[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
 October 8, 1999

Leader’s Edge: Semantics give titles new meaning, zest

A phrase often heard in corporations but not often lived out is “think out of the box.” In other words, shake up those mental faculties, trade routine for experimentation, jerry-rig a solution with figurative duct tape and baling wire.

One “box” that limits most of us to some degree is our respective job titles. Labels of any kind easily produce hasty generalizations.

For example, I’ll bet certain traits come to mind when you read the next four words: celebrity, intellectual, jock, nerd. A good friend of mine, Andy, is the smartest person I know, earning yet another English graduate degree this year. Yet, he is wise enough to refrain from using the “intellectual” label to describe himself.

That’s good, because such a label could mentally rule out the possibility that Andy is also humorous, athletic, a bit crazy, a loyal husband and a great father. He enjoys intellectual pursuits among many other activities in life … but don’t call him an intellectual.

I’ll bet certain other traits come to mind when you read the next four words: receptionist, PR manager, comptroller, janitor. These job titles, like most others, bring vivid pictures to mind, even if you have never held any of those positions.

A bigger concern, however, is that the people who work at these jobs use the labels as a box that confines their thinking and actions. So you have a woman who is as funny as Lily Tomlin and happens to love accounting, too. By night, she’s a walking punch line but by day she is a serious comptroller, portraying someone she’s not, like an actor with a script.

At this point, you might say, ah, job titles, labels, it’s just semantics. “It’s just” usually precedes “semantics” in our verbiage, but semantics, which pertains to meaning in a language, is powerful. Someone adept at language is able to teach and clarify, to inspire and edify, among other things. Imagine a company that had formal and informal leaders able to do those four things well.

Some companies turn job titles from the mundane to the inspired. I found the following job titles in the June and July/August 1999 editions of Fast Company magazine.

” Jennifer Rubbell is director of vibe for Rubbell Hotels. “The vibe is about how people feel inside a space,” she said. “My job is to intensify the vibe, to make hotels feel like home.” Or we could just call her the assistant manager.

” Ken Hawk is chief energizing officer for 1-800-Batteries Inc. In his job, he works to make the company a fun, creative place that “buzzes with energy.” Or we could just think of him as a middle manager.

” Craig Ullman is keeper of the magic for ACTV Inc. A Web expert, Ullman delivers both technology and content for eSchool Online, the company’s online education service. Or we could just put “training manager” on his business card.

” Matthew Grant is minister of enlightenment for MacTemps Inc. “My job,” he says, “is to keep up with trends, to synthesize information about those trends, and to put that information into a usable form.” Or we could throw the label industry researcher on his shoulders.

” Cathleen Jivoin is director of first impressions for Teltronics Inc. Her job is to set the right mood for everyone who walks into the company’s lobby. “Whatever they want, whatever they ask for, whomever they ask for, they get it,” she says. Oh, let’s just tell her she’s a lobby receptionist instead.

A few companies, such as those noted above, take semantics seriously. Their job titles still qualify as labels, but they inspire new and creative approaches to old and tired jobs. Some companies go a step further, allowing all employees to develop whatever title they want for their business cards.

You may not work for such a progressive company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break free from the cell that is your job title. Develop your own – one that captures the essence of who you are and how you hope to add value and make a difference in what you do. You might even tell a few trusted coworkers or clients. Most importantly, though, you embrace the job title yourself.

Who are you and what do you seek to do? Put a creative and exciting name to that. By doing so, you strap on the power of semantics.

Gregg Piburn is lone wolf and creator of connections for Leaders Edge Consulting. Call 970-669-0750 or visit www.LeadersEdgeConsulting.com and www.BeyondChaos.com.

A phrase often heard in corporations but not often lived out is “think out of the box.” In other words, shake up those mental faculties, trade routine for experimentation, jerry-rig a solution with figurative duct tape and baling wire.

One “box” that limits most of us to some degree is our respective job titles. Labels of any kind easily produce hasty generalizations.

For example, I’ll bet certain traits come to mind when you read the next four words: celebrity, intellectual, jock, nerd. A good friend of mine, Andy, is the smartest person I know, earning yet another English graduate degree this year.…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]