Communicate Clearly – In Their Language
I forget the comedian but I remember the skit. He asks why it is that when we speak to a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, we do stupid stuff like speak more slowly and LOUDER.
“Excuse me. Where’s the nearest gas station.”
“Yo no hablo ingles senor.”
“I SAAIID WHEERRRE IS THE NEARREST GAAAS STAAATION?”
You know what the response will be. It’s funny. Thing is, we do it all day long. We speak to people in languages that are foreign to them. We talk to them about what we care about – not what they care about. We use terms and speak of goals that are incomprehensible at worst and uninspiring at best. There’s only one solution – learn to speak their language.
As a consultant, I was fortunate enough to serve a non-profit hospital system. They were affiliated with the church. Their hospitals were having significant financial troubles. Of course, we came along and found all this money just lying on the floor waiting for someone to pick it up (at least that’s most of the world’s view of consultants – we actually busted our butts crawling through their general ledger looking for places to remove costs without hurting quality of care. Immediately after that, we took the CEO’s watch, took it apart, reassembled it, gave it back to him and told him what time it was).
We found money. A lot. We went into the board meeting and pitched a plan for closing one of the underutilized facilities and saving a bunch of fixed costs. Millions of dollars. It was a no brainer.
We got tossed. Excused. Asked to leave the room immediately.