Lost In Translation: Why Leadership Teams Need to Speak the Same Language

By Business Development Manager Alexandria Nunweiler

In order to unite and understand each other, companies often choose popular industry buzzwords to explain their business, identify their people, and differentiate their products. The Walt Disney Company famously calls their employees “Cast Members” while Google popularized the title Chief People Officer, as opposed to the standard Chief Human Resources Officer, for Laszlo Bock. This corporate speak is an easy boil-down of company culture and expectation.

Instilling company culture begins with language like this from the initial point of hire. Continuing development requires the same use of language to build stronger bonds and strengthen culture. However, many HR departments issue training that does not speak the same language. Why?

What are we missing?

A simple question requires a simply stated, but hardly simply implemented answer: time, budget and people. Balancing these three, while fit for the likes of Cirque du Soleil, is something that talent teams practice every day. Usually one of the smallest departments in a company, talent teams tend to be outnumbered one practitioner to every 500 employees. With this ratio, attempting to get every Cast Member on stage singing the same song requires the direction similar to that of the talent at Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice).

In the L&D world, practice three times over means preparation for programming and reinforcement, among other things, to actually implement behavior change. But if training is naming a population Front Line Leaders when the company is issuing that raining for Supervisory Project Managers, the language matters and often makes a difference in the experience.

Hiding behind the balancing act are ring leaders requiring the use of their logo, their philosophy, and, the most dangerous of all, their language to those implementing the training. This adds one more limiting factor to time, budget, and people… rules.

Speaking the same language

Leaving the lions, tigers, and bears out of off-the-shelf training, talent professionals ought to implement their own language to instill culture, apply best practice, and ultimately shape their people.

Content that provides the green light to open-sourcing, customization and in-house facilitation is the best use of time, budget, and people while eliminating the usual rules. Make use of your language and the connotations of that language. Train leaders to excel at communicating within the same dialect for the same purpose and you’ve tackled the first hurdle in changing behavior.

An organization’s language matters. It brings everyone to the same stage and allows the Head Cheese to affirm that “Everyone is neat and pretty—so on with the show!”

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