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Thursday, January 30, 2014


I once worked for a chief executive who pushed my thinking and performance in a lot of ways (I’ll call him Ben).  Ben was a classic visionary – it seemed his eyes were always on the horizon.  He was constantly pulling those of us on his team to higher levels of performance, using every tool at his disposal.

One of the things Ben taught me was to try to eliminate the use of the word “hope” from my professional vocabulary.  Ben insisted that when we use “hope” as a verb in articulating the aspirations of our organization (whether at the micro level, or at the macro level) it implies an element of victimhood.  It is almost as if we are admitting that things are out of our control and we are at the complete mercy of circumstances.  To be sure, there are a LOT of things beyond our control, especially when it comes to accomplishing worthy goals in a complex organizational environment.  However, when we say we “hope” for one outcome or another as a result of money/time/effort invested in a particular strategy or project, it is almost as if we are creating excuses (or at least a defensible “out”) for the failure of that strategy or project.

What verb did Ben suggest we use in place of “hope”?  Several suggested replacement verbs work:
Intend     Plan     Expect     Aim     Anticipate

While all are suitable synonyms for the word “hope,” each one implies that the actor has a more powerful role in making the desired outcome a reality.

I have been trying to replace the word “hope” with one of those other verbs for around 10 years now.  To this day, I will slip and use it accidentally.  It’s harder than you think.

I intend to improve my performance in that regard.


  1. I completely agree. Eliminating "hope" helps you assume or expect a positive outcome. Why not just eliminate it, rather than replace? That would also help with clarity in iut communication.

  2. Good point, RS. Clarity of communication is pretty critical in accomplishing organizational goals. Muddlebluster is usually the predominant modality.


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