Words that need to be reclaimed

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 10-25-13

Buzzwords, acronyms, jargon, corporate speak – lean isn’t the only domain of business that brings with it an unfortunate side effect. Sometimes it’s not the new words that cause trouble but the reorienting of old words. Some of these words need to be reclaimed, because the new meaning takes us a step backwards from goodness. Here are some of my examples.

Peer – Peer has come to mean “same level on the organizational chart.” “My peers” means we’re on the same level, regardless of whether we report to the same boss. It means I can’t give you orders and you can’t give orders. If you look up the dictionary definition, this isn’t too far from its technical meaning, but there used to mean more beneath the surface.

What should it mean? It should mean that we have respect for one another, that we support one another, that we share ideas and we pursue common goals. Just because we report to the same boss does not make us peers. We should pursue a higher standard to become peers.

Coach – Coaching has made perhaps the biggest deterioration. HR has taken over coaching to become the last step you take to get an employee to meet the minimum standards before you fire them. Coaching is code for “on the way out.” It was done with good intentions, but coaching when from something with high honor and privilege, to something that which is to be avoided.

Coaching also isn’t just sharing your ideas with others, a form of teaching. That’s good too, but it’s not being a coach. Coaching is different than teaching. It’s helping unlock a person’s potential, to help them achieve what they set out to do. Coaching is NOT getting someone to do what you want them to do.

LeaderAs I wrote recently, leader is not a job title. It’s not even a role. It’s an act. It’s time we reclaimed the leader from something someone is to something someone does.

What others words do we have to reclaim?


  • From a high school instructional coach: I like your explanation. Of course, coaching in high school is often equated with sports, which introduces a different set of misunderstandings.

    Michael October 25, 2013 at 10:47 am