I was out to dinner recently with loud, happy Mancunians and their assorted friends and as happens, there was one overseas visitor, an Italian from deep in South Italy; Alfredo.
He had no English other than an hello and a smile but we managed a level of communication as we all can; a frown, a gesture, an intonation. (don’t forget the principles from the Insightful Conversations course – emotional language is 55% body and action, 38% tonality and pace and (only) 7% language)
So, we communicated… to an extent….. after a fashion. But it felt like there was an unfairness. Then, from somewhere, the answer came.
“We have no common language” was gloriously turned on its head by adding the word “yet”.
“We have no common language, yet”.
And so we created an equality and communality by starting a language for the evening. “jxhuuu” is tree. “Paaa” is sky. “Yassdu” is Wednesday. But the best was that we found a word for ‘hello’ but no word for ‘goodbye’.
This kind of fits with a brilliant business with whom I am working. They are heading towards a couple of hundred million turnover and have double digit growth and this growth has created language problems; different divisions measure gross margin in different ways, people are promoted into new roles before they have effectively taught their replacements the language of their new roles.
So what are we doing?
We have created a Common Language project. We are all tasked with identifying instances where the same concept or measure is given a different name in different parts of the business. We are also building process manuals so that, on a role change, the incoming person has a bible to follow. Perhaps, in this case, not a bible, but a dictionary.
It seems so simple, but is fundamental to the continuing growth of the business.
Perhaps take a moment and have a look into your own or your clients’ businesses. Would you or they benefit from a Common Language? What could you do to instigate that change?