Save Your Leverage for the Bargaining Table
- On August 6, 2014
The business world is drunk on the word leverage, particularly as a verb. Here’s a shot of what I’ve read recently but not fully understood.
• The company is going to leverage its savings across diverse markets.
• Our program leverages the behaviors of its users.
• Publishers can leverage their offerings across all platforms.
In The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit, author Lois Beckwith says leverage is “a word that is spoken far too frequently and is at best only vaguely understood by all who deliver and hear it.”
When used as a noun, it’s an effective word that means sway, clout, weight, advantage, and influence. Consider these examples:
• Mr. Bewkes complained that if the Comcast merger passes regulatory muster, Comcast will have too much leverage in negotiations over programming.
• While Mr. Cohen has some negotiating power over auction houses competing to sell his collection, he has little leverage in his talks with the government.
When used as a verb, it can mean to increase the return on your monetary investment or, money aside, to use a quality or advantage to obtain a desired effect, as in She was able to leverage her travel experience and gift for languages to get a job as a translator. But we’ve over-served ourselves and made it a buzzword to express many trains of thought.
Leverage now has more questionable meanings than a Long Island Iced Tea has spirits (that would be five).
In each of the sentences at the start of this post, I want to know two things:
• What exactly does leverage mean?
• What’s happening as a result?
I’ve rewritten them and added a result (which you need to have if you’re using leverage as a verb). You might have a totally different take, which is a sure sign that leverage should not be our beverage.
• The company is going to take advantage of its savings from its diverse markets to realize a higher quarterly profit.
• We’ve developed a program that capitalizes on consumer behavior to increase new membership.
• Publishers can distribute their content across multiple platforms to leverage their investment.