Developing a set of professional common denominators comes in pretty handy when collaborating with customers and colleagues.
Now, I’m not talking about becoming experts in mathematics, unless of course, you already are or are dying to do so. However, common denominators are mathematical principles describing fractions, whose denominators share a common multiple.
More importantly, common denominators describe a feature shared by all members of a group. And we all work with groups and teams of people throughout the day. Some of us even call these groups “family.” However, let’s stick to developing professional common denominators, because they are so helpful.
Professional common denominators cut through the chaos of discipline-specific terminology.
Let’s face it. We’ve all gone into meetings where “those” people on the other side of the table might as well have been communicating in Martian. For starters, we couldn’t grasp the profundity of what they were trying to say. Also, we mentally were looking around for a dictionary to check out the meaning of the big words or the buzz words they were using. Then again, they made us feel stupid because we were not familiar with the words they used. Finally, they didn’t come up for air long enough to realize that half the table had tuned out because they were turned off – and marginalized – by all the blah-blah-blah being expounded upon.
To Do: Write down all the words you don’t understand throughout the day. Also, record the context in which the term was used: email, conference call, text, live meeting or seminar. Then, look up the meaning of the words. You will be more informed for the next meeting.
Bonus To Do: In the next meeting, when someone uses a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it for you. I guarantee you aren’t the only person on the call who doesn’t know what the heck the speaker is talking about. (Yes, this bonus activity takes at least one millimeter outside your current professional comfort level.)
Then, create a set of professional common denominators to replace the techno-babble and biz buzz speak.
If you still need to, that is. You see, a remarkable phenomenon happens when colleagues start looking up words they do not understand. First, everyone seated around the table becomes smarter, including the folks using the big, hairy words.
Why? Because all the folks who didn’t know, learned a new professional term. And when they, in turn, start to use that term within their own professional communication strategy, that word becomes more accepted across the organization, instead of remaining discipline-specific.
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Then again, the folks using the fancy words get a professional wake-up call. Often, they assume everyone understands what they are saying. Instead, the question becomes: is there a simpler, more straight-forward term we all can use, in its place, which is readily understood by everyone seated around the table?
If you can learn to work on your word choices together, think about how your actions literally translate into more remarkable and enduring client outcomes. What’s in a word? A lot. And your clients are counting on you and your teams to get it right.
Next steps towards catalyzing your collaboration skills:
- Read these related posts on professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention.
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Babette Ten Haken serves organizations as a corporate catalyst and innovative speaker, strategist, coach and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention, especially in challenging Industrial Internet of Things environments. Babette’s playbook of IIoT team collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. She is an EOS Implementer (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) and a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association.
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