March 31, 2011

It’s funny – when you’re constantly surrounded by certain language, it becomes completely normal. It’s also funny to me to be in meetings when a lot gets said, but not a lot gets done. I have the mindset of a doer; I like to get things done. I’m not all about feel-good meetings that don’t result in concrete next steps. See why I do the job I do? And I’ve learned a couple of lessons – most important being that if your doers don’t understand what the next steps are, things don’t get done. At the same time, there’s an appropriate time to break it down and there’s a totally different time to dress it up.

Sometimes, for the sake of appearances – and very rarely for the sake of conciseness – you need to use a fancy vocabulary. Analyze = compare, validate = ok, localize = customize, parking lot = we’re not talking about it now. It sounds good. It condenses ten specific steps into one generic step. It makes it vaguely understandable to someone who doesn’t really understand what’s going on. It works in the “idea”, planning type of meetings. It’s also good for status reports.

But I never expect this language outside of a specific work situation. The specific situation being that I am summarizing what’s going on to someone who’s not doing the work. And the other week, I had a mostly non-work conversation just like this. It dealt with work, but this was a friendly conversation – peer to peer – no need to try to impress. I actually had to take pauses and think, Do I really have any idea what you just said – because it sounds awesome but I’m not really sure? It was incredibly disconcerting. In fact, I wanted to stop asking questions because I didn’t really understand the answers I was getting and that’s annoying. Then it got me thinking – do I do that in non-work situations? Because I know I do it at work (where co-workers understand what I’m talking about). But it shouldn’t seep into other areas. Just one more thing to be conscious of – always know your audience.


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