Friday, March 5, 2010

Bad Words

I know a wrote some time ago about how my least-favorite word in the English language was "deserve." It pretty much still is. "Sorry" is a close second when it's used insincerely, which tends to happen more often than not.

Because I volunteer with a campaign which is staffed entirely by other volunteers, I've learned to find a next-least-favorite expression: "Someone should." *

"Someone should," as a sentence starter, is the ultimate way to completely NOT take ownership or initiative for whatever great lightbulb-over-the-head moment you just had. It's not as clear as delegating responsibility (that's why they teach you in CPR class that you should NEVER say "Someone call 911!" Instead, you're supposed to pick one person from the crowd and say, "You! Call 911 right now!") and it's not anywhere near as great as taking ownership.

Someone who delegates is still effective, assuming he or she is in a position to do it. Someone who takes ownership is even better -- that's a person who has a great idea and then begins taking whatever steps are needed to make it happen. By and large, "ownership takers" tend to be very successful in whatever they do.

Others still will just sort of get in line and follow. There's nothing wrong with that. No organization could function without those types of people.

What I could do without, however, are sentences that start with "someone should." By leading off that way, the speaker is clearly implying that he or she is not volunteering to be that someone. However, the speaker is also going on record as having the idea -- should it be implemented and should success result, self-congratulation is, no doubt, in order. And on the other hand, if no "someone" rogers up to execute said idea, the speaker can then go home and rant and rail to whoever is forced to listen that "I keep having these great ideas but no one listens to me."

That last sentence has probably been said countless times by any entry-level anyone within any organization, large or small. I know I've heard it way too many times in the military, and almost always from a junior enlisted person.

To anyone who cares to listen (and if you've read this far, I'll assume you do), my advice to all those people is this: It's not that no one is listening. They are. But they're also busy and have full plates of other things to worry about. If you come to your boss, or your management, or leadership, or whatever and say, "Here's this great idea. I can execute it, and here's my plan," then you've done right. If you're still being ignored, then I'll admit that sucks. But if you're just farting out these "great ideas" and beginning sentences with "someone should" then your ideas are probably going nowhere, and for good reason.

* Just as a point of clarification, I'm referring here only to things people say within organizations to which they belong, and not to bigger-picture social, political, medical, or business ideas. And thanks to the person sitting next to me who asked the question leading to this new asterisk.


C R Krieger said...

I throw up as the opposite the idea of "I'll take care of that".  Some time this last week I saw that in action.  I can't remember where, and it might even have been a TV commercial, but the line was "I'll take care of that".  I like the sound of that and if I am ever again in charge of something, that is going to be my favorite expression.

It reminds me of the concept, "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions".

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...

Much the yin to the yang of "someone should," "I've got it" are the greatest words there are.

And the greatest question anyone could ever ask -- "What needs to be done, and what can I do to help?"