Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Your Company Language- is it Driving the Results you Want?

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:
I recently had the opportunity to hear David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around speak about the frameworks to creating leadership throughout an organization. And one of the questions he posed to the audience was "How do employees talk to each other?

This got me thinking about the dozens of companies I have worked and currently work with and how they communicated with each other.  Those that have a specific "cultural language" generally have a much stronger set of values and culture, and ultimately experienced greater success.

Talking to each other is actually a small portion of communications within an organization today. So much of communications is electronic. So, what percent of the time are you spending actually talking to others?

Increasing the amount of communications face to face is important to the understanding of the message being delivered and received. Yet the delivery method is just a part of communications.  It is more about the language being used that influences the culture and ultimate success of your company.

Words, acronyms, and stories are key components to your company language. But most companies are not purposeful with the use of their language. The following questions can help you uncover how purposeful your organization uses language, the protocols you have or don't have, and potential areas to improve.

1. How do you teach new employees about company acronyms, stories and lore? Company stories are important to your culture and will provide a means to sharing and demonstrating your values. New employees are often unaware of your stories and the values they are based on. Acronyms can be confusing and cause a roadblock for new employees' productivity.

2. Who is the keeper of company language? To be purposeful using language, there needs to be someone responsible for making sure language is managed. There will be terms used that need to be understood consistently across an organization. It may be a common word like "excellence". Does everyone understand what it means within the context of a specific situation? What is excellence in service or accounting for example?  The definitions will be different.

3. Who are key influencers of your company language? There are influencers in your organization who often impact the language of others. Understanding who these people are is important. They can help to manage and keep your language on the path you want. Language is less likely to become derailed when the language keepers and language influencers are working in tandem.

4. How does your language influence performance and decision making? There are both positive and negative words. The ratio of positive and negative words can influence the psyche and morale of employees.  By identifying words that need to be eliminated from the company's dictionary because they aren't productive and increasing the use of words that produce positive energy and forward velocity you will be strengthening your culture.

Once you understand the gaps in your company's language you can start building a plan for improvement by involving both the language keeper and influencers in the organization.
Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit or or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

1 comment:

Team Engagement Tools said...

Spot on. Well said.

In my 10 year management experience language such as the following is very effective:
1. clarify what the objective is
2. show support "how can I help?"
3. focus discussion on benefits and opportunities when getting stuck