Why would you learn another language? I’d think that for most of us, it’s because you want to understand others, be understood or both. That’s certainly true for me.
When I travel, I take the time to learn a little of the destination language (or brush up on the basics of what I know). The longer I’m at a place, the more I want to immerse myself in the area, the customs and I want to learn more of the language. It really helps to build relationships and makes it much easier when I’m stuck to seek help when I’m away.
By contrast, many of us will be familiar with the idea of people trying to communicate by hairdryer. Gesticulating wildly, flapping their arms about and progressively getting louder…
“Bonjour. Vous désirez?”
[pointing wildly] “Bread, you know… B-R-E-A-D”
“Le pain exceptionnel?”
“If that’s bread. One la-pan then”
“S’il vous plaît, attendez”
[Man walks out with a rabbit]
And believe it or not, this is critical in leadership and relationships in general.
If you want to be truly understood, you must first invest in understanding the person or team you’re with. Their view of the world could be very different to yours. Making assumptions that they think the same as you could lead to plenty of unplanned rabbits.
As a leader of a team, you have some on-going responsibilities in this.
- Speak the language of many stakeholders – individuals in your team, other teams and leaders, executive teams, customer groups, suppliers, more. By being able to do this, and appreciate each view of the world, you can readily provide context and make sure that messages are clear and quickly understood.
- Help your teams speak and understand the other views of the world. This could be to explain why something is happening or helping someone to understand their value to the organisation in the organisation’s terms.
- Introduce/develop platforms to simplify communication. Software developers make use of user stories (or stakeholder stories) to avoid ambiguity with features or functionality. Software and delivery teams using Kanban boards, major incident teams using templates and structured language, and so on.
Some questions for you to think about. How clearly can you:
- articulate the mission/vision/goals of your team or function to any audience?
- articulate to everyone in your team, in language they would understand, the reason their role adds value in the team?
- articulate the work, methods and needs of your team to any audience?
Give it a try. If you find you’re struggling with any of these, talk to a friend, a colleague or better still, your team.