Foot In Mouth Syndrome

If you are not familiar with the work of Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, then we are sorry for you. Because she was brilliant, but she has gone. Gone because she has traded in a gig many journalists would sever their right arm for to become a high school math teacher—which shows that she is either one of the finest human beings on the planet or has a very strong leaning towards masochism. We'll leave you to judge which. Anyway, the real reason why we are featuring her in this edition is that Lucy has spent the last couple of decades highlighting the nonsense that so many business leaders spout on a day-to-day basis. So, in the hope that repeating some of the examples that she signed off with in her last article might save you from the embarrassment of putting your foot in your mouth in front of clients, employees or peers, here we go on our public spirited mission.

Perhaps because she is off to do good in the world, some of Ms Kellaway's examples were kept anonymous. Take, for example, the unnamed investment management firm that described firing people as going "into the gym…inducing cell renewal and thus making the company fit for profitable growth." Which would obviously almost make you want to celebrate being unceremoniously shown the door. Or the well- known management consultancy that told its clients, "You have to appreciate that the milestones we have set in these swim lanes provide a road map for this flow chart. When we get to the toll gates, we'll assess where you sit in the waterfall…" Priceless.

However, when it came to two of her top favorites, it seems that she just couldn't resist giving credit where credit is due. So step forward Rob Stone, CEO of advertising agency Cornerstone, with "As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no holds barred global POV that's always been part of our wheelhouse". And, of course, Angela Ahrendt in the Burberry annual report: "In the wholesale channel, Burberry exited doors not aligned with brand status and invested in presentation through both enhanced assortments and dedicated, customized real estate in key doors" (neatly described by Ms Kellaway as "the most mysterious sentence ever composed in the English language").

So remember: keep it simple, keep it clear.

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