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  • Writer's pictureJane R Shantz

Defining terms: the beginning of understanding



I’ve worked a lot with the proverbial movers and shakers. Leaders who manage multiyear transformations and who’ve engaged me to help them orchestrate, lead and implement their changes. I’ve had the privilege of working with these executives in different organizations and in different types of transformation or enterprise change initiatives.


I speak their executive language


We partner really well together and I often only need about 10 minutes with them to understand their direction. But what’s more interesting is that often, other leaders in the same business do not understand their executive’s direction. It’s even happened that I’ll be forwarded an email asking for clarity on something that I could comprehend right out of the gate.


This isn’t unusual.


We even see it with toddlers. Have you noticed that kids can understand other kids, even when their own parents can’t? I remember my 5-year old interpreting my 3-year old’s needs and understanding what he was saying. The same goes in business. Sometimes it just takes a connection or someone who has “been there done that” to be able to define the terms of what is needed in order to make change.


Defining terms is the beginning of understanding. And understanding is how we begin to make change.


Have you been in a meeting with an SME and left not knowing what’s happened? You’re not alone. Even just saying this feels unproductive, doesn’t it? This hinges on a couple things:

1) The SME not understanding how to define their terms in order for the masses to understand their perspective or insights.

2) Not speaking up


I consider myself to be an expert translator – and you can be too. Whether you are the SME or you are the team, documenting and defining terms and words leaves no room for interpretation or assumptions. Otherwise, your team can easily and quickly go down the wrong path, creating confusion and frustration – as well as lost dollars spent working in the opposing direction.


Write it down.

Get aligned.

Read from the same songbook.


Everyone should be able to tell the same story!

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