but also because he takes feedback like a champ — and then goes and tries to apply it.

At some point during our chat, I asked him to put on his figurative seatbelt, because I wanted to say something a little intrusive. And then I asked him to think about changing his catchphrase.

We all have them — whether we mean, “That’s a good point,” “Please continue,” I can’t believe it,” or something equivalent. When spoken by a person in a position of power, though, listeners often read into those catchphrases more meaning than habit. So when you say, “Now that’s an interesting idea,” people who care about your opinion might assume anything from, “Start work on this new project immediately!” to, “Nice thought, but don’t expect any resources or action from me.” And maybe all you meant was that you wanted to hear more.

Your automatic responses can be heard as put-downs or picker-uppers. If you have a declared vision, mission, strategy, be sure that any catchword you use habitually is working in their service, so that everyone continues following in the parade you intend to be leading. If your watchword is too neutral, or if you use it too often and too mindlessly, folks may come to ignore your response altogether.

So ask the people you chat with frequently if you have a catchphrase, and what it means to them, and see if it’s what you actually meant. You can always choose another one. Or a couple of different ones and change them up. Just a word to the wise…

Onward and upward,

LK

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