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Discover Benelux | Business | Columns
What communicates? TEXT & ILLUSTRATION: JOSIAH FISK
‘Plain language? What’s that?’
inkling that the job
Like most of us, I have a little canned description of
was ever done (or
what I do that I can trot out during the inevitable (and
needed to be). It’s a
usually quite enjoyable) train or airplane conversation
profession that is all
with a seatmate.
about not gaining attention for itself.
Trouble is, I can’t get my spiel to work. I’ve tried
But doesn’t plain
at least a dozen angles. No matter what I say, it you see Arsenal – Newcastle last week?’”
language need a
That might be okay for some professions. But
While it’s nice to know you’re not the only person
compelling way to
when your job is giving people advice on how to
who can’t communicate the fact that you communicate,
promote itself to the
communicate, the inability to communicate about
I was disappointed that nobody had any suggestions.
public? Probably not. The people who need to un-
This made no sense to me. How could it be that
derstand the value of plain language are the com-
that becomes a bit, well, ironic.
So I resolved that when I attended an international
an entire profession whose function is to help peo-
panies and governments with the horrible commu-
gathering of plain language professionals in Antwerp
ple get their message across could fail to have found
nications. And their awareness is growing rapidly.
this past November, I would ask my colleagues for help.
a way to get its own message across?
They were all sympathetic. “I know,” one sighed.
Yet in a funny way, with plain language, it does
“You say you’re a plain language specialist, and there’s
make sense. The whole goal of plain language is to
a silence, and then you say ‘I take those incompre-
let the reader focus completely on the content, with-
hensible notices from companies and governments
out having to struggle with the language. In other
and make them more readable.’ They say ‘Oh’, and
words, the way you know a plain language expert
there’s another silence, and then they say, ‘Hey, did
has done a good job is when the reader has no
Meanwhile, if you ever get a government notice you can understand, thank a plain language expert. Just don’t ask them to explain what they do.
Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.
Empower your people TEXT: STEVE FLINDERS | PRESS PHOTO If you already know – and can say – what the difference
agers adapt their leadership style to fit the level of ma-
is between delegation and empowerment, please skip
turity of each individual or team. You delegate to new-
this month’s article. But I chose this topic because
comers as well as providing lots of support and direc-
most of the many managers I’ve worked with can’t in
tion. As they develop experience and confidence, you
fact do this, and yet it’s a critical distinction for any man-
encourage their growing autonomy by empowering
ager to be able to make. So, if you’re still reading, think
them more. Try plotting the position of each of your
people on a graph indicating experience and confi-
- Delegating a job to someone over whom you
dence. Doing this makes us think more about just how
have authority in the workplace, means telling them to
we manage the people who report to us. We can ask
carry out the work while you retain the final responsi-
our reports where they think they are too. We can ex-
bility for the job being done.
plain the distinction between delegation and empow-
- Empowering someone to do a job means not
erment to them. We can further surface the process by
only telling someone to do the work but handing over
discussing why and how we decide between delega-
the responsibility to them as well.
tion and empowerment for them.
When you empower people, you help them to be-
In an international context, be ready to spend more
come more responsible for their work, and to develop
time explaining why you want to empower or delegate
the confidence to take on new and bigger responsibil-
a task to someone to avoid confusion with, for exam-
ities; you stretch them; and you encourage greater
ple, a team member from a very hierarchical work cul-
commitment, involvement and motivation in them.
ture – one where the boss is always in charge. They
How do we decide when to delegate and when to
may feel insecure or threatened, or may feel that you
empower? If you don’t know the Situational Leadership
are not doing your own job properly. International com-
model developed by Hersey and Blanchard in the 70s
munication takes longer but it’s worth the effort.
and 80s, then Google it today. It tells us that good man-
Steve Flinders Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, consultant, writer and coach who helps people develop their communication skills for working internationally. He’s also a member of the steering group of Coaching York which aspires to make York the coaching capital of the UK (www.coachingyork.co.uk): firstname.lastname@example.org
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