Monday, October 26, 2015

From Greek to Great: 7 Steps to Eliminate the Ambiguous Organizational Language

Language is the foundation of any culture, and within each educational organization, it has its own unique language. Some words evoke action while others stir up anger. Some words serve as symbols of pride while other symbolize scars of pain and anguish. If you know the words, you know exactly how to act, when to act and in which manner to act.  If you don't know the words, you'll spend most of your time lost not knowing what anything means.  What leaders must remember is that for many new members to a school, the organizaton's language at times can seem more like Greek than anything else.

In every organization that I have ever worked with, not only did I need to learn every new buzzword but I had to also to learn the etymology behind them. The sad thing is that many times, I learned more by bumbling and stumbling through my failures and misconceptions.  Yes, every organization has its own Greek that it speaks, and if you're a new immigrant to a new culture, there's a pretty good chance that you'll be lost every time you hear an unfamiliar word or acronym.

So what? 
Here's the problem.  Failure to accurately speak and understand the organizational lingo leaves people behind. It also causes them to be less equipped to serve students, and that is a huge problem. If the language and buzzwords create high levels of staff stress, that will ultimately be transferred over to the kids. Becoming fluent in a new organziaton's language can take months or even years to develop if supports aren't provided, but even worse, it isolates newcomers and relegates them to a lower class, and that is an even bigger dilemma.

"To not understand the local language is to demonstrate a lower level of usefulness to the culture. (Gruenart, Whitaker. School Culture Rewired. 2015)

Newcomers who are not provided supports to assimilate to the culture and the Greek that it speaks will be unintentionally ostracized. Essentially, not knowing the school's dialect of "Educationese" forces many to talk less, not more.  So the question has to be this. 

Source:  Google Images
How Important is Your Greek?
Well most organizational languages were developed a reason, to help people better communicate, right?  If that's true, then how important is it that all staff members not only know the language but the hidden meanings within the each word?  If it's critical that every person know the language to help move the entire organization forward, then it's important enough for leaders to provide a platform to not only help new staff members to learn the language, but develop an understanding of what those words look like and sound like in practice. 

Now What?   
Below are seven steps that school leaders can take to ensure that new staff learn to speak your Greek fluently. 
1.  Identify your organization's important buzzwords
2.  Define your buzzwords in written, and verbal form. 
3.  For words that represent a process, provide visual examples of that process. 
4.  Provide a platform for staff members to seek translation services if they don't know what a word or concept means. 
5.  Don't assume everyone has the same definition of a common word. Every word has a different meaning depending on the organization that taught them the word. 
6. Don't assume everyone who has been in your organization has the same meaning of he buzzword. Each person's experience also makes a variation of each word's meaning. 
7. Take time to align your language. Tier 1 instruction does not mean the same thing to everyone even if they've worked together for 10 years. 

From Greek to Great
If everyone is confused by the words you use, there's a strong chance your culture is paralyzed. Words are powerful. They invoke action; they inspire excellence. But they also stall progress and instill fear and uncertainty. Leaders must be careful that their organization's language is clear and specific, so that all members know exactly what the goal is and the action steps that they're expected to take to reach the goal. If leaders can speak in a way that limits confusion and creates consistency, the Greek that we speak will become the great that we lead. 

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