You don’t say?

joe —  Sat 19-Dec-09

“ ‘Our employees our are best assets.’ What do we do with assets? We use them. We buy and sell them. We depreciate them.” – Dennis Bakke, Joy At Work

If you want to learn a lot about an organization, listen to their words. Words are often a hidden tunnel into the soul of corporate belief. What words permeate your office?

There is a big difference between an individual’s vocabulary and that of the organization. One represents a person’s attitudes while the other the culture of the company. If you have philosophical differences with your boss and are thinking about moving departments look to see how similar his vocabulary is to the rest of the company. If they are similar, moving departments may not be a bold enough move.

words.pngI once had a boss that came into our company after an acquisition and referred to our engineering organization as “the factory”. This was quite a shock to a group of extremely talented, creative individuals that dealt with cutting edge technology. While he never considered it a pejorative term, it did reflect that he wanted engineering running a tight, deadline focused environment that emphasized efficiency. Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you signed up to do.

Thankfully the term never caught on with executives, mainly because it did not represent their beliefs. In fact what did emerge was a new word that did catch on for a while – “the labs”. The word labs represented an environment of research, creativity and risk. This was the true spirit of my company and it is what I had signed up to do.

Check your company’s vocabulary. Is it aspirational? Does it speak to values that you aspire to become? Don’t look at the company vision or values statement – those are crafted. Listen to what people say. It is easy to sit down and write a well crafted, inspirational statement. It is very difficult to have an everyday vocabulary that belies one’s intent. In the consistent and routine vocabulary lies the truth.

Today’s Question
Take some time over the next couple of weeks and make note of the common words that are communicated in the different parts of your organization. What do they say about your company? Now, listen to your words. What are you communicating to your teams?