Not so long ago, we took you through a ten week personal branding course (click here if you’d like to start at week 1). The aim of that course was to strengthen your own brand and set you along the journey of becoming a powerful entity within your organization.

One crucial part of that journey we didn’t discuss was the importance of language. The words you use in everyday conversations with your manager, colleagues, and subordinates do important work in building your personal brand. One thing we’ve learnt in our leadership development and coaching work is that strong, competent leaders avoid the language of clichés.

Strong leaders are able to use language, often simple, elegant language, to convey their ideas clearly and succinctly.

Here are three current business-speak clichés that do neither:

  1. Going Forward: This rather unfortunate phrase is often tacked on the end of a sentence without too much thought. Example: “We’ll be using the new service provider for all our tech support, going forward.” But what does this phrase really mean, other than “from now on?”

The phrase, “Going forward” probably evolved because it seemed to relate to forward-thinking, assertive attitudes about the future, and maybe even visionary leadership. But it’s really just a clunky cliché, and you should avoid it, from now on.

  1. Leverage: To leverage something relates to the world of finance and has a rather specific technical meaning (see here for a full explanation). Nowadays however, people are being leveraged, resources are being leveraged, and there seems to be just too much leveraging going on.

Again, as is the case with most clichés, the person using them is trying to obscure meaning by using words that seem important or status-laden. But what’s really happening is that meaning is not being conveyed. So instead of using “leverage,” try something simpler and more descriptive, such as “use.”

  1. Engage: An ugly word that has crept into business lexicon is “engage,” as in: “Please set up a meeting for team A to engage with team B,” or “We must engage on this topic next Tuesday at the company meeting.”

But engage is really a very strange word to use for something very basic and very human. Engage is clinical, relates more to objects interfacing, and can also double for meaning “combat.”

Strong leaders understand the importance of human contact and strong interpersonal relationships. So don’t “engage” with people. Rather just “meet with” them, or even better, have a “discussion” or “chat about” a particular topic.