We Need a Common Language

27 Feb

There’s something unique that happens when you are building a transformation driven culture in an organization– folks arrive at your doorstep speaking all sorts of different languages. And by this I don’t mean actual languages as in spoken in different country (well that happens sometime too especially when you are running an international non-profit). No.  Folks arrive as new employees at your organization, transplants from similar places and the words they use aren’t your words.

Over the past year at Feed The Children we’ve had new employees decide to join our team from other non-profits such as Heifer International, Food for the Hungry,  World Vision, Compassion International — just to name a few and we’ve also included the organization World Neighbors in our family. These new team members are passionate and excited about furthering our mission with their gifts and talents. They came to join our team because they knew something amazing was going on at Feed The Children. But, the problem of our community building is that all of these new employees use different words.

For example, at Feed The Children we might talk about the importance of child based community development or the four pillars– two bedrock words when we speak of our international programs and these same words might mean the exact opposite of what we are talking about to a new staffer.

And this is our current challenge: we have to find our language– together. Maybe some of the words we are using right now aren’t the best descriptions of what we are trying to do. Maybe some hybrid version of the best of our now collective experience can be our common ground.

If there is anything I know about organizational leadership, it is this: without effective communication among your team members, it doesn’t matter how good your programs are, they will fail. Unified teams that know how to speak to one another are those who get the job done.

This is why over the next quarter at Feed The Children we are going to be talking more about how we talk to each other.

It’s really a great problem to have, as far as problems are concerned– to be a surrounded by a diversity of thoughtful leaders. But the challenge for us is where do we go from here?

I love the idea expressed by John Kuypers in his book, Who’s the Driver Anyway? Making the Shift to a Collaborative Team Culture: “If you first take a minute, an hour or a month to let go of feeling annoyed, frustrated or critical of the person or situation that may be driving you crazy, you set yourself up for much greater leadership and personal success.”

May we all be more conscious of how we listen and respond to one another. Sometimes common language or not, if we just take a minute to sit with what is before us, we can usually see situations needing our attention more easily.


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