How not to confuse

Mandy & Elisabet speaking at WeAreTheCity conference in London

Words matter. A lot.

And it’s important to communicate in such a way that we can reach and connect with other people, right? Of course. We all want to be understood the way we intended.

And yet, we can so easily misunderstand each other, as we all interpret words, sentences and even situations differently. We all have different lenses through which we observe and make sense of the world. And those lenses are made up by our unique experience; the challenges and opportunities we’ve faced, the insights we’ve had, the people we’ve met.

Organisational jargon, abbreviations and acronyms may work fine if it is all internal communication and the jargon is shared.

But as soon as it leaks outside of the internal understanding, it’s so easy to exclude and alienate those who are not part of the cultural lingo.

Yes, in a highly interconnected world, our ability to communicate with others is definitely one to focus on and keep developing, to ensure we are truly understood the way we intended to, regardless the audience.

“There is no communication that is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.”


The challenge with ‘suitcase words’

‘Suitcase words’ can be a great communicative tool, as they can include and convey so much, but that’s also the reason why they should be used with care.

They are BIG words that could contain/mean all sorts of things – they don’t just have one clear meaning.

They are like a suitcase that can be filled up with a myriad of items.

Here are a few examples:

  • Leadership
  • Intelligence
  • Digital
  • Value
  • Right
  • Wrong

If you look at those words, can you straight away say what they mean through a crisp, clear definition? Probably not. And even if you think you could, would those definitions match everyone else’s? Definitely not. If you also add international interactions and cultural differences into the mix, it becomes even more obvious that definitions and interpretations will vary.

And we can see that they may also be part of our internal jargon, with our unique interpretation and use of those words.

And yet we often use these words expecting them to make sense to others. So, next time you use a ‘suitcase word’, think through what it means to you and what it is you want to convey to others. Your idea of “right” and “wrong” could be completely different to the other person’s, for example.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”


The power of ‘suitcase words’

There are also times when ‘suitcase words’ can be very powerful and useful.

When you don’t want to give someone all the answers, but want them to explore a subject further, using their own creativity and interpretation, then these words are great on their own, without further definition. They can ignite excellent dialogues and new insights.

One such example which we recently observed was when a team wanted to think about ways they could bring real value to the company, so they decided to brainstorm what value could mean beyond what they were already doing.

Here are just a few of the ways they identified they could bring more value:

  • Ask their stakeholders what their needs are – and what value means to them
  • Be proactive in sharing knowledge and ideas
  • Be active participants in conference calls and meetings
  • Review work practices to identify overlaps and unnecessary rework

And by going through that process of ‘suitcase word’ exploration, they were able to go beyond assumptions of what value was and benefit from the collective intelligence of the whole team to add more value than before.

What are your thoughts on jargon and ‘suitcase words’? How much do you use them? When is it helpful and when not? And do you have a favourite ‘suitcase word’ – and if so, what does it mean to you? And what does it mean to those you communicate that suitcase word to? Could you be at risk of being misunderstood?

10 tips for trouble-free teamwork

On average, we spend 37 hours a week at work (whether we work from home or from a physical workplace, or a combination of the two), which means that most of us spend more time with our colleagues than with our family and friends. And the increasingly popular hybrid work setup can accentuate some of the common team problems that are out there.

So if things aren’t amicable with the people we work with, or our teams don’t function efficiently, those 37 hours are going to be painful indeed.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”


We have identified 10 common problems which teams often encounter. So be proactive. Whichever of these you face, address them to ensure your team is as successful as it can be.


Trust is crucial to teamwork, and it is hard to trust someone you don’t know. Team members must spend time together and get to know each other if there is to be a sense of cohesion. Because if there is no trust, the team can never be high-performing nor enticing to be part of.


Conflict, a difference of opinion, can be healthy, and if carefully managed, can trigger useful debates. Different opinions are no bad thing. It’s how we handle them that makes a difference. We can look for the creative power in the different views and use it to find better solutions.


Knowledge is not power, until it is shared. Effective teams share regularly and generously for the benefit of everyone. This allows the whole team’s capabilities to grow and gives the team more power. Generous sharing is a must in a team – be smarter together by pooling all your knowledge, skills, experience and insights.


According to Gallup, less than 20 per cent of people are fully engaged at work. This is a massive waste of resources, and of employees’ time. The key to engagement is keeping people involved. When involved, it is impossible to stay detached and disengaged.


Transparency is becoming the expected norm in business. Stakeholders want to know and understand how the organisation is run and that it keeps its promises. The same goes for teams; apart from transparency within the team there’s also a need to be transparent in relationship to other teams and partners, to build trust and deliver results.


Long-term success requires long-term thinking. Businesses have to look beyond the urgent, take a holistic view, and see how all the parts fit together. In teams it’s about considering the impact of actions and behaviours – on each other, customers and financial results.


Every team has a brand and reputation. A large part of that is driven by how well the team delivers on expectations and promises. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their role in creating the perception of the team. This includes both what is delivered and how it is done.


Change is inevitable. All organisations go through change continuously. But it slows people down and creates uncertainty. Be proactive about how the change is handled; talk about it in a constructive way, get clarification, find solutions to make the change work.


Silo working is a reality for many teams. Working together in earnest is making the most of the fact that you are a team. Honour your time and efforts by seeing yourself as a full time member of the team, not just an individual contributor. Look out for each other and help each other succeed.


Unless your team is all going in the same direction, you are effectively pulling the potential of the team apart. To walk in the same direction, spend time clarifying what you are contributing to (vision) and why (purpose). Keep in mind that visions need to be compelling, and purposes meaningful.

“There is no beauty without truth and there is no truth without transparency.”


‘Leading Teams’ published in China!

We are absolutely delighted to share that our book ‘Leading Teams: 10 Challenges 10 Solutions’ has now also been released in Chinese, alongside ‘The Leader’s Guide to Impact’

This makes it the 3rd language edition of Leading Teams. The previous ones are the Vietnamese and the Mexican/Spanish editions.

Packed full of valuable advice and powerful techniques, Leading Teams has something practical to offer everyone – whatever your level.  Covering 10 of the most common team challenges, this book gives you proven solutions to ensure your team delivers consistent and lasting results. Discover how to build trust, boost team morale, overcome conflict, create engagement and manage change effectively, ensuring your team reaches its full potential.

Whether you’re looking to solve a particular team challenge or just want to make sure you’re taking the right approach, this book will show you how.

You can find the English version here.

4 practical ways to improve social health at work

Health is important for us all, at work and in life as a whole.

We often think and talk about it as physical health and mental health. But what about social health? This could be described as team health, collaborative health, connectedness health, belonging health, networking health – basically anything that talks about the health that our social interactions (or lack thereof) create.

People spend so much time in a work environment, whether in person or online, that work becomes a major health factor for everyone. How people engage with each other – or not – becomes a driver of social health, which impacts both physical and mental health.

The workplace is a CULTURE SPACE.

Work isn’t just the tasks we perform, how many calls we take, how many deals we close, how many meetings we participate in or run.

No, work is of course all the connections in between people, the glue that is needed to make the whole greater and more valuable than the sum of its parts.

And to be successful into the future, we need to make the most of those connections so that people can work together to solve the challenges here and now and in the future.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity



Here are just some of the reasons why poor social health is so bad for both people and the organisations they work for.

  • When relationships between people are poor it causes stress and therefore limits the brain’s capacity to think creatively and collaboratively, further damaging relationships and collaboration.
  • Research into trust shows that it takes 3.5 positive interactions to overcome one negative interaction between colleagues and reestablish good relationship and trust.
  • The organisation’s brand and reputation can be damaged by poor collaboration as things take longer and mixed communication can negatively impact customers and other stakeholders.

Yes, good social health is a must.

So let’s look at 4 practical ways to promote and positively impact social health at work.


How do you show up in meetings? Are you friendly, constructive, inclusive, constructively challenging, a good listener? What ripples out from you? Do you make people want to collaborate with you? Do you help people feel safe and supported in your company?


Be as kind and helpful to your colleagues as you would be to a customer/client. Think about how you can be of service to them, how you can add value to them, how you can go that extra mile to help them be successful. And notice how your interpersonal relations strengthen and how you can do an even better job.


Work isn’t just the tasks we do, we need to value and maintain the relationships with those we work with, those who depend on us and whom we depend on. Take a moment to call a colleague to just check how they are, just have a chat. Listen well and authentically.

The investment in the time that it takes to talk is paid back in no time when it comes to the smoothness in interaction. And don’t just talk to your ‘favourites’, the ones you get on with the most – make the effort to reach out to those you maybe don’t talk to as much.


And in that same vein, actively build your network. Think about who you can connect with for creative exchange, to learn from each other, to support and challenge each other. Seek out people who are different to you – think about things like gender, culture, age, education, experience, preferences, personality and strengths. And notice how you not just build more and better relationships, but you also supercharge your learning and insights.

“To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”


The June/July issue of IMPACT is here

Welcome to the latest issue of IMPACT!

This time we focus on organisations’ social health, 10 tips for trouble-free teamwork, the benefits and dangers of jargon and suitcase words, and our 5-step Impact Strategy Creator™.

There’s a story about a person who is a “time thief” at work.

And we share an IMPACT HACK on taking time for reflection.

Enjoy the read

You can download it here or read it online here