Recently, after years of not playing, I had the opportunity to get involved in playing some beach volleyball. Unfortunately, even in my high school days, I was never really any good. But it was all in good fun, so I jumped in.
Being “fun volleyball”, each team had 9 players on the court. It definitely takes the pressure off you as an individual player (there are a lot of others to pick up your slack) and makes for less running and diving for the ball. Even more helpful was that there was a good mix of experienced players and the not so good players (aka me).
One of the first things I noticed was that the experienced players were good at calling out to the rest of the team during play. When you have 9 people on a court, it can get confusing, and sometimes dangerous, when more than one person goes for the ball. You can either have a collision, or everyone steps back and the ball drops to the ground. So verbal communication helps.
However, for the newer players, the calls became confusing. Shouts of “mine”, “yours”, “help”, “set”, “over”, and “net” can easily be misinterpreted by someone who doesn’t understand the lingo. As a team, we quickly realized that beyond using words to communicate, we needed to define the words being used. We needed a game plan.
It can be the same in business or in any team environment. We all understand the value of communicating, but often we begin throwing around words that have ambiguous meanings. Or worse yet, we use terms that are specific to our environment that have no meaning to others. This can result in confusion, especially during crunch time, when deadlines loom or busy season hits and there is not enough time to provide thorough explanations.
What do you mean by “now”? This instant? By the end of the day?
How soon is “immediate”? Does “priority” mean drop everything else? Or my personal favorite, ASAP. Is that as soon as I think it is possible? Or as soon as you think it is?
And then, to cause more confusion, begin throwing in culture specific terms (JIT, ROI, BDP, B2B, KPI, the list goes on).
During busy times, it can be interruptive to have to stop and try explain all these terms. When people are under pressure and time is limited, frustration can quickly rise.
When possible, it may bode well to establish some base definitions before the game really begins. Take time to make sure each person on the team knows the lingo. Otherwise, the ball just may drop.