Some platitudes are just irritating. Others, used the wrong way (wait, is there a right way to use a cliché?), serve to shut down discussions—and people.
Trotting out a cliché allows a leader to avoid explaining, avoid justifying, avoid having a deeper and more meaningful conversation—in short, avoid being a real leader.
“We need to work smarter, not harder.”
This is irritating for a few reasons. One, you imply I’m stupid. (Otherwise why would I need to work smarter?) Two, you imply that whatever I’m doing should take a lot less time and effort. Three, you leave it to me to figure out what “smarter” means (if “smarter” even exists) when I obviously don’t know or I’d already be doing it that way.
And four, I know you don’t mean the “we” part.
If you know I can be more efficient, tell me how. If you know there is a better way, show me how. If you think there might be a better way but don’t know what it is, admit you don’t know and work with me to figure it out.
Most important, recognize that sometimes the only thing to do, especially in the moment, is to buckle down and get it done—so stop talking and start helping.