— It’s not just the words…
WARNING: Colorful metaphors, including PG-13 language follows. Don’t read if easily offended since, generally, I try so very hard to never offend…!
So, I’ve got this client… (as my friends know, most of my really good stories start this way). Anyway…
I’m working with their leadership teams (multiple levels), and during a recent mid-manager session, one of the participants commented that it was great to have a “common language” for all the managers.
This, of course, is music to my consulting ears, so I ask him to elaborate.
He said well, we can discuss things now like “empowering employees,” “resolving conflict,” and “active listening,” and the term means something to us, as opposed to (in the past) not really being able to verbalize these concepts.
Now, I’m really jazzed, so I ask for specific examples. In retrospect, this could have been an error in judgment on my part… live and learn.
So, this participant then says, “Well, everyone now understands what we’re talking about — what we’re doing — even when getting “chewed out.” He says, “It’s not an “ass-ripping” anymore, it’s “feedback.”
“It’s not an ass-ripping any more, it’s feedback.” You gotta admit, that’s funny. I could hardly catch my breath I was laughing so hard.
After normal conversation resumed, however, it became clear that what he had said, though funny, was actually quite accurate. And it isn’t just a play on words.
Taken out of context, with no management or leadership process in place for continued communications and real feedback, an “ass-ripping” is just that. Used in the productive context of regular and frequent communications and clearly defined expectations, within a defined performance management process, it really is, now, “feedback.”
I learned a valuable lesson that day (well, TWO lessons if you count “don’t ask stupid questions like that” as a lesson): Words matter, because that’s how we frame situations within our environment. It’s not a simple play on words if the new frame of reference is different than the old.
This “common language” thing can really make sense.
How about in your organization?? Are you still “ass-ripping” or are you “providing feedback?”
Think about that.