Learn to speak Exco

Learn to speak Exco

Jargon. Arguably the biggest killer of shared understanding at exco. The business world is littered with a lexicon of terminology that baffles even the most ardent scholar of business. When we add the subcultures of technology, marketing, operations, supply chain, finance and any other segment of business we are lucky if anyone has a clue what is actually being said.

In business we are tasked with creating shared value. That is value for our customers. Vale for our shareholders. Value for our business partners. Value for ourselves. Shared value is what makes things happen. Why then do we struggle so much with gaining a shared understanding?

The fact of the matter is that we speak different languages. We don’t understand each other. This is not just to say that we have a merger of cultures, each with their own languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and so on.

The way in which businesses are structured lend themselves to subcultures being created within them. These subcultures have a way of speaking – a verbal shorthand. These are the abbreviations, acronyms and colloquialisms for things that are only relevant within each specific silo.

Exco is no different

Exco develops its own vocabulary as well. It is no different from any other subculture within the business. The difference is that this is supposed to be the melting pot of the cultures. This is where the tone, the vision and the direction are set. Here. Here more than anywhere it is vital that we speak the same language.

Speaking the same language leads to shared understanding. A shared understanding that enables us to move in the same direction; to meet our goals and to deliver shared value.

The trick is to understand the lexicon that your exco team uses. Understand their frame of reference and how they define things. This is especially true if you are new to exco. Make sure that you understand the lay of the land and everyone’s paradigm.

As an example, if you happen to have an Executive Creative Director sitting on your exco; trying to convince them through spreadsheets, numbers and lengthy strategic maps is not going to work. They will not understand you. Not because they do not have the wherewithal to do so; but rather because their paradigm centresĀ around aesthetics, balance and perception.

To speak the language of the ECD you have to put your argument forward in a way that doesn’t alienate them; but speaks to their strengths and builds shared understanding. Talk about more than the bottom line value, talk about how it plays and aesthetic role and brings about balance. Talk about how it improves the lives of those in their silo.

Compromise on words, not the point

I am not suggesting that to win over your exco you need to compromise on your stand point. That you need to undermine your point. I am saying that you need to make your point relevant for everyone who is receiving your message. Build shared understanding by sharing a common language.

In the example used about; the opposite is also true. The ECD needs to build an understanding of the financial, the spreadsheets and the strategy maps because communication happens bi-directionally.

By using words, language, and a reference point that everyone can relate to; the jumping off point for any strategic decision becomes second nature and time is better spent by debating the point at hand; and not the definitions of words being used.