During your career, you’ll probably be bombarded with jargon known as ‘corporate speak’. It’s when your colleagues or leaders use fancy terms for pretty straight forward actions, which may make you wonder why they didn’t just say what they meant instead of using creative language.

So what are the most common phrases? Here are some of my favourites and what they actually mean:

Red flag

Alarm, alarm! This common phrase acts as a warning sign when someone is trying to bring a topic to the team’s attention. It means there’s something specific about a project that everyone will need to keep an eye on if it’s going to be successful.


No, it’s not part of a bird.

People will say this phrase when they want to expand on your (or your colleague’s) idea. So you might hear someone say “that dovetails nicely to the point I was going to make” when you’re explaining something to your team.

Helicopter view

Every time I hear this one, I think about my flight over the Apostles in Melbourne, Victoria. Unfortunately, this phrase is far less adventurous.

A helicopter view is when a person (usually your boss or a senior leader) asks you for a short overview or summary of a topic or project that you’re working on. If you hear this, keep your explanation brief and only focus on the most important parts of your project.

It can also mean you need to take a step back from the project and think about how it fits into the bigger picture for the organisation.

Reaching out

This is a very common phase and one that I have heard a lot during my career. It basically means that you will need to contact a specific person about the issue because they are not in the meeting.

It’s an easy way to break ice too if you’re following up on someone’s late submission. For example, “Hey Bill, just reaching out to see how you’re going on that blog we talked about? Let me know if I can help. Thanks!”

Low hanging fruit

This is one of my favourites!

It doesn’t mean you need to travel to a farm and pick some apples. Instead, it suggests that a problem can be easily fixed with little effort. It’s something you could easily knock off your to-do list.

Drill down

Not only can a person say this on a construction site, it can also be used in a meeting – in most cases at the start.

This common buzzword means you’ll need to investigate the project thoroughly to make sure your stakeholders are happy with the approach. It’s just a fancy way of saying you’re going to break something down to its simplest facts.

Ducks in a row

I’m not quite sure what it is with animals and corporate phrases, but this one comes up a lot in meetings.

It means you’ll need to get organised, if you want the project to be successful. So if someone says they’re “getting their ducks in a row”, they’re getting their affairs neatly organised.

Going forward

This phrase will usually come up at the end of a meeting and will either signal a change in direction or will detail the next steps that will need to be taken for the project.

For example, at the end of your meeting, your manager might say, “Thanks for the updates everybody. Going forward, we’ll keep our meetings to 15 minutes to allow everyone more time to finish what they need before we launch our new product.”

These are just a few of the common buzzwords that I’ve come across in my 10-year career – there are definitely a lot more out there.

I hope these definitions will help you to navigate your next meeting. It would be interesting to know if you find you use a few of these yourself.

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