Death to Clichés

The global pandemic may have gotten to me! I have been triggered!

I have to believe I would never have written this blog 18 months ago. The odd thing is, the source of my trigger extends from a very unlikely, strange source!

Clichés! Yep, clichés! I said it!  They are everywhere on LinkedIn! 

Specifically, clichés used by leadership/coaching and team building experts as a tool to stay front and present in the quick twitch minds that make up the twitter sphere audience. 

The site Your Dictionary defines clichés this way.

“Clichés are terms, phrases, or even ideas that, upon their inception, may have been striking and thought-provoking but became unoriginal through repetition and overuse. ”

Unoriginal being the operative term!

I scrolled through twitter for no less than 4 minutes and here is a list of clichés/jargon that I found.

Of note, in an effort to establish complete transparency, the final example extends from yours truly. Yes, I have used clichés in the past! I am part of the problem!

  • The first rule of leadership is that your foundation is built on trust and respect and character

  • Authentic leaders have realistic expectations of their people

  • A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.

  • Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem.

  • The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. 

  • Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate in a way that increases your influence and leadership

  • I would rather die of passion than of boredom

  • The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the PILOT.

  • Leadership is like conducting a symphony. It’s not your job to play all of the instruments.

  • People don’t seem to care about following a leader who doesn’t seem to care about them.

  • Why Not You? Why Not You! Why Not You. Why Not? Give Yourself Permission.

I get it. Clichés are nice, cute reminders to others. Yet, like eating liver and onions, using clichés should be enjoyed on occasion!  

Every time I read a series of clichés I am brought back to a scene from the movie released in 1999 titled, “Mystery Men”. The scene stars Ben Stiller in the role of impatient super hero Furious Roy and Wes Studi in the role as Sphinx. Sphinx relies on clichés and is pragmatic in his approach and Furious Roy is a want to get things done type of guy.

It’s been said that belly buttons are useless but I will argue that from a life giving perspective, belly buttons are kind of valuable. Far more valuable than a cliché that does not connect you to something of greater value. A belly button serves as a portal that could bring us the next great scientist, author, BMX champion, opera singer or YouTube influencer! A cliché on its own gives birth to nothing. 

Throw a whole LinkedIn lineup of clichés at someone and a trite numbness inevitably takes over.

Maybe it’s just me. Again, I did mention at the outset that I may be a little triggered!

Yet, in my defense, I believe a cliché on its own always leaves me wanting more. I feel like a dinner guest that was given bread and water and then sent on my merry way. I am left sitting in the truck wondering what the heck just happened and then searching for the closest Burger King!

A cliché on it’s own lacks authenticity. A series of clichés do not inspire me to get going, they inspire me to tune out and take a good nap! I want some substance with my side of snappiness! 

I played professional football for 9 years in the Canadian Football League. I learned early on that the coach or player espousing a bunch of clichés usually liked the sound of their own voice and more often than naught was ill prepared for competition.

Could you imagine a professional football coach commanding the attention of his team before heading out of the locker room to do battle and saying, “Fellas, fellas, gather around! Never forget. It’s a 60 minute game and the bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the PILOT. Let’s go get them boys!”.

A cliché may sound good but it won’t help you when a 230 pound linebacker is trying to put you and your rib cage in row 6! 

I have always been a guy who wanted to know the what, when, where, who and why! Each time I got knocked out in a football game, it had to do with someone now remembering their role and responsibilities. Someone forgetting the what, when, where, who and why. On two occasions it was a teammates fault, on the 3rd occasion it was all me! As I lay on the turf blinking my eyes in a bid to get my computer re-started I knew I had screwed up. So did the fans who watched the replay of the hit on the jumbotron screen over and over again!

I get it. Leading, coaching and team building is not easy. It’s a competitive industry. It’s also an honorable profession and I am proud to be a part of it. It requires an intuitiveness that connects people on a deeper level. It demands authenticity and generosity. Being in the business of setting others up to succeed and celebrating the potential contribution others can make is the reward for those who have been bitten by the leadership/coaching and team building bug.

If we ask our clients to buy in and put the work in, regardless of the arena they compete in, the least we as leadership and coaching experts can do is serve as an example. To also put the work in.

Include a link to something of value with the cliché. It could be a great blog post or a great video that expands on the idea presented by the cliché. Feed your audience. 

So, the time is nigh! Join the revolution! Join me in the fight to ban the art of posting clichés on their own. 

This whole being triggered thing is tiring! I am going to see if Mystery Men is on Netflix!

Stay safe and well!

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Ken Evraire is the owner | principal of TECTONIC TLC Team Lead Coach.

He is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership!  He is grateful for the opportunity to work with a roster of fantastic clients ranging from the government sector, not for profit agencies, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and elite sports teams.

He is father to 3 precocious children, has the best ex-wife in the world, is a former professional football player that has since donated his brain. He has run 3x marathons (Honolulu 2x + Barcelona), done stand up comedy and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

Check Ken out on the following social media pages…

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-evraire-leadership/

Twitter https://twitter.com/Tectonic_tlc

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tectonictlc

Friend first…G.M. second. My time with Jo-Anne Polak aka JP Superstar

I had forgotten that she was given the nickname, JP Superstar! Wow, how time flies. I may have forgotten her nickname but I will not ever for forget how she personalized professional football.

I of course refer to Jo-Anne Polak, the first female General Manager in professional football.

 

For the many who don’t know and sadly, for those who forgot, Jo-Anne joined the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1987 and was named the teams business manager in December 1988. The title should have been Business Miracle Worker! She became co-GM with then head coach Steve Goldman a month later! As general manager, Polak became the first woman to hold an executive role in the Canadian Football League and the first woman general manager of a North American sports team. She held the position of general manager until stepping down in November 1991. I first met her in the off-season of 1989. I was heading into the locker room for a workout and she was there hosting a tour and working on her latest marketing marvel to re-connect fans to a team that had under-achieved like no other. The team’s hopes had been placed on the shoulders of Canadian RB Orville Lee, QB Damon Allen and K Dean Dorsey. Lee was drafted 1st overall the previous year, Dorsey had returned after a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and Allen arrived from Edmonton thanks to his connection with Head Coach Steve Goldman . The team also acquired warrior OL Gerald Roper and Rob Smith in 1989. Smitty beat Matthew McConaughey to punch when it came to not needing an excuse to go shirtless! All were significant pieces in the effort to build a team that could compete. 

Truth be told, Jo-Anne inherited a 6 ring circus. I could go on about my teammates and their love for Jo and I could go on about how she changed the football landscape in Ottawa and how she excelled in what was an “old boys” setting but that would be too easy and too obvious.

Yes, when we got our pay cheques the morning after a game we would  indeed race to the RBC on Bank St. and First Avenue before team meetings, to get them cashed knowing full well that there may not be enough money in the teams account to cover the payroll! Forever teammates but in that moment, arch enemies! Nothing personal but I got to get paid! Some guys got paid and some guys came back pissed off! Funny how you could pick them out in the crowd!

I could go on about the charity hockey game between the Rough Riders and the Perth OPP and how it got out of hand real quick, like at the drop of the puck. Ah, alpha males!!  Jo was our “coach” and she got out from behind the bench real fast. As the competitive energy rose, she took on this panicked look on her face! She booked it away from the bench and into the stands despite our assurances that all would be fine. She arrived worrying about  about branding and selling and was now worried about a full line brawl! Yes, Damon Allen always played the wing furthest away from the bench so he could extend his shift to about 7 minutes at a time and yes, Loyd Lewis would undo his skates between each shift and get riled up when he would miss a shift as he laced back up!

For me it was about her leadership under very personal and challenging life experiences.

The first came on July 5th, 1989. We had played the Toronto Argonauts the night before in pre-season play. Guys were on pins and needles knowing the roster was being cut down. I was in a special teams film session when I was told Head Coach Steve Goldman wanted to see me. There was a pause in the entire room. Was I being cut? Perhaps traded? I had a great training camp and had really found my groove going into my 2nd year as a pro. When I entered the office I saw Jo-anne first. I had laughed about a million times with Jo by then and when we looked at each other, she had an expression of sadness. I thought, “shit, I am gone!”.  Steve was seated behind his desk. He was clearly uncomfortable so Jo-Anne took the lead and I think Steve and I were both glad she had.

That morning, my cousin David had been struck by a car and had passed away.  He was working for a courier company and had been making a delivery downtown when the accident occurred. David was the oldest of 3 boys. His father is brilliantly funny! At social events, Uncle Gerry would make my dad laugh until his lungs fell out. Still does to this day! Aunt Claudette did her best to eliminate the hi-jinx, largely because Gerry’s humor was at the expense of french hockey players even though he and Claudette were fluently bilingual! David has two younger brothers, Shawn and Chris. Shawn was the quiet thoughtful one. Chris, known as Cricket and Boots, had more energy than anyone I had ever met. I didn’t get a lot of details when I was given the news. I just knew the loss was going to carry a lifelong magnitude that no one should ever have to experience. I know because I had a sister pass away when I was 4 and she was 5. Her name was ‘Jo-Anne”, and she was likely as spirited as my boss. Jo-Jo was riding a bike that was too big for her and she had fallen into a parked car, bumping her head. No need for details but I still cry to this day when I think about her. I imagine Uncle Gerry, Aunt Claudette, Shawn and Chris will always shed a tear for David as well.

Having Jo-Anne there, sitting close by as I called my Uncle Gerry, not knowing what to say or do will be etched in my memory bank forever. She wasn’t just about the bottom line and football. Jo was about the relationships.  In the blink of an eye, she had earned my trust. She was a “show me, don’t tell me” type of leader! Always had been, always will be.

The second memorable, emotional moment came in 1991. I had established myself as a CFL pro by then and was part of a team that had a lot of potential. In the off-season, the team signed big name free agents Glen Kulka, Tony Cherry, the late John Mandarich, and David Williams. Some would argue that the team crossed the line in terms of the unspoken gentleman’s agreement that teams not sign other teams big name free agents. Some would call it the art of collusion! Coach Goldman and Jo-Anne opted to go big and create some positive heat around the team. The result was a vengeful group of competing General Managers. Fortune favors the bold but it could also come back to bite you in the ass.

We played Calgary on October 13th. I injured my knee and had anticipated being placed on the teams injured list. It was an eventful morning after the game because the team doctor opted to drain fluid build up in my knee. I was assured it would accelerate my return to the roster. When he drew back the syringe, there was blood and not the fluid he had anticipated. This was indeed good news. My knee was fine. I did have a 2 inch tear at the base of my quad but that would heal. I was going to miss some time but nothing to worry about. At least that’s what I had thought. Now, in the CFL, teams use re-callable waivers as a tool in building their weekly rosters. If a player is place on re-callable waivers and claimed, the original team can recall the player. Through all of this, the player has no idea all of this is going on. We are just a pawn in the game of football life! The fly in the ointment is teams can only place a player on re-callable waivers once a season. Now, if a player is injured and is placed on waivers, the odds are a team won’t claim him because they don’t want damaged goods. That is in a perfect world but things were not perfect between other teams General Managers and the Riders. Ah, yes…those vengeful general managers?

So, out of the blue, I get a call the next day from a guy I know from my football circle that I choose not to name. He is chatty with me than asks me about my knee. I told him that I would be fine. I explained the injury believing I could trust him. in football, trust, like contracts, is often broken. The next morning, I am called into Steve Goldman’s office. He broke the news that I had been claimed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I was stunned. He went on to tell me that I was placed on waivers in a bid to hide me because of my injury and that Hamilton had crossed the line and claimed me. I asked him how that could happen. I then learned that I had been placed on re-callable waivers earlier in the season. WHAT! In a blink of an eye I was property of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In one moment, I was on the rise and an active community member and the next, I was an after thought. I remember flying to Hamilton and being met by absolutely no one from the team and staying at some roach motel in a sketchy part of town! What a disaster!

When the news broke, I went to my apartment to pack. Jo-Anne had been on her way to Fort McMurray for a charitable event with Bobby and Dennis Hull when she called me. Before I could get pissed off she apologized and was in tears which led to my breaking down. The transaction had not been her call. Our conversation, her dismay and apology was genuine. In that moment, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was no longer a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders but would forever be connected to Jo-Anne. Here is the kicker. She was going through her own difficult time as she and her first husband had separated.

I am grateful. Who wouldn’t be. It’s not everyday you spend time with JP Superstar. I know being the first female GM of a professional football team was not easy but she did it with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a diet coke with Wendy Lisowski laughing her ass off in the passenger seat!

The cool thing about Jo was she could sell. Whether it was kazoo or paper airplane themed nights or convincing me to wear a lobster suit and host the teams keynote off season fundraiser!

The next season, as a member of the Tiger-Cats, I paid Jo-Anne a visit with a couple of teammates in tow. No appointment necessary. We walked into her office, hung out with her and laughed. My teammates were astounded. Then, to no one’s surprise, Jo gave the guys tickets to the game so they could hand them out to people we met downtown.  The guys added about 12 new female Tiger Cat fans to our fan base that afternoon while walking around Sparks Street!

There will never be anyone like JP Superstar! She had me at hello! Can’t say the same for opposing GM’s like Cal Murphy, Bill “The Undertaker” Baker or Joe Zuger! All great guys but don’t take this personal when I say, with Jo…it was personal.

I can’t tell you the score of any game but I can talk Jo-Anne Polak until the paper planes land from the top of the south side.

——————————————

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17