Do you speak a foreign language? I'm not talking about Spanish or French or Chinese. I am talking about the language of your company and your work. Or as it is called in the 21st century, "speak." Most companies have their own jargon--language filled with acronyms and abbreviations.
When "speak" becomes part of everyday conversation, it is easy to forget not everyone, including clients, customers and associates understands the language.
Not only does this apply to jargon and terminology but also to procedures and processes. Processes that are second nature because you've been doing them routinely, may be unfamiliar to someone else working with you.
It is important to see things from other people's perspectives. Take a step back and think about how you communicate with others. Do you use a lot of jargon? Do you take enough time to communicate expectations or explain procedures? By taking a few extra moments, you will not only save yourself time but reduce frustration and most importantly miscommunication with others. Here are a few examples:
- During a recent workshop a client explained that he didn't communicate the process and timeline for scheduling job interviews for a candidate his company was trying to place. My client realized that he knew their company's next steps but did not explain them to the candidate. The result were many emails and phone tag (taking lots of time) and the potential risk of losing a qualified candidate because the candidate didn't know his status in the process.
Action: The company is putting together workflow charts to be used internally. They are also creating workflow charts to share with the clients and candidates explaining their strategies, expectations, procedures, action plans and timelines.
- Another client, new to a company, was hired to build a sales force. Several executives in the company don't understand what he is working on and are questioning his slower than expected progress.
Action: The client needs create a project plan, including timelines and make a presentation to senior executives. A communication plan needs to be included to keep information flowing.
- Giving a 30 second elevator pitch...a brief description of one's business is common at networking events or meetings. Have you walked away from someone having no idea what the person or their company does? Do you have to explain what you and your company does?
Action: Think about your elevator pitch. Is it understandable to someone who has no knowledge about your business? Best test, try it out on a third grader.
- Another client is going to review their web site because it doesn't convey what they do in terms that someone, with no knowledge of their industry can understand. Have you wondered what a company does after visiting their web site?
Action: Ask someone with no knowledge of your business to visit your company web site and see if they can explain what your company does.
Many years ago, prior to doing a workshop for a company, I asked my contact, with some embarrassment about "Octel," a phrase I heard many times in their offices. I was embarrassed because I thought that maybe I should know about Octel. I learned that Octel was their telecommunications system.
Do you assuming that others have the same knowledge that you have? Perhaps the best approach is talking to people as if they don't know anything at all. But be careful. You don't want to come across as smug or condescending.
Here are some useful phrases to avoid sounding patronizing or arrogant:
- "You may already know this...so stop me if I'm telling you something that you already know."
- "You probably know this but I just want to clarify a few things."
See if you catch yourself using your "speak" or making assumptions. Slow down and think about your audience and how important it is to communicate effectively so you don't waste your time or anyone else's.