As the world becomes more globalized; as business becomes more and more cross border; as technology becomes more and more sophisticated allowing for wider geographical trade areas, the more necessary it becomes to understand how to communicate not only on a language level but also on a humanistic level.
Most companies today know that they are fighting within international arenas and most companies today expect their top executives and leaders to have a certain command over languages – in particular to have a certain level of English. The problems that “language knowledge” can provoke are huge. If we look at the article by Tsedal Neeley from Harvard University (HBS Cases: Overcoming Englishnization) on the psychological effects of language on corporations we see that top expertise can often be undermined or replaced by personnel with better language expertise causing frustration among executives and causing companies to lose key employees due to language issues. The question with all the cost cutting programmes that companies are currently undergoing, also means that many companies are no longer assisting employees to further their language knowledge, even when knowing that some employees are key and pivotal to negotiations, meetings and discussions in different languages and key employees are left to fend for themselves often left feeling inadequate and under-skilled in their language expertise. These feelings often mean that employees are more and more in a “threat state” which potentially means that their limbic system is continually in overdrive, forcing stress levels and adrenaline levels to rise and thus causing essential brain areas to become blocked: mainly the pre-frontal cortex and the hippocampus which are the two main areas of the brain that are needed for focus, attention and generation of short term memories and recovery of long term memories. This in turn signifies that employees under these circumstances are not able to work to the best of their potential and the vicious circle for the company keeps going round and round: underperforming individuals = loss of business.
So how can companies ensure employees perform to their best abilities in an international arena and therefore pull in more business, better business and secure or maintain existing business?
One of the basic and most simple tips for a company is to “normalize” languages. What do we mean with “normalize”? We now know that the brain loves to work in an automatic perceptive state; think about your drive to work this morning. Can you remember your drive to work? Were you thinking about something else while you were driving? This is the brain functioning in automatic. Driving is a habit for the brain; it can perform this without having to think about each action – it is operating in an “unconscious competence” mode. If you like the brain has achieved a degree of mastery status with regard to driving. This in fact is the secret to everything we do in life. Make anything you do into a habit and the brain will go into its preferred mode: automatic. So the key question is – what can a company do to make “speaking languages a habit”?
- Firstly, if English is imposed as a lingua franca throughout the company, the mother tongue of the country should still be respected and accepted. Meetings should become bilingual, allowing contributions in both languages and tolerance in translation and interpretation. The chairman of the meeting should allow both languages, without imposing that all should speak English. This will ensure that the not so confident speakers in English actually do get to contribute and to discuss and present their ideas. If this is not the case, the danger is that only a few will contribute and others will remain silent and thus creativity and discussion become stifled.
- Companies could promote self-language learning, by creating chat areas within the company where one language is spoken and practiced, as well as drop-in chat rooms where topical issues are addressed and debated allowing participants to listen and take part in such informal discussions and chats.
- Companies can engage neurolanguage coaches who are specialized in combining brain based coaching principles and tools into the language learning process. Such language coaches must have had coaching training at least or training in neurolanguage coaching which embraces principles of neuroscience and how the brain likes to learn and how to keep the brain away from a threat status, as well as traditional coaching processes such as goal setting and action setting and International Coaching Federation principles.
- When working together with neurolanguage coaches (NLCs), companies and NLCs can work out key employees´ KPIs, which language could enhance. This would ensure working towards enhancing KPIs which in turn will increase employee performance and in turn enhance company performance. Take the example of Spain: currently thousands of companies and professionals in Spain are turning more and more into foreign markets for new business acquisitions and employment. This obviously means that companies MUST raise the levels of employee language knowledge and they must do it FAST. Latin countries on the whole struggle with the English language and how it is learnt and the concept of neurolanguage coaching could greatly support this transition of non-bilingual workforce to bilingual in a short time period.
Working with Neurolanguage Coaches
The whole process of neurolanguage coaching is geared towards assisting companies to keep costs down. The structure of the process is such that each step of the language learning path can be measured: ideally both in a subjective way but also in an objective way with the connection of KPIs to the language learning process. In this way companies can control the costs of courses but also measure the results; leading to a cost effective process on all sides.
I personally also offer free talks to companies about the learning process; giving presentations to executives about how the brain likes to learn, how we learn best and how to really get the motivation and the necessary impulse to learn more and more and become more comfortable in a non- mother tongue language. This in fact not only assists individuals to learn in a more effective manner but it also harmonises the employees together with the company direction regarding languages and foreign trade. Companies should see “language abilities” as something of great value and an asset to the company, as the more language diversity, the more possibilities for companies to connect, trade and work in foreign lands.
The major objective of this article was to present to companies and corporates my ideas regarding synergies of language coaching. The major key to all that we do in life whether business orientated or in a personal sphere is “communication” and how we communicate. Learning how the brain works, how the brain learns as well as applying an integral holistic approach to communication and language will not only enrichen individuals in the workplace but also enhance business throughout the world, assisting cross-border relations and trade as well as bringing back a humane approach into the workplace and not just a cost-cutting exercise which ultimately leads to companies engaging cheaper services with no visible benefit, results or efficiency.
Rachel Marie Paling 2015 Efficient Language Coaching ©