Making Sure Everyone Knows What You Mean

Making Sure Everyone Knows What You Mean

I tell this story frequently, so forgive me if you’ve heard it.


I had been in Northern Ireland for about 72 hours. I was a touch jet lagged, sure, but I think I still had every right to be confused when one of my friends asked me, “I need to get notes out of the hole in the wall. Fancy a dander to city center?”


I blinked a few times. Dander, I got – that’s just another word for walk. City center I figured was downtown. But hole in the wall? Where I was from, that was a potentially dodgy eatery where you’d get really good arroz con pollo. And notes? Like ones you get passed in study hall?


Thankfully, my friend realized that I had no idea what he was talking about, chuckled a bit to himself and told me that he had to go to get money (notes) out of the ATM (hole in the wall).


That was the first of about fourteen million more times that first year where I had no idea what anyone was saying. Things took donkey’s ages (a really long time), people were banjaxed (confused/exhausted depending on context and location), and I was asked if I thought someone came up the Lagan in a bubble (did I think they were born yesterday?).


Clearly, I learned a lot about context clues.


Just like I needed a Northern Irish lexicon during my life there, new employees need a lexicon for your culture. Heck, long time employees need it too! You need to make sure that everyone knows what you mean when you say you are “people focused” or what you mean when your mission statement says you’re “innovative”. If you’re not clear on what you mean, you leave people confused at best and completely on the outs at worst.


It may seem like too much, but it’s not the craziest idea to make a lexicon, a wee dictionary, of your company culture. Make it a team activity! Order pizza! Use white boards!


And then circle back and tell us how it goes!

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