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17 Aug, 2011

The Language of Business by David Finney

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coach Plus Articles|Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles|Small Business Coaching Articles

The Language of Business by David Finney

Can the selection of a single word over another be the difference between a business succeeding and failing? Patrick Butcher, the finance director of National Rail was recently quoted as saying “Yes, we had a hundred year winter. But we can and should do better”. Not ‘will’ but ‘should’.

There is a sense of guilt and an element of resignation about the statement and it provokes the question: if it was used in a company meeting would it inspire attending staff to make the change?

“We need to radically alter our business model has a different energy and leaves the audience more assured of the speaker’s intentions. This was part of a talk delivered by former M&S CEO Sir Stuart Rose at a leadership awards ceremony in June.

Coaches know too well the importance of choosing the right words when phrasing their questions for their clients. They need to keep their language ‘clean’ and their agendas ‘clear’ to make way for the clients to express themselves freely, gain empowerment and take responsibility. They are also aware that an effective ‘challenge’ can alter client mindsets.

Coaches can help contemporary business leaders determine where their communication style sits on a scale that has the provocative goal-setting of Sugar at one end and the ‘quiet leadership’ of Branson at the other.

Charles Handy – in his legendary Donut Principle – advises managers to make it absolutely clear to staff the difference between tasks that have to be done in a specific way and tasks which allow for individual expression and creativity. ISO – the international quality standards organisation – makes this distinction using the word ‘shall’ (mandatory) and ‘should’ (best practice – i.e. is optional) and this is fairly clear for companies to follow.

Employees need to know where they stand, how much freedom they have and probably also want to be a little ‘wowed’ in team talks from their leaders. As we move from the Information Age to the “Conceptual Age” of Dan Pink which he talks about in his book “A Whole New Mind”, this will be all the more critical.

So what is the best language for business leaders to use when addressing their teams? Managers usually have the option to have a private (1:1) conversation with someone in their team or to address the team as a group. In the latter scenario their communication style may depend on the subject and intent of the meeting:

Does the meeting have a specific goal? Is the meeting to simply share information? Has the meeting been arranged to address an issue or resolve conflict?

There are four critical factors to take into account when chairing a meeting or leading a workshop:

Inviting – it is essential to be welcoming from the start and to grab the attention of the group very quickly

Inclusive – people like to feel that they are part of a community and to feel that they are involved

Inspirational – there should be an element of hope and of optimism with a call to action

In touch – the talk should be grounded and take current issues into account

As with all areas of leadership, it is a question of balance and the language of business is a forever evolving protocol that we are still learning to speak.

by David Finney

3 Responses to "The Language of Business by David Finney"

1 | Catherine Cook

August 18th, 2011 at 11:47 am

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In the beginning was the word….

Language also matters because it’s the way we formulate our thinking… and most that leads to new actions, breaking through habits, and creating change. And with words we can share our new paradigms and models, and bring people with us.

2 | Annette Ecuyere

August 26th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

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I often work with those who use words in writing, for many uses, and it is amazing how often they send out their first draft without any thought to editing the piece.
Getting them to think about their reader – or hearer, of their words is often quite an eye opener to them and offers a route in to change their mind set and habits.

I can see how this transfers into the way they, and probably myself, address people with speech.
Thought provoking.

3 | Dora Valerie

May 16th, 2012 at 7:55 am

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I believe that the core in doughnut principle gives us the bit of security and certainty which we all need.

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