There’s a great George and Ira Gershwin song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off©” written in 1937 for the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers movie Shall We Dance. The song is best known for lyrics like “You like ‘to-may-toes’ and I like ‘to-mah-toes’” which refer to the word “tomatoes.” Many other lines compare and contrast differences in the way the movies’ stars communicate and pronounce the same words.
I think of this song every time I walk into a room of engineers, sales and marketing folks, CEOs, and, well, you get the picture. Everyone is speaking their version of what appears to be the same language of business. Do they communicate? It might as well be folks from Mars, Venus, and Pluto.
There’s a lot of duologue going on, but not a whole lot of dialogue.
Depending on where we sit around the business table, we see the same things, only differently. We communicate these same things differently as well. There is the language of finance, the language of business, the language of marketing research, the language of technology. We assume everyone knows what is in our minds, what we are trying to say.
I don’t know what you mean. Unless you make an effort to communicate it to me.
I’m not talking about dumbing down what you are saying. You still are the smartest person in the room, hands down. I’m asking you to find a way to communicate what you are saying so that not only I understand, but the rest of the team also grasps the significance of your insights.
Yes, I understand that your corporate culture still perpetuates “Us versus Them”, discipline-driven, siloed mindset: techies versus sales, geeks versus marketing, R&D versus… well, you understand. No one will communicate. That’s no longer acceptable in the globally competitive business environment of the digital millennium – no matter what the size of your company.
What are you planning on doing about liberating yourself from the status quo of business and technical lingo?
Perhaps it’s a matter of choosing the common denominator between everyone’s discipline, and a set of vocabulary that everyone agrees upon. Perhaps it’s a matter of learning how the other person processes information: analytical or creative, right brain or left brain, tactical or strategic, yin or yang. Perhaps it’s a matter of putting on the other person’s shoes and walking around in them for a while.
When you see the business and technical landscape from the perspective of your customers and investors, you can focus outcomes on What’s In It for Them… instead of What’s In It for Me.
This week, pay attention to what’s happening in those round-table discussions you engage in. They are valuable; everyone’s time is not to be squandered. What can you do to ensure that everyone seated around your business table this week understands what is so desperately trying to be communicated?
When everyone strives to attain this common goal, you all get to “aha” together. Perhaps you are making short strides initially, instead of giant steps. When everyone is on the same page, pulling together, the outcomes of your team’s efforts make all the difference.
Oh, and start this week off by treating yourself to this song: “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Except don’t.
Instead, carry on. Together. Collaboratively.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers.