As a visionary change management serial entrepreneur specializing in motivational leadership and paradigm shifting catalytic thought provocation, I wanted to reach out and dialogue on a topic to expand your inter dimensional understanding of its essence, and ensure you embrace that comprehension at the next, albeit less competent, level.
In other words, “I want to talk to you about a stupid trend”.
We have reached the point of complete inanity. I am afraid that it has gone too far, and we are now beyond the realm of any safe return. I am talking about, of course, the continued drivel, the “think speak” that is creeping its way into business language and office vernacular. We see it in resumes and LinkedIn bios; in new age blogs and motivational publications. Words like “servant leader”, “e-learning evangelist”, and “serial entrepreneur”. Words that sound good but mean essentially nothing. It is the explosive growth of needless verbiage; useful only in making the originator of same feel better about themselves while providing a false platform for an unjustifiably large ego. These words are, quite plainly, “syllables without substance”.
And of course, this trend is moving rapidly into the realm of job titles and descriptions.
We use a social media product here in my office to help distribute our content to various online venues. Recently we had a small issue with it, as it is not wholly compatible with new Group layouts just introduced with LinkedIn. I sent a quick support request to the company, and received a friendly response in fairly short order. The extraordinarily perky responder was asking for a bit more information, but it was her title that stopped me in my tracks.
She was, and I am not making this up, her company’s “Chief Happiness Officer”.
Holy crap. I remember when companies first started putting nurseries in the workplace for their employee's children. Now those children are running the show, but they are still in the damned nursery. Chief Happiness Officer? What the hell is that?
Imagine, if you will, working for such a person. You are in the Binky the Clown Billing Division, reporting to the Director of Giggles. That Director, or “DoG” for short, reports to the Chief Happiness Officer, or Chief HO. How do they handle things when something goes terribly wrong? Can you picture yourself being reprimanded, even terminated by the Chief Happiness Officer? That would truly suck. It would be like getting slain by George Carlin’s Good Humor Man. More likely you would get a time out, and have to forego your afternoon nap.
And we really cannot fairly judge her personality on the title – for all we know she is a flaming bitch from hell – but, hey, she is the Chief Happiness Officer, so smile, damnit!
She is not alone in this, of course. Ridiculous titles are cropping up everywhere. I knew a man, a kind and inoffensive chap who owns a consulting firm, who bills himself as “President and Chief Client Advocate”. Really? As President, does that not represent an inherent conflict of interest? Can he effectively advocate for two sides at once? Does he take his customers side in every billing dispute? Does he provide his product for nothing because that would be in his client's best interest? I am too old school for this. I selfishly believe, as CEO, that my main responsibility and advocacy needs to be focused on the survivability and profitability of my company; I have a fiduciary responsibility to my investors and a moral obligation to our employees. Now, we attempt to meet those concerns, of course, by trying to provide exceptional products and excellent customer service. We strive to meet our customers' needs; but do so as an instrument of our own survival. The title Chief Client Advocate, particularly when tied to the company’s Chief Executive Officer, falsely implies that the customer's needs are the only ones in the equation, and as lovely as that sounds, no one does business that way.
The best, in fact only, successful business dealings are win-win, where the needs and objectives of both parties are met.
BS titles like Chief Client Advocate do not convey that reality. And neither does Chief Happiness Officer. At the end of the day, those people have the same focus and concern that I do; my title is just more intellectually honest.
The harsh reality is that many companies, especially in the tech sector, are now touting their “customer-centric focus”. Aren’t most successful companies “customer centric”? I would submit to you that any company that does not focus on the customer is doomed for failure (with Verizon being the one possible exception to that rule). Of course you are “customer centric”; that doesn’t mean you need to act like you invented the concept.
Pretentious foolery, if you ask me. It's enough to make me want to punch the Chief HO in the mouth.