One Thing: Speak Plainly

May 18, 2017 Lynn Abaté-Johnson No comments exist
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One Thing: Speak Plainly

I was speaking with a new friend on the phone recently. As we were trading life-stories about how we got “here”, I was reminded of one of the reasons I chose to start my agency, People Forward. Out of that conversation, we both agreed that it would be great if more people in business, especially the corporate world, would speak plainly.

A little background

I had worked as a contractor, inside the marketing arm of a Silicon Valley internet startup for the better part of two years. This was a valuable experience, and although I worked remotely, some of my favorite days were the ones I drove 200 miles to and from Sunnyvale for “all hands meetings”. I met with my team and the Founders.  I got to sit side-by-side, doing QA with the engineers.

Every facet of starting up companies stimulates me. This one was especially fun, because the Founders, including my now dear friend, Rob Gemmell, had put together a very talented team of passionate, smart, committed people.

Plus, there were the inherent challenges, risks, and long hours to juggle…all rocket-fuel for me.

So, what does a snippet of my employment history have to do with a blog post called Speak Plainly?

Before I finally made the move to start People Forward, and after I left Silicon Valley work, I ventured out into the world of the job search. And that’s when it hit me.


There was a different language being spoken. Actually, I picked up a lot of the buzz-wordy vernacular during my time in Sunnyvale, however, I never really felt comfortable using “buzzwords”. Yes, I used some  in meetings when the others didn’t understand unless I did.  Other than that, I’ve always been of the belief that words matter as much as the people using them. Something about the manipulation of people through buzzwords in corporate meetings never sat right with me.

So, I job-searched, brushed up my LinkedIn profile, got written recommendations from people I had worked with, wrote and updated my cv for every job I applied for, interviewed, adopted the “popular” vernacular, and the buzzword-mania seemed to take on a life of it’s own.

After countless applications, resumes, interviews, and buzzwords logged, I chose to venture out once again, into another startup of my own, hanging my People Forward “shingle”. I’d like to think that I’m doing a good job of Speaking Plainly. I think most of my family, friends, and clients would say I’m ok at it. Will you hear me use buzzwords? Of course, because there are so many now. Even beautiful words like Gratitude and Authenticity have become buzz-word-y.



One of the standout companies I applied to work at, Purematter, was founded by two people who have subsequently become dear friends, Bryan Kramer and Courtney Smith Kramer. Why is this ironic? While I did not get hired at Purematter, all those years ago, I was able to be of service in 2015, when Bryan launched his second book, Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy.
Demonstrating perfect timing, Bryan recently touched on the cornerstone of Speak” Plainly”. In this post, Bryan asserts that “simple language is of paramount importance”.
I couldn’t agree more. True Shareology!

There are two other leaders in the business world who I have deep respect for, because they speak plainly.

ItsAllBSBook_ClearVision_Twitter copyPsychologist, author, and keynote speaker, Dr. Jason Richardson offers great insights and advice here, exploring how we can become more intentional in our communication.

In Dan Pallotta, founder of Pallotta Teamworks, and the Charity Defense Council, I found someone who understands exactly what I wanted to shout out in all those corporate meetings and job interviews. Here’s his post about that. See if it resonates with your experience.

Everyday life

As we walk through our everyday lives, I think it’s important to pay attention to our words, as well as our deeds. This means something different for everyone.

I’d love to know some of your favorite buzzwords and experiences. Please share in the comments.

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