These simple English words generate productive conversations; yet are considered most challenging. Here is an example:
At a technology conference, the keynote speaker’s topic was obsolete technology and how advisors must upgrade their obsolete technology, or they will fail. At the end of the presentation, I asked What is the definition of obsolete technology and How will advisors know if their tech is obsolete? After pondering the question, the speaker - who worked for a software company - couldn’t answer. He asked a colleague for help, whose answer was “While we can’t define it, we will know it when we see it.”
Software vendors aren’t the only ones challenged to define their jargon or catchy phrases.
Advisory firms have a language-barrier culture, and their frequent use of buzzwords is one reason. As a technology consultant, I am always prepared to advocate for firms and liaison with vendors. Over the years, I’ve had to advocate also for your staff who don’t understand what you said or requested. Here are two scenarios I frequently experience when talking with advisors:
- Workplace conversations filled with jargon that may not relate to your needs or problems that you’re trying to solve
- Workplace conversations focused on a solution that may not be the right one. Little time is devoted to What, How, and Why.
When staff’s first response is “huh?” as they work on your request, you have a problem. A few changes can create productive conversations and lead your firm to the right solution.
Encourage conversations in English – I frequently hear the phrases “upgrading our tech-stack”, “deliver an amazing client experience”, and “seamlessly streamlined automated processes”. My first response is What do these mean and How do they relate to your firm and your client base? Advisors are challenged to answer and don’t always look to the best place for help – your staff.
Staff don’t always understand what you are saying when you use jargon for your requests. However, they do have good firm insights and undersand your client base well. They can explain what new technology features your clients may appreciate, why your CRM (or other tech) is frustrating to work with, and how you can improve processes that have bottlenecks. Let them speak - in English.
Begin your conversations with What and How, and follow-up with Why – Have you ever focused on the solution when making a request ("Let's build out a report with these columns…") only to follow up with “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant” when your solution was delivered?
Begin with your business need, not the end result. Here is the information (What) I am looking for, How I intend to use it, and Why this is important to me/my clients. Invite staff to ask questions to make sure they deliver what you mean, not just what you said.
Promote a firm culture of colleagues, not subordinates – As a consultant, I’m expected to ask What, How, and Why and better understand your jargon and your requests. Yet, I noticed staff without a “C” in their title don’t seem comfortable asking those questions and ponder your requests without asking because they believe “do as you’re told” is part of your firm’s culture.
You hire staff with good communication and problem-solving skills and then tell them how to do their job while delivering your solution. You use colleagues to discuss ideas and work through problems. Think of staff as colleagues who can help in the same manner. They have more answers than you think.
What, How, and Why – Words everyone understands.
Contact us to discuss your next technology project - using productive language!