"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can
think about." [Benjamin Lee Whorf]
Ever thought about how important it is to really nail your business communication skills? Especially now, in our super-connected world, where more and more organisations that aren't native English are turning to English as their main language for business. This brings its own set of challenges when it comes to professionals getting their messages across. In this blog, we dig into why it's so crucial to give professionals the right tools to thrive in a global, borderless business arena.
Are you a non-native English-speaking professional who finds themselves grappling with the intricacies and cultural nuances of business English to communicate with your colleagues and clients around the world? Does it frustrate you when you struggle to clearly convey ideas? Are there often misunderstandings and misinterpretations? Do these hurdles directly impact productivity, client satisfaction and collaborative efforts? Have these, in turn, dented your confidence to actively engage and assert yourself?
Drawing from my own experience as a native English speaker communicating in a foreign language within a business context, I can confidently say that language, on its own, isn’t the exclusive answer to these issues.
Being equipped with the appropriate skills and toolkit, including industry-specific phrases and terminology - that is how to unlock effective communication and gain the confidence to bridge gaps, form connections, and prosper within the ever-evolving landscape of today's business world.
For example, success in communication depends on understanding up-to-date jargon and current industry trends that resonate with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. This is particularly potent in global organisations in roles where you may need to oversee remote teams and colleagues spread across different locations and time zones, where the ability to synchronise, resolve conflicts, and foster cohesion becomes of paramount importance.
Guillaume, an aspiring entrepreneur in France, recognised the importance of effective communication when seeking global funding and partnerships for his startup. He enrolled in an industry-specific business English course with multiple participants, once or twice a week to enhance his ability to pitch ideas persuasively, network confidently at industry events, and of course secure crucial investments that propelled his startup’s growth. He further developed his skills by participating in online forums and exchange groups for peer learning opportunities.
As quoted by Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team; “The ultimate test of a great team is results”. So, let’s then shift our focus to the domain of project management, where excellent collaboration of all team members is essential. Regardless of one's position within an organisation, the likelihood of participating in projects is quite high. Imagine Maria, a project manager based in Germany, in a multi-national organisation facing challenges coordinating diverse remote teams spread across different time zones. By investing time in a weekly online immersive language course, incorporating intercultural communication training, she can learn to adapt her communication style, understand different team members’ perspectives better and create a more inclusive environment. The success of projects also relies on the alignment of mindset, methodology, and terminology. Therefore, incorporating communication training tailored to project management would equip her with the techniques to streamline communication, clarify requirements, address concerns, manage conflicts and maintain transparency. If team members also hone these skills it would enable them to be empowered to articulate ideas clearly and be fully involved in discussions, strengthening relationships with peers and stakeholders, increasing team cohesion and inter-cultural collaboration; ultimately achieving improved project outcomes.
I've also observed similar challenges among non-native English professionals engaged in strategic cycles, where all perspectives are crucial. Despite having a solid grasp of ideas and concepts in their own language, participants often encounter diminished confidence in taking part and making contributions to pivotal decisions in English. Introducing Diana, the managing director of an organisation where her core team are based in Morocco, yet investors and board members are international. With a key off-site strategy workshop on the horizon, that would be held in English, she recognised the importance of effective communication in her team. She attended leadership communication group workshops to improve her ability to provide clear directions, offer constructive feedback and encourage open dialogues. In addition, she was aware that her team would need to feel confident to actively engage and articulate their viewpoints. Through an intensive, 3-day immersive group training session they gained essential key concepts, and knowledge on how to express perspectives and engage in productive conflict. As a result, her team felt empowered to share their ideas, which led to increased innovation, problem-solving and team performance. The workshops resulted in full active participation with all participants confident to commit and take accountability for their ideas.
Carlos, one of the investors attending these workshops, is an international negotiator and is responsible for developing relationships for future Mergers and Acquisitions. Through bi-monthly immersive business English negotiation workshops, and weekly individual language mentoring and feedback sessions, he was able to continuously hone his negotiation skills and effectively bridge cultural differences. This enabled him to close major deals, build strong business relationships and position the organisation as a global player in the industry.
How about communicating change? In any change management scenario, effective communication takes on even greater significance. Consider Robert, a Human Resources manager tasked with implementing a company-wide restructuring project. Navigating a delicate balance of clarity, understanding, and engagement is key to securing buy-in for a change initiative, and even more of a challenge when not in your native language. Immersive English communication training would enable him to embrace specific terminology, but he could also learn empathetic communication. Using empathetic communication becomes central when dealing with the emotional side of change. It involves mastering persuasion and influence techniques, honing small talk, employing conflict resolution strategies, facilitating, and engaging in active listening. Being capable of using this skilful communication within international organisations where English is the main business language plays a critical role in reducing resistance, maintaining morale and successfully implementing change whilst also retaining valuable talent.
Of course, these skills are intertwined across various contexts, prompting reflection. Investing in communication skills development can lead to tangible benefits for individuals and their organisations, across various business contexts. Just imagine the benefits of traversing and elevating your professional journey with the appropriate toolkit. Improved communication leads to increased efficiency, reduced misunderstandings, stronger relationships and ultimately career growth and improved business results.
Have you encountered experiences or hurdles in your communication journey? How did you navigate these obstacles? Are you prepared to conquer communication barriers and unleash your full potential? Connect with our team at Hesse Consulting Group today; your story is a tale we're eager to hear and support through our own tailored communication training to help non-native professionals move “from words to impact” and use the power of business English to forge meaningful communication.