Tomorrow, Ian and I will be delivering a free 30 minute taster session as part of the World Business and Executive Coaching virtual conference (WBECS). The session is a preview of a longer 90 minute we will be delivering on 13th June. This conference has grown rapidly in the past four years and last year attracted a stunning 13,000 coaches from 151 countries. Due to its international nature, Ian and I have had to tweak some of our messages to ensure our English idiosyncrasies do not confuse the global coaching community.
For example, when we were presenting in Germany last November we were talking about the zone of uncomfortable debate (ZOUD) and we referred to the need to get to the heart of the matter and to name the elephant in the room. At that point, we spotted several quizzical faces in the audience and realised people had no idea what we were talking about! So we paused and had a short discussion to explain what we meant by the phrase ‘elephant in the room’. At the end of this awkward translation, one of the participants jumped in and said ‘Ah, yes, in Germany we call that putting the dog on the table’!
Similarly, back in 2012 we were presenting to an international group of internal coaches in Turin at the UniCredit coaching conference. We’d introduced the support / challenge matrix and were working through the four quadrants. When we arrived at the high support / high challenge quadrant we enthusiastically introduced the idea of the ‘loving boot’. Again, we looked round the room and sensed we had lost our audience. It seems the phrase ‘loving boot’ does not always translate intuitively into other languages. More recently, we have introduced an alternative word to describe the high support / high challenge quadrant which appears to have more universal clarity and that is ‘carefrontation’. We describe the high support / low challenge quadrant as a zone of care and the high challenge / low support quadrant as a zone of confrontation. The high support / high challenge quadrant then becomes a juxtaposition of the two words hence ‘carefrontation’. So now we use both ‘loving boot’ and ‘carefrontation’ and it gives our international audience two bites at the cherry regards understanding our message. Two bites? A cherry? What on earth are we talking about?
These twists and turns of language highlight how careful we need to be when addressing the global coaching community or indeed any international audience. After all, we English should never forget the luxury of being able to speak in our native language when on a global stage. It is one thing to expect people to learn our language and yet another to expect them to know our strange idioms and colloquial turns of phrase. I just hope that for the conference tomorrow it is not raining cats and dogs because beggars can’t be choosers and, whilst Ian and I try to be jack of all trades, we’ll probably look back and realise it was all just a storm in a teacup. As you read this I hope you realise my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek 🙂