The power of communication and what this means for Article 50

So last week I wrote about the dimensions of communication and I was flattered by the response I received. But the biggest impact by far was that only a day or two after first releasing the post that I was hit with the epiphany about what it is we provide in the language industry.

Synopsis:

Over a number of years now I’ve been asking myself what it is I actually do that helps others. Don’t get me wrong I know that I help people and businesses but what is it exactly that they get from me? After writing my, to date, best blog of the year last week I had an epiphany. Whatever way you want to frame it, the answer to long term question has been answered and the answer is pretty simple, but still very profound. I help people communicate in such a manner that they build trust with people who do not speak their language.

With the submission, today, of Article 50 there is never a more important time in our country’s recent history where communication in multiple languages is going to be of utmost importance. And building new foundations of trust are absolutely paramount.

The power of communication

Throughout our entire lives, we’re influenced by our environment and those who communicate within it. It is initially how we gain the knowledge of our first language, but it goes far deeper than that. Our political viewpoints, our life lessons, our futures all begin with how we are communicated to and from where; making things extremely complicated when we get older if our views later differ from those of whom we uphold the greatest amount of respect. When this happens it demonstrates a level of adult development beyond that of the majority (72%), as they have begun their transition into Postconventional Understanding.

If you find the time to read the paper on Ego Development Theory by Susanne Cook-Greuter you’ll gain significant insight into this fascinating area of behavioural science. In short, those who can “break the mould” and begin thinking individually, and further, are the ones who have a significantly more grounded understanding of how important communication really is and rather than impose this upon others, they are more likely to listen and question their own views in order to further their own understanding and development.

Volume of noise

As we here in the UK enter into the next phase of our country’s history, there is going to be a huge amount of rhetoric from both divides rebuking and counter claiming the other sides “body of Truth”. Sadly for us to be able to hear the real discussions we have to filter out all this noise and begin to look for those individuals who demonstrate a far greater propensity to listen and review than they do posturing as “know it alls”. It is often said that the ones to be more mindful of are the quietest in the room and this is very sound advice. All of that said, Article 50 has now been instigated and there is going to be some significant shouting to filter out over the coming 2 years but we, the United Kingdom, need to also become the most attentive listeners throughout this period.

Communication channels

Throughout the Article 50 process, we’re going to be engaged in negotiations with countries who’s primary language is NOT English. (Oh yeah, that old chestnut!!) Well yes, in fact, older than you may think. Religious or not what was written in the 1 Corinthians 14: 10-12 is probably more important on this, 29th March 2017 than ever before.

Quote: “Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”

We HAVE to ensure that over the next 24 months our message is clear, concise and in a language that the receiving party understands. This does not just mean the translated text it means the context of what we are saying needs to be expressed within that text. The people we are negotiating with, need to believe us, trust us and moreover have a positive emotional connection with us. If the information we provide them with does not convey these messages then our future, and that of our children and grandchildren will be in serious jeopardy.

Conclusion

To keep this short I will say this, never has the importance of my job seemed so significant. And never before has an epiphany of that importance arrived in such a timely manner. Accurate communication creates trust, and trust is what builds long-term relationships.

TGL-2017

Within what dimension is AI communication?

Before I start I have to warn you that this blog is going to be a little longer than you’re used to from me!

Synopsis:

AI is a new buzz word amongst a number of my peers in the language industry and it spans across a variety of other industry sectors too. It has been given an elevated profile in recent months with the introduction of NMT (Neural Machine Translation) by Microsoft and Google. This, in simplistic terms, is machine translation in a large neural network trained by deep structured learning techniques. The results are producing some “human-like” translated content, even if the source of the original content is not entirely accurate. They believe that the accuracy will follow over time, and I don’t doubt that it will get better, but these results could have a more sinister impact in today’s modern communication absorption than on face value. I blogged about this previously. Since writing that piece I’ve been privileged to speak with some highly read individuals on the subject matter of AI, one such person was Marc Cohn who is the VP of Network Strategy at The Linux Foundation, and this has opened up my thoughts to a whole new take on why humans and human contact is so much more important when communicating.

The dimensions of communication:

In order to put this into context, I have broken up the way we communicate and given them dimensions.

Frist Dimension – The written word:

The written word is extremely powerful, as the saying goes “the pen is mightier than the sword” but it lacks in so much in depth and colour. Some of the best authors in the world can evoke these images but each one of those images is personal to you and your own journey to the point in time at which you read the words. How many times have you returned to a book, re-read it, and then seen it in a different way? The point is; we create the texture of what we are consuming from the written word based on our beliefs, state of mind, the speed we’ve read it and numerous other, outside and inside, influences. We’ve no doubt all experienced the social media Keyboard Warriors who then suddenly went silent after something was explained to them over the phone.

Second Dimension – The spoken word:

That leads me quite seamlessly into the second dimension, the spoken word. Our choice of vocabulary, our intonation, our breathing, our volume levels all add another level of understanding to the communication. Unlike the written word, when spoken we can express a simple word like “really” to be one of surprise or one of distrust.  A simple tut after hearing a long explanation as to where you were last night, speaks volumes and evokes feelings in both the respondent as with the receiver not possible without wordy exclamation or emoticons.

Third Dimension – Pictures or images:

The reason so many of us use emoticons is because we need to portrait a feeling visually in accompaniment to the written word. “A picture paints a thousand words” is very true and by coupling the written word together with images or emoticons, we can deliver a richer more lifelike message to the recipient but lacking once again the intonation of the spoken word.

Fourth Dimension – Video and Film:

One of the marketing successes of this generation is creating video content which goes viral. Merging the spoken word with moving images evokes a whole new level engagement with the recipient’s emotions and when done right can create an internet success almost overnight. Sadly it can also be used to evoke emotions such as existential angst, anger and other such ugly feelings resulting in fruitful recruiting grounds for those in society with different moral beliefs than the majority of us.

Fifth Dimension – Live music:

When moving into the direct communication from one human being to another there is nothing more powerful than live music. Thought provoking, beautiful poetry arranged skillfully with musical accompaniment and delivered live on stage is about as intimate as it can get in one-way communication. Yes, there’s an argument that the artist delivering this also get’s their feedback from the reaction of the audience making it a two-way communication of sorts, but this is limited to the message being given and does not diverge greatly from the original message. Obviously, this is very subjective and again the recurring theme of the present moment comes back.

Sixth Dimensions – Group meetings:

Meetings all tend to have some form of agenda, otherwise what is the point of having a meeting right? So when these happen there is generally some steer as to where the conversation is going to go. In a business meeting with more than 3 or 4 people present, it is good practice to have a chair of the meeting and with greater numbers, especially when it comes to negotiations, observers are a must. The communication here is usually divided into pack communication and if there are more than 2 packs they can get very loud and disjointed resulting in them becoming difficult to chair. Rules and guidelines of how to conduct oneself at these meetings will add another level of constraint and complexity to the event and in these cases, a single person needs to provide the authority and purvey over the order of the meeting. – The speaker in the house of commons is a prime example of somebody taking on this role. This communication level is rarely very intimate and emotions are usually evoked by pack mentality and belonging.

Seventh Dimension – Face to Face, or One on One

Before I being this final one, I would like to say that all the dimensions listed do not extend outside of the physical realm. I am aware that there is an etheric level of communications that stretches far beyond the limitations of our physical one, but this is neither the time or place to expand on that. There are also others with far greater knowledge and experience in that field, who can guide you through those if you have the desire to understand more.

Face to Face contact adds the final layer to our cake. Not only do we have the optical stimuli such as eye contact, hand gestures and other body movements, we also have all our other senses, smell, touch, and that all important gut feeling (and yes, this does stretch into the etheric). The power of being in the same room as another human being and being able to converse with one another freely is second to none. Engaging with all 5 (or 6) of the senses immerses one in the full spectrum of available emotions and is by far the most revered form of communication available to any sales professional.

Why AI will never replace human beings in sales:

Taking the above into consideration, it is quite easy to see why AI will not be able to replace sales professionals, but only if both parties value human contact. If you’re a sales person hiding behind social media and emails then you either need to up your game or leave the profession. It really is that simple! AI will certainly become good at recognising some written emotions, and most likely good enough to evoke a purchasing decision in a purely transactional sale such as the purchase of most things you find on Amazon, but it won’t be able to create the content needed to steer people down a purchasing decision that goes beyond that. And it certainly is not good enough to produce the levels of emotions created by books like the Haemin Sunim’s “The things you see only when you slow down”. Similarly, back to my industry, the content created by human linguists in marketing and such like will be extremely difficult to reproduce by the likes of NMT.

Where do you conduct most of your communication?

So far AI has managed to encroach into one or two dimensions of communication making it a fairly flat and mundane form, but they are certainly working on others. However, due to the complexity of the physical realm alone, it will be a long time before they can move it away from this flat communication field. It is in this communication field where I see a large portion of my peers hanging out too and consequently where a large amount of scaremongering content is being produced. This volume of content is clouding the overall reality in my view. There is so much noise about unprecedented job losses through to machines taking over the world with an Orwellian precision that it is often all too easy to just sit back and believe it. Yes, AI can determine your emotion by what you post on your Facebook page, but this is ultimately down to you. So be honest how often are your true emotions revealed on your Facebook page? Right now there are only a select few who know your innermost thought, in fact probably only 1 if you don’t believe, and two or more if you do believe.

So in a business world you ultimately have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do my clients what to engage with me?
  • How do I communicate with them right now?
  • In which dimension do I produce most of my content?
  • Can I move clients from one dimension to another?
  • Are my clients wanting to move to another dimension?
  • Does what I provide need a deeper and richer understanding?

In summary, there is a lot of good coming from AI and over the years that follow it will only get better. Yes, there are going to be some job losses, as there were in the industrial revolution, but there will also be new opportunities too. However, despite the quickening of the pace of innovation, things will not change overnight and we will all have the time to adjust, who would have thought 10 year’s ago you’d be reading this on a mobile phone (statistically that’s what 60% of you will be doing), but again there’s nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing,

So here’s the thing, AI technology is here to stay! It is being used in all manner of ways but the one area I don’t believe it will ever take over is real and in-depth communication.

 

Did you already hit your quota for the year? – March 2017

It is trade show fever right now! The beginning of the new financial year is around the corner for some, and it is the end of Q1 for others, but one thing is for sure, everyone is out touting for new business. – Well almost everyone.

I certainly am, I’m attending event after event and typically ones where existing clients are exhibiting. I’m using this time to visit some of our existing clients to ensure that we’re doing all we can to help them and then scouting around for new business in areas that I know we have a catalogue of demonstrable success and consequently very happy customers.

It is actually a really exciting part of my job, albeit a bloody tiring one. Travel, coupled with poor sleep and lack of my usual exercise regimes, all contribute to this depletion of energy but the buzz from speaking with people who I’m certain we can help, more than makes up for it. It is my personal business vice.

So this week I’ve been in our capital city, London. I enjoy my short trips to the capital, however, I have to say that I am glad that I don’t have to live there. The exhibitions I visited this week were very well attended on both days I was there and I had a number of thoroughly engaging dialogues with a great number of potential new clients, notwithstanding some amazing feedback from our existing ones. This clearly added to my good mood, which was established over the weekend prior to it by a truly exhilarating and totally awe inspiring concert from the incredibly talented Laura Marling.

Being in this mindset has enabled me to be present, attentive and empathetic with everyone I met, both at the event as well as travelling to and from it and whilst dining out throughout the 3 days I was away from the office. This presence also allowed me to become an observer from time to time and it was during this observation phase that my blood boiled over once again.

You may remember my rant– no sorry blog post — about mobile phones a few weeks back and my list of dos and don’ts whilst working a booth at a trade event. Quite evidently these guys didn’t get the memo.

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

I spent approximately 5 minutes watching them before taking this photo and during which time I estimated somewhere around 20 to 25 people stopped and took an interest in their products/ services, picked up a brochure and then walked on. Not once did any one of the 3 sales guys manning the stand look up or engage with anyone during that time. I can only assume that they had all hit their sales quota for the year and were simultaneously closing 3 individual million dollar deals on their phones……No???? Yeah me neither!

So come on, is it any wonder that our profession gets a bad press when this kind of attitude is deemed as acceptable behaviour during an expensive show in the heart of the London Docklands.

I must also say that this wasn’t the only exhibit of poor booth practice I experienced during my time away, but fortunately, I was also blessed with the other end of the spectrum too, a casing example of which was Brother UK.

All in all the quality of the show, exhibitors and new client leads generated was exceptional this week and the follow-up work it has generated should keep me out of trouble for a month or two.

TGL

Wake up and smell the coffee

Every day I have a cup of coffee in fact on the odd occasion I’ll have two, however, the way I indulge in my coffee experience has changed significantly over time.

When I first began to drink this wonderful brown liquid it was way back in the late 70s early 80s and, as with most of us here on this island, it was a cup of instant coffee granules mixed with sugar, milk and water straight out of a boiling kettle. The result was a cup of hot brown stuff that, at the time, tasted pretty good. Today though it has become a work of art!

V60 with wet coffee filters, 21g of freshly ground artisan roasted coffee beans, and 300ml of water poured very slowly (approximately 2 to 3 minutes) over the grounds at a temperature between 92 and 94 degrees centigrade. Not a gramme of sugar in sight and when adding it to my trusty coffee thermos I heat up 100ml of full-fat milk and pour that in first.

All this provides me with a total of 350ml of a wonderful tasting, silky smooth caffeine delight to enjoy throughout my morning’s work and I can honestly say that I savour every drop. – (350 ml because about 50ml remains soaked up by the coffee grounds)

The journey I’ve travelled to get to this point is interesting, and the cups, or at times buckets, consumed have been considerable. But what is clear is that this journey is one that I am still travelling upon and though I am completely satisfied with the results I have today, who’s to say that tomorrow there won’t be another twist or turn in the story which could introduce me to another new technique or process delivering an equally outstanding taste experience difference as with the instant to today.

This is certainly true in the world of localisation too. In order to be on top of your game in this industry, you need to be able to embrace and adapt to change, provided it results in a better outcome for the end client. Of course, there are going to be those clients where the “instant” fix will be all they need or indeed want, but that may very well be because they haven’t sampled the full V60 version yet.

So I would like to set you a challenge today. When was the last time you took a look at your translation or localisation process? When did you last review your desired outcomes? Are you living in the new age or are you still stuck in the 80s? If you want to drop me a line with your contact number to talk about this I’ll schedule a call with you. You never know you might actually be surprised at what you can achieve beyond your current cup of instant.

Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Over the weekend I was privileged to be able to offer some of my time to helping others in a sport I adore. As some of you will be aware I am a qualified British Cycling level 2 coach and throughout the year I have the joy of sharing my passion with all kinds of people from all walks of life and in all age groups. I regularly feel like this is pure selfish indulgence as I can pretty much guarantee that I get just as much out of it as those do who I am honoured to coach. Nonetheless it is purely a voluntary position and therefore it does have to fit in around my other commitments and getting that balance right can sometimes be a challenge.

When Sunday morning arrived I wasn’t entirely rested as the night was a little shorter than usual due to a late night with my lovely wife and then an early wake-up call from my energetic little 3 year old son resulted in some very tired eyes. After a quick breakfast I embarked upon the trip over the Pennines to the the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to be greeted by a very friendly face and a VERY welcomed cup of coffee.

After a short introduction we were split up into 2 main groups and logically all the coaches were together in one group whilst the volunteers were in another. We, the coaches, were then taught the latest in coaching techniques to facilitate the further development of FMS.

So what is FMS? – For those of you who remember the youthful days of climbing hills and trees, jumping in and out of back gardens and kicking a ball around an empty field; you’ll be subconsciously more than familiar with FMS. It is, as the name suggests,  “Fundamental Movement Skills”. What is very sad about having to be taught how to teach these is the fact that we now have a second generation growing up in the western world who do not have them. As for the first generation it is already too late for them to ever reach their full sporting potential in a large majority of cases, but it ISN’T too late to reverse a significant portion of the damage already inflicted; if we all take ownership of what it is we’re failing to do right now.

FMS then! The ability to perform simple tasks such as jumping, skipping, kicking, hopping turning, twisting, balancing, catching, rolling…. the list goes on. It is brutally alarming that we’ve already got one generation arriving into their adult life who are missing these basic skills and a second generation already in the making with the same deficit. Why?? well the simple answer is us! We are to blame really. We’ve allowed our children to not become bored, we’ve wrapped them up in cotton wool and we’ve created a society where protectionism prevails over common sense. We give them electronic entertainment devices to feed their need for everything to happen right here and now and they rarely go outside, especially if its raining, to enjoy simple playtime with their peers.

It has therefore become my job, and coaches like me, to help children find their FMS so that when their raw talent does shine through, and they are picked to progress into the elite training environments of our sport, that they do have a chance to attain their full potential because they’re no longer lacking the Fundamentals.

Applying this same logic to the world of business I wonder how long it will be before we realise that we’ve also got a “fundamental management skills” deficit and that this selfsame protectionism (or as I like to call it the “passing the book” attitude) has resulted in a wave of talent coming through who no longer know how to take ownership. They’ve never been allowed to fail as somebody has always found an excuse for them, “Oh the resources weren’t available sorry they couldn’t deliver on time” or “Ah yes the power went down so they didn’t have access to the internet” or “Actually they did deliver 2 out of 4 so I think that’s good enough don’t you?” Consequently they have now been attuned into finding the blame elsewhere rather than looking at themselves first, and all this from a very early age.

I really don’t want this to be viewed as a “When I were a lad” post, because it isn’t. I’m actually taking ownership of this outcome. I want everyone who reads this to think about their own situation, as a parent, as a business owner or as an employee and ask yourself a simple question. How does what I do make a difference?, and more importantly, what is the difference that it makes? Once you’ve rekindled yourself with this then apply a few basic foundation building skills of your own so that our younger generation can grow up and gain a full and extensive experience of real life, with all it’s beauty and hardship that comes with it. Encourage them to take ownership of their own outcomes and give them the confidence that they can tell you when they’ve messed up without the fear of you blowing your top and then covering up for them. Together we can help realign the next generation of talent with reality, because the world they are going to be living in will be far more demanding than the one we’re all living in right now. It is our duty to ensure that they have the Fundamental Skills of Life to prosper in it.

Feel free to let me know how and what you’ve done.

TGL

Just as true today as it was 4 years ago

A little under 4 Year’s ago I posted a blog about people’s search activity and when I read it today I thought that it would be a great idea to re-post it, as the content is just as valid, if not more so, as it was back then. Instead I’ve copied the content into a new post so that I could add an interesting little footnote.

MAY- 2013

I recently read a post by Barry Schwarzt that highlighted a decision which Google made to drop a service that they said was rarely used and this action got me thinking about why this might be.

Very simply put the service enabled users to type in search criteria in a their native (source) language and then use a drop down tab to choose a different language to search in.  Google would then use its own Google translate MT engine to fulfil the search request in that language and produce the results, again using Google translate, in the original source language .

It was particularly useful if you were searching for legislation changes in foreign countries, market leading influencers in industry sectors in foreign countries and invaluable when researching companies or individuals in foreign countries.

Now some of you may be asking “what’s the big deal? I only ever search in my own language anyway” well that’s the point.  Google has evaluated this service and decided that its usage is so negligible that maintaining it as a service is not worth it.  In other words “People only search in their native language!”

So why is this?

  • Is it because people don’t trust Google translate? There are enough horror stories around to suggest that this could be one of the reasons.
  • Is it because people didn’t even know the service existed? Another very plausible possibility; I certainly only found out about it through accident and I would consider myself fairly tech savvy.
  • Or is because we humans are just too frightened of making a mistake and therefore adding another potential failure variable into our search for answers is just a variable too far?

My personal belief is that it is predominantly just human nature and that we are predisposed to take the easy, or tried and tested, option.  If we haven’t been shown how to use something or don’t understand how to use something then we just won’t do it, which leads me nicely on to why over 72% of internet users only visit sites in their native language and why over 52% will not buy ANYTHING from a website which is not in their native language and only 30% will buy something if the Ts&Cs are in their native language.

Consider the following:

You are walking down the high street and there are two shops both advertising the same thing in the shop window.  Shop 1 is selling this item at a price which is 10% more than Shop 2. The problem is Shop 2 is selling a Dunstabzugshaube and all the specifications are in German.  Shop 1, however is selling an Oven Extractor Fan with the specifications in English, now which one would you buy???

Transfer this simple logic to a website and suddenly even finding the shop becomes a major task if you don’t speak that language.

February 2017

With the next 2 billion internet users to come online not having English as their primary, or even secondary, language the time to start opening up your shop window to a new audience has never been more critical. If you want to learn how to do this effectively and in line with your budget then just get in touch I’ll be happy to listen.

TGL

Ultimately I’m the one who is to blame

All too often in life people are looking for somebody to take the rap if something doesn’t go to plan. It is has stemmed from quite a healthy notion of … “Okay this hasn’t quite worked out right, let’s take a deeper look at where things went wrong so we can learn from our mistakes”  but this has long since become an exception to that initial notion.

Sadly there are a whole raft of bad practises now in play who’s sole aim has become to exonerate blame in the event of something going wrong, my personal pet peeve is the COPY THE WORLD into every email… but let’s not go there right now.

So let’s take this back to basics. I am in sales, I am the outside representative of my company and I have a duty of care to every one of my clients. If something goes wrong it is my fault… NO… it IS my fault!! What goes on behind the scenes has nothing to do with it, what happens in world politics has nothing to do with it, and what happens within the client’s company has nothing to do with- This is my mindset and therefore I am solely accountable for everything I recommend to all of my clients.

Clearly upon dissection of each individual occurrence it is most likely going to have been a fault outside of my immediate control but by taking on this mindset I am doing two things.

  1. I am extremely diligent in my scoping of every project- and I have an amazing team behind me who help me do this.
  2. I am ALWAYS available to my clients and no request or enquiry goes unanswered (I don’t have my head in the sand hoping it will go away).

This clearly does not make me some kind of superman; all this does is makes sure that no matter what I promise I deliver, and the same goes for my personal life too. The thing is, this isn’t just something you can switch on and off at will. Once you start taking ownership, you start to do it in all walks of life and in my view that is predominantly a good thing. However here’s a small word of caution. If and when you do make this mind shift, be prepared to let people down! Not because you’re getting things wrong all the time, but because you will stop taking on everything, as the sheer volume of responsibilities you will have will become overwhelming.  At first this is a difficult one to deal with, especially if you are always one for “helping out”, but believe me in the long run you’ll be thankful that you’ve read this because a little disappointment here and there is much better than loosing your integrity through not keeping your word.

Have a great weekend and be mindful of what you promise.

TGL

A new world of risk within Europe

Over the last 20 years businesses in Europe have become very comfortable, with corporate risk being established as low and indeed very low in some countries. Most of the middle and senior management teams over the last 20 years have rarely had to make decisions that could seriously impact their company when choosing a European export destination and as a consequence have opted for this easy track and become risk complacent. However with a new wave of politics sweeping across the globe this is no longer the case and our safe havens of Europe have taken on a shaky existence.
I am myself a victim of this. Believe it or not, because most of my income can be deemed as coming from a non-sterling source (more specifically the Euro) all the main mortgage lenders here in the UK won’t include this income in the “safe and regular finances” category and as a consequence we currently can’t get a new mortgage. All this despite paying full UK taxes as a UK registered company.
Bizarrely, for those who have not been keeping up to speed with the happenings across the globe, the safe havens of outward investment and export communities are no longer where you would think they would be. Typically the UK has looked to Germany, France, Holland, Ireland, the USA etc as their safe export locations. This recent shift in politics has warped this so much that investors and risk analysts alike now have a preference towards the Middle East, Far East, South America and Africa- (Mozambique and Nigeria to name but two).

So what does this mean for you?

Increasingly the financial stability of the West is being seen as “unstable to severely unstable” depending on which risk factors you include, but what is clear is that “business as usual” no longer applies. 20 years of risk adversity and a distinct lack of risk assessment expertise (the type where you don’t push in a bunch of data into a software program and repeat that well know satirical phrase “computer says no!”) all means that a large persuasion of modern companies are struggling to make decisions and this is killing both productivity as well as company growth. Being able to review a situation and all the data involved and then making a “gut instinct” choice of direction, instead of relying solely on a software package is going to be a step backwards in some people’s eyes. But in reality it is going to be a breath of fresh air to those of us who both know and still believe that it is people who do business and not computers. Good old fashioned common sense is going to make a glorious comeback over the coming months and so if your intuition and instinct has been dumbed down by technology then you may need to just start fine tuning it again as the road ahead is going to need it.

So here’s my first 3 questions:

  • Have you reviewed your risk exposure?
  • Have you opened yourself up to explore new export markets yet?
  • Are all the eggs you have in a newly labelled “unstable basket”?
Exporting can significantly improve your business growth and bottom line profit but knowing where to start and who to speak to about it can be almost as challenging as exporting itself. So if you want to understand more about how to reach outside of the European comfort zone then get in touch.
TGL

English is our lingua franca

It has always been somewhat of a mainstay objection which I come across when talking to potential clients about their need for linguistic services, that English is the company’s lingua franca and therefore all their training and internal documentation is done in English.

How shocking then to see that in one such industry sector (Aviation) that over a 1000 deaths can be attributed to miscommunication between native speaking English air-traffic controllers and non-native speaking pilots. Read more here

It was a Harvard Business Report which highlighted this to me in an article last November Upon a more detailed scrutiny of the data there’s actually an alarming amount of non-conscious (I hope at least) arrogance running through the whole idea that everyone in business speaks English. My hat, however, is most deservedly doffed to the German trade unions, who’s country fair quite highly in the list of proficient English speakers in the workplace, but who insist that delivery of company learning the material to their German workforces is in German regardless of the level of their English competency.

In fact when I made the decision to study in Germany way back in the mid 90s I was told that before I could embark upon that journey in my chosen subject matter I would have to attain a mark that was within the top 2% in Germany in German, Mathematics and English ; and to do this I personally had to go to night school for nearly 4 years. Fortunately, my many sleepless nights were worth it and I managed to get the prerequisite grades required. This level of minimum requirements felt pretty harsh at the time, but I was being re-trained by, and entirely funded by, the Union so they weren’t going to just let anyone do it.

All of this is quite eye-opening but what I found most interesting about the results from the Harvard study was not just the lack of English competency across the board, but the alarmingly low scores in the industry sectors where I repeatedly hear the objection that English is the lingua franca of that industry.

I can personally see that, in light of the recent politic shifts, a new wave of language standards are on the horizon; with many countries from across the globe taking on the German principles that in order to do business with them, although you may be able to conduct every meeting in English, when it comes down to documentation and finalising of the contracts then they will want it  all in their own language, bitte!

Now we don’t want any miscommunication now do we?

TGL

Living in your #phone 2

I recently blogged about some trade-show etiquette and moreover my pet hate about living in your phone. I titled the blog “Living in your phone #part 1” and with good reason. I could probably do a whole series of these and still not find enough vocabulary in any language to describe my love-hate relationship with the mobile phone.

I am fully aware of their uses, I am fully aware of their flaws, I’m also fully aware that we all have a unique relationship with these inanimate objects. But for me to openly admit I love my phone (see love-hate relationship statement above) is actually quite worrying. It has been this realisation that has prompted me to become pretty ruthless in the way I use my phone and judging by my observations over the last month since making this shift, I think there is a huge percentage of people out there who should also evaluate their own relationship with their phone. Do you love it? Is it “your life”? Do you look at it last thing at night and then first thing in the morning before you even get out of bed?

If, like me, you’ve answered YES to any one, or more, of these 3 questions then you may need professional help, or at the very least a digital detox. It is remarkable how many people are now choosing holiday locations based on internet and mobile phone connectivity as opposed to going somewhere because they want to go on vacation.

So what have I observed? How and why has it come about? And what impact has it had on me?

What I’ve observed:

In the last month I’ve been very in tune with the mobile phone habits of everyone around me. I’ve taken mental notes, and I will probably go on to take written notes as I continue with this “one man’s view/study”. People, when staring at this little LED screen, are largely oblivious to anyone else around them. They genuinely have their noses buried into their mobile devices. I’ve seen people walk straight into path of oncoming rush-hour traffic and luckily been avoided by one of the 2 in 5 who weren’t using their phone whilst driving. In fact, on that note, there were a total of 7,966 penalty notices issued in a week of enforcement in November last year, which was a staggering increase from May where just a 2,323 were issued in the same location. (report from the Guardian in January this year) 

During my 2 days in London I was walked into, pushed to one side and plain ignored by people with their ears or heads in or on their phones. I even experienced a group of “executives” out on a business meal spending at least 60% of their entire networking hours stuck in their phones. It has really become a ignorance pandemic and I believe that we should lead a charge to reverse it.

How has this come about?

Let’s be honest I don’t really need to educate anyone here, mobile phones have become, pardon the pun, our right-hand man. Nothing in our lives goes on without us getting some sort of notification to tell us about it. Auntie Judith has her birthday, Uncle Tom is going away for 3 weeks, the dog needs feeding, Lucas needs his medicine, Julia has just reacted to Joe’s photo…. The list of constant interruptions are infinite. And we just keep on adding to them with app after app and social network after social network. – Ironically this blog will also be delivered to a bunch of social networks too, so you see what I mean. We can, however, take control of it and as a very recent convert I can assure you of the liberating qualities some of the following simple actions can have on you.

  • I first of all consolidated my entire social media apps into one folder. I don’t want to give these up completely as they do serve a very useful purpose but I do not need to know about Julia’s astonishment to Joe’s photo followed by Joe’s baffled reaction as to why and the ensuing public airing of their personal dirty laundry.
  • I then turned off ALL notifications for social media. not even that annoying little red number telling me how important these 32 messages between Julia and Joe are.
  • I then consolidated all my news apps into one folder and repeated the same exercise for anything else battling for my 4.7″ of LED attention.
  • Next up was email, the productivity killer of all sales reps. Not a single tone or vibration occurs when I get an email. I have time scheduled to respond to emails on a daily basis and outside of that, if something is urgent, then people can call me. After all I do have a MOBILE phone.
  • I have stopped commenting on political threads with opinion and or reflection of my own. If you comment, you do so to get a reaction, so thereafter you’re ego self is looking constantly to gauge that reaction.
  • Finally I have taken a 4 week break from all social media. This was done so that could break the chains of addiction. The rabbit holes of conversation threads have been an Achilles heal in my life for far too long and I needed to abstain for a period of time in order to break free. Don’t get me wrong, some of the things I’ve written have been posted, I just haven’t checked to see what reaction they’ve been awarded, this is not about me this about me helping others, and I do hope that some of you find it useful.

What impact has this had on me?

I feel the word profound has been a little over used in recent times, but in this case I am going to use it. The profound impact this has had, alongside a series of other life changes, has been overwhelming. I have uncovered so much more time to invest in areas of my life which have previously been neglected. I have been able to listen to and observe things with much greater awareness, and in sales believe me that is such a powerful asset, but most importantly I have been able to take back control of my distractions. I don’t have to answer every single message immediately, I’m not going to lose touch with everyone if I don’t open up Facebook, Twitter or Instagram every 2 hours and I can embrace and even enjoy the benign bickering of my two young children as they push each others’ trigger points with such incredible precision; a talent I am unquestionably envious of because if I knew how to do this that accurately my job in sales would be so simple. In short the return to my phone being an asset as opposed to being a self-imposed life-line has been an exhilarating experience. It is a digital detox journey upon which I’ve begun to travel but one I know that is going to continue throughout the rest of my life as new distractions compete for my attention in the future. Taking back control of this is just the beginning, remaining in control is chapter 2.