Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sorry Charlie!

"You get to take ownership of the choices you make."
You may have heard this before. It's in a Charles Schwab commercial. Actor James Olmos, looking relaxed, weathered and sincere, looks right into the camera and utters this pithy phrase.
Read it again and maybe you'll have the same reaction I did:
You get to take ownership of the choices you make.
Uh, Charlie, what the HECK does that mean??!
Sorry Charlie, no disrespect, but...
You aren't making any sense!
You need to retire!
Go find a nice, deserted island, no, actually in your case, BUY a deserted island and get some much deserved rest!
You GET to take ownership of the choices you make?

When this commercial comes on, I just shake my head and snicker. That line is the most ridiculous heap of corporate crap I have heard since, well, yesterday.
Think about it. If I make a choice, can I NOT take ownership of it? I guess so - I can blame someone else! Lie and say I didn't make that choice! Or make an excuse for my choice! Great options.
The way I see it...when you make a choice...YOU OWN IT. There is no need to take ownership of it. That's a little bit like taking ownership of your belly button. OK, that's nice that you acknowledge it as yours, but it's yours from birth buddy whether you take ownership of it or not.
And what is this get to take ownership? It's not a privilege to own your choice, not something you GET to do. Ownership of your choice is inherent in the choosing. Make a choice James and it's yours. Good or bad. There's no ownership form to be signed, no adoption paperwork, no sign on the dotted line. Just choose. Own.
Jame's meaningless "words of wisdom" are symptomatic of the world we live in. Despite what you may think, I am not going to launch into a parent-like rave about how teenagers these days don't take responsibility for their actions. Nope, my rant is about the BS lines of crap that adults spew around that make no sense. This spewing is mainly done at work. You know, the gobbelly-gook phrases we throw around in meetings to sound important? There are a lot of useless phrases that sound really impressive, but most are just fancy ways of saying something very simple or in some cases, veiling the truth.
Here are a few phrases from the business world that if I hear one more time I might have to stomp on my own toe just to break me out of the stupor these words put me in:


Allow me to translate:

FACILITATE A MEETING = To stretch a 10 minute meeting into an hour because I have no idea that "facilitate" means "to make easier" not "run a meeting into the ground."

EMPOWERING CHANGE = I have no idea what this means, but empowering is a cool word. Don't change it.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT = This one is easy! It means get residents involved! But only in ways that we can control so we can get them to do what we wanted done anyway and then we can win an award for our outstanding engagement of the community in our community engagement of the community in engagement. (It doesn't mean they should know that their rates are about to go up.)

PARADIGM SHIFT = While this sounds like what happens right before an earthquake, it actually means that my world view or "way of seeing things" has changed. Why I just don't say "my way of seeing things has changed" is because I had a recent paradigm shift about my vocabulary.

COST RECOVERY = This sounds complex and involved, but it is quite simple. It means I want to get back what I spend. In other words, I want to spend into the red, but stay in the black by getting the green from your wallet.

ALIGN WITH THE ORGANIZATION = This is a nice way of saying: "Agree with management or get fired."

CODE OF ETHICS = These are the 10 Commandments of Business--Thou Shalt Not & Do Unto Others type stuff only without all the Bible language. Oh, and instead of 10, we have 1,347 of them written in small print in a manual we created in 1972 and that sits in a locked filing cabinet in Human Resources.

BUDGET TRANSPARENCY = Our budget is your budget! It's right here. Come take a look at how we spend our, ur I mean, your money on our employees and projects. We'll gladly provide you with all our documentation, invoices, bills, receipts and travel expenditure reports. Just not those. Or those. What? You say a page is missing? Must be transparent...

SUSTAINABLE PROGRAMS = This phrase comes from the recent fiscal meltdown. It means that any program we started on or before 2008 that no longer exists is never, ever, ever, ever going to return. Why? Because from now on we are going to do programs that we can afford. Like covering our retirement benefits and overtime pay.

REDUCE LIABILITY = This is lawyer-talk and is best uttered by someone in an expensive suit behind a intimidating cherry-wood desk. Here's what it means: "For goodness sake do not do anything that is going to put us at risk of a law suit!! Like working! Or breathing!"

Charles Schwab probably used most of the above phrases in his commercial but I got so hung up on James Olmos' useless phrase that I probably missed 'em. I wonder if someone from Charles Schwab wrote the script or if it was a candid interview of James Olmos and he just pulled this random, slick sounding phrase out of the air and threw it out there to see if it would stick.  I wonder when he was done with the interview if the producer and sound guy patted him on the back and said, "Nice James. That was great. Wow, you're a real inspiration." I wonder if he thought, "What the heck did I just say?!  I think I may have just said a lot without actually saying anything! Dang! I hate it when that happens."
Don't worry James, just blame it on a lack of Starbucks that morning and be done with it. No need to say sorry to Charlie for a poor choice of words.
It's not like you have to take ownership of your choice or anything.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote!
Contact Author on gmail at hopeh1122.

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