How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Kali Mera..Ti Kanis?

Can you tell where I spent my vacation this summer?  Omorfe elada…Beautiful Greece…I had an amazing time…beaches, cafes…restaurants…(why did I come back again?)…I started off my blog with the extent of my conversational Greek.  For those of you that have never been to Greece, a Greek restaurant or on the Danforth…(for my Canadian friends)…I said Good Day..How are you?

Now you would think that would be enough to have a full conversation with someone in Greece but funny enough it wasn’t.  They always answered and continued the conversation (who knew it wasn’t rhetorical?) .  The amazing thing is that we found a way to communicate – usually using hand gestures interlacing English words with Greek words…regardless of the how, the point is that we did communicate.  Aside from the obvious hand gestures in the cab ride to the airport that seem to be universal, we found innovative ways to find a common mechanism for communication.

Another benefit of traveling to Greece aside from the Frappes and Mythos beer…(umm…why did I say I came back again?) was the great international TV commercials.  The satellite feed that I watched daily when I was not at the beach showed a plethora of languages, images and product names that I have never heard of before.  There were commercials from Hungary, Czescovlakia, Italy, Germany, Spain and of course Greece.  They ran the gamut of products from hand sanitizer, to potato chips to insurance and of course my favourite in any language…beer!

Now I did not take any crash courses in European languages prior to my trip…nor did I possess any special Rosessta stone,  however after some time I realized that some commercials resonated with me more than others did.  I would even make it a game attempting to figure out the product or service before the commercial ended and kept a mental score of my progress.  Let’s just say that I did not do very well.  After further inspection of the commercials that I did guess correctly I started to notice a familiar trend.  The visual images, music and situations – universal cues to effective messaging were still getting the point across regardless of language.

Since the dawn of time ancient civilizations have been using easy to understand symbols/concepts to ensure that the intended message was always delivered efficiently and effectively.  Thank goodness that familiar symbols are still common practice in today’s society especially when you are looking for the correct bathroom in a foreign country. (we will save that story for another day).

The sender and the receiver attempt to connect on what I call the comprehension overlap…a set of concepts, symbols and gestures that I understand and a set of concepts, symbols and gestures that the receiver understands…any overlap is the communication field of play.

Effective communication is key to success on any consulting engagement.  It requires providing the right communication at the right time through the right channel…(I think that marketing maxim works for almost everything!)…and clearly outlining the change timelines, objective, benefits and affected areas/individuals. In essence, a change management GPS effectively navigating an organization along a predetermined culture change roadmap.

Effective change communication should always provide:

  • Description of Change – Whether large or small, it is essential that the reason for change is clearly defined by senior management outlining all contributing factors
  • Benefits of Change – As this change will undoubtedly require a change in day to day process, clearly outlining the specific benefits by group and job function is tantamount to invoking and sustaining culture change
  • Timeline of Change – Adhering to a strict communication timeline with messages from various levels of the organization at varying points in the project are essential to keeping the change momentum during the engagement

What I have found in my experience is the key to any successful change management strategy is ensuring that the communication is early and often.  It is also vital that various communication formats are utilized to ensure an increase in message uptake. This would include email, message board, working sessions, weekly status and town hall forums.

Oh look another beer commercial…a rabbi and priest walk into a bar…classic

Related Posts