Keep Talking about your Words

Which words?

Your words.

Which ones?

Whatever ones are the most important to you: Which are the ones you want everyone to understand most clearly, and without confusion?

I’m somewhat of a stickler about words and their meanings, for our vocabulary is one of the most powerful tools we have at our ready disposal. Therefore, it drives me crazy how so many words in our spoken languages have more than one meaning.

Take for example, ‘word.’ Surely there can’t be confusion with that one!

Ready for this? Here’s what came up when I typed "define:word" in Google Search:

Definitions of word on the Web:

  • a
    unit of language that native speakers can identify; "words are the
    blocks from which sentences are made"; "he hardly said ten words all
  • a brief statement; "he didn’t say a word about it" 
  • news: information about recent and important events; "they awaited news of the outcome" 
  • a verbal command for action; "when I give the word, charge!" 
  • discussion: an exchange of views on some topic; "we had a good discussion"; "we had a word or two about it" 
  • parole: a promise; "he gave his word" 
  • a word is a string of bits stored in computer memory; "large computers use words up to 64 bits long" 
  • Son: the divine word of God; the second person in the Trinity (incarnate in Jesus) 
  • password: a secret word or phrase known only to a restricted group; "he forgot the password" 
  • Bible: the sacred writings of the Christian religions; "he went to carry the Word to the heathen" 
  • give voice: put into words or an expression; "He formulated his concerns to the board of trustees"

Related phrases:    word of mouth   word processor   word processing   word wrap   microsoft word   stop word   word count   the word   key word   word up

"The internet is made up of words and enthusiasm."

~ Erin McKean: Redefining the dictionary. (a TED Talk)

Make it stop!

No… you want to keep it going!

Talk about your words as you use them. Have the words themselves be the topic of conversation; we recently had it happen here on Talking Story with the word ‘optimism’ and it was a great thing!

As a workplace coach I advise managers and leaders to create their own Language of Intention. We do it here, we do it on MWA Coaching and on Joyful Jubilant Learning, and you can do it in your own context, and within your own team.

Hawaiian words, English words, even made-up words (blunderrifix ring any bells?)” in a way it doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as there is agreement among those using them, so that understanding is consistently clear among those speaking the workplace language.

Define them, and then honor your definitions. Allow your usage to trump the dictionary ”“ I mean really, how many of your co-workers keep the dictionary handy when they talk story with you?

Still, there will always be certain words doomed to eternal misunderstanding, and others forever used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be (management versus leadership is a classic example).

What are we to do then?

Keep talking about them. Renew the conversation every time new players arrive on the scene, or as other variables change (‘economy’ is an interesting one right now).

Allow hot-button words to be the provocative triggers they have the potential to be. Turn their minefields of misunderstanding into fertile ground for conversation.

What results can be pretty fascinating. Conversation can lead to new agreements you hadn’t been aware you’d needed.

Here’s a great review:
The Best, Yet Most Underutilized Tool for Communication There Is.

Working with Your Passion

Just back from four days on the island of O‘ahu, with the last two spent at the inaugural run of PodCamp Hawai‘i, and from the standpoint of someone who has spent much of her career in the catering and convention planning business, it was impressive.


The attendance was not huge, but this was a conference you would not describe as small – not by a long shot. It was truly testament to what can happen when passion becomes part of someone’s work, in this case the work of Roxanne Darling and Shane Robinson of Bare Feet Studios. From their site:

Bare Feet Studios LLC is a small, curious, tech-savvy company based in
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, owned by Roxanne Darling and Shane Robinson. We
participate in and advise on New Media and the Social Web to connect
people and solve problems. Let us be your guide to social networking,
podcasting, twitter, online marketing, and personal branding. (And
we’ll be happy to start by explaining all those buzz words! Your
business can grow with them.)

99.9% of us think about doing something grand, but then we allow doubts to snuff out the allure of the grandness, and we shrink back and never get started.

Hard work scares us off.

Then there are the 00.1% like Roxanne and Shane who take their leaps of faith, work solely within the realm of their passion, and get the grand done.

Hard work morphs into satisfying work well done, for it was the work of our most passionate intentions.

Last post I asked you about your influence, and if you are using it. Clearly Roxanne and Shane are, and during the last two days it was inspiring to see the leverage they’ve created for themselves – and for the prospects of technology and social media in Hawai‘i – because they Ho‘ohana, and do their intentional work.

Best of all, I am betting that everyone who attended that conference can now more clearly see how they can make things happen too, whether their own passions are in technology, New Media and the Social Web, or something entirely different. The industry and the vision is not the defining component: Your passion is.

Passion simply means you love the work instead of dreading it: You chose it deliberately instead of getting it assigned to you by someone else. You do it on your own terms.

Read more about Ho‘ohana again, and take your own leap of faith.

If you are in Hawai‘i – or looking for a great excuse to make the trip over here! – keep tabs on the PodCamp Hawai‘i site so you can get involved at some point, for planning has already begun for the next conference. If you want to become an Influencer, you are well advised to surround yourself with people who already are. Catch the energy of their passion, and then trigger your own.

Got Influence?

We all do. The question is if we know how much, and if we take complete responsibility for the effects of the influence we have, and choose to wield. When we use it, influence gives us leverage.

When do you choose to deliberately use the influence you are aware you have, and when do you choose not to? What criteria goes into your decision? How important does an issue have to be to you? How much risk will you incur?

I’ve been thinking about influence ever since listening to General Colin Powell’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama today. Here is a man who has influence and knows it, and he chose to use it less than three weeks before the vast majority of Americans case their final ballots for President of the United States.

We use our influence when we feel strongly about something; that’s pretty obvious.

However most of the time our influence is largely wasted; it’s an asset that we leave locked up inside us.

We needn’t have a world stage like General Colin Powell to use our influence; we get plenty of opportunities every day, even without a Tom Brokaw knocking on our door offering to interview us on Meet the Press.

Talking story with each other is one way. It’s a damn good way. Influence is so much more effective when it’s personal, and when you feel you know the other person, and when there’s mutual care, aloha and respect.

Update: 10/21/08:
How much will General Colin Powell influence you? I read an article this morning by a respected Democrat which may prove counterpoint for you: Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights? By Orson Scott Card.

We are now exactly two weeks from the November 4th elections. Some can’t believe there are still people undecided on who to vote for. Methinks it’s because its so so tough to discern fact from fiction. We do get to the point where our decisions may finally be made as a result of others influence. Do the homework required for your own vote so that you can feel good about those votes you finally cast — in all races, not just the presidential one.

Talking Story: Changes versus Constants

Tuesday Coaching is up on MWAC today, and we’re looking at both change and our constants using this Nānā i ke kumu framework:

Let’s look at “both source and capacity to learn” in another way, as constants (source) and as change (capacity to learn). At any given time, and with any given effort, we are working on one or the other: Either we are

  • Working to maintain our healthy constants, or
  • Working to effect a change we desire.

Further, it is in effecting a desired change that we experience our most elevated experiences with learning.

People will write me after they have read my book, and ask for exercises for the small business or for the single team in a larger organization, saying, "We don’t have access to the resources the big guys have." You don’t need them! This is precisely the reason I blog here in the first place, to offer you possibilities for discussions ("talk stories" as I call them) that can turn into exercises and mini-studies you can personally apply to your own situation and within your own context.

Changes versus Constants is a beauty.

As I have written at MWAC (and again above) we are working on maintaining a constant or effecting a change within every effort we make – sometimes we work on both simultaneously.

To transfer this lesson plan to your team, just set up a flipchart or whiteboard with two columns:

  1. Write "our Constants" atop one, and "Desired Change" atop the other and get a brainstorm and discussion going.
  2. End it with a specific action plan for one of the efforts you talk about.
  3. End the talking about it (say mahalo!) and get out and do it!
  4. When your team has finished tackling it, bring the flipchart out again in another huddle and just ask everyone: "Do we have anything current to add to this, or shall we just move forward with picking our next issue from this list as it stands?"
  5. Repeat the process.

You can use the full coaching on MWAC to help you as the facilitator (by "full" I just mean today’s Tuesday Essay — don’t get overwhelmed!) or you can print it out and distribute it to your whole team — read it together, then start with number 1 above.

Here is a snippet of the Change section on MWAC today:

Are you okay with Change?

Are there certain proverbs or quotes which became aha! moments for you when you first heard them? This was one of mine:

“People do not resist change; people resist being changed.”

—organizational change pioneer Richard Beckhard

That made so much sense to me!

It made sense both in my own experience with when I vigorously resisted change and when I embraced it.

It made total sense when I thought about those successes and failures I’ve had in trying to champion changes that others resisted accepting no matter how good I thought the change sounded, for aha! it just didn’t sound that great to them.

Said simpler, it wasn’t their idea, and they thought it was a lousy idea.

These are the sub-headings of the MWAC Essay today, How Nānā i ke kumu Helps You Embrace Change and Growth:

  • Are you okay with Change?
  • The worst possible Change? To your Constants.
  • Choosing Embraceable Change.
  • You Choose, or I’ll Choose!
  • Choose to Learn.

If you turn any of them into a Talk Story within your workplace, come back and share your experience with us!