The Leadership Guide to Creating a Workplace We Love
In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with corporate advisor and speaker trainer Elizabeth Bachman on how to prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings and what leads to them in the workplace.
A few reasons why she is awesome — she is a corporate advisor and speaker trainer for corporate leaders through her consultancy, helping executives master their message to bring funding, allies and recognition. Her clients have included: Toyota Research Institute, Bank of America, Gilead Sciences, FEMA, and many others.
She’s the podcast host of Speakers Who Get Results, about visibility and leadership, she’s fluent in 5 languages, and has directed over 50 operas around the world, as well as founding and running a bi-lingual summer opera training program in the Austrian Alps.
Connect with, and learn more about Elizabeth on her…
“So if you’ve got technical terms…say the term so that the other experts know you know what you’re talking about, but then explain it… Quite often, you just have to hear it more than once.”
Russel Lolacher: And on the show today, we have Elizabeth Bachman and here is why she is awesome. She is a corporate advisor and speaker trainer for corporate leaders through her consultancy, which helps executives master their message to bring funding, allies and recognition. Her clients have included Toyota Research Institute, Bank of America, Gilead Sciences, FEMA, and on She’s a podcast host of Speakers Who Get Results where executive women speak about visibility and leadership. And Oh yeah, she’s also fluent in five languages and directed over 50 operas around the world, as well as founding and running a bilingual summer opera training program in the Austrian Alps.
Apparently a lot of free time on our hands. Hello, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Bachman: Hello, Russel. I’m delighted to be on here, on your show.
Russel Lolacher: Thanks so much. But you’re not getting off the hook with the first question. I have to ask all of my guests, Elizabeth, which is what’s your best or worst employee experience?
Elizabeth Bachman: When you alerted me that I was going to have to think about this and I thought everybody’s going to come up with their worst. And so let me see if I could come up with the best. And what I came up with was back in the opera days, I trained at Opera Theater of St. Louis among other places.
For a while I was on the All Saints Circuit where I worked in San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Louis. and San Francisco and San Diego. That was like my, I called it the All Saints Circuit. But at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, there was a wonderful director named Colin Graham, who was really a mentor of mine.
And I think my best worth, and because the man who was running the company was somebody I totally trusted. I really it was a small company, so small enough that everybody knew everybody. I was assistant director and stage manager, working my way up to being a director myself. And I think particularly of a Japanese opera we did, where we were, It was a world premiere with the libretto by Colin Graham the music by a Japanese a Japanese composer.
We were all trying to be Japanese. I learned so much about… movement and how we all work together and we all trust each other. We knew we were doing something really important. And it was one of those landmark productions that everybody involved looks back on and says, Wow, that was That was a landmark, and even better was that three years later, we took it to Tokyo, and we managed it with the same cast, except for one change, and it was just as magical the second time around.
I will say that and, this applies to the corporate part I’d be curious what you think about this, is, I have often found when a, when an experience is transformative for those who are in it, it’s not as transformative for the outsiders. So the fact that we were living with this, but it was new music, so we knew the music inside out, we knew the story inside out.
An audience hearing it for the first time might have had a hard time. And I don’t know, I didn’t know in that in those days to ask. But it does occur to me, looking back that it may have been more magical to be in it than to go see it.
Russel Lolacher: Interesting. So really you created your own subculture. More than anything within, a larger environment and culture you’re trying to create as an experience for those that are attending.
Elizabeth Bachman: And just the other thing was they ran out of space at the main campus. We worked on it in the university campus. They didn’t have space for us. So my show recorded, rehearsed offsite in a church that was a 20 minute drive away. So it’s also, we were our very own world offsite. It was like being in a satellite office.
We were, I think, and we had a defined goal and we knew what we were doing and we, had fabulous people. I think that the quality of the people and the trust was what made it such a landmark thing. And knowing that we were doing something really important.
Russel Lolacher: So I have a question. I follow up question while you were telling me the story. And I’ve had a similar experience where I had this subculture of a team that was, we knew our purpose. We knew the value of what we were doing. It’s like we were just almost an organism, all having our parts and our roles that were all feeding and breathing each other, and we were successful in, building and creating what we were trying to do.
But then that ends. That doesn’t live forever. So in an experience you’ve had that, where it was so magical to everybody involved. What do you take with you into that next culture? What is something from such a, such an amazing experience that can be duplicated? Is it possible? What do you bring with you?
Elizabeth Bachman: It’s a project based life. Being in the opera, one of the things I liked about it was you did a project, and then, ready or not, 8 o’clock Saturday night rolls around, and you do the show, and then it’s over. And then you go on. What’s… It’s a mobile group of people. You meet the same people over and over again.
Often you are doing the same thing over and over again, but always in a slightly different combination. You make the, you learn how to trust each other, and you find the people that you trust. Many times you have managers who don’t know, who never were trained to be managers. And that was an experience for me.
One of the reasons why I now work to help women get past the glass ceiling was that my glass ceiling experience was I knew I wanted to run an opera company. I always knew that and I was Well known and respected in the, field. It very male dominated. I was one of the early women. Not the first ones, but the second wave coming through.
I go to, a city and there was always, the local paper would do a story about what was it like to do this as a woman. And I thought, okay, I’ll run an opera company. What I didn’t understand at that point was that, I wasn’t marketing myself to the right people. And this is what I used with the glass ceiling, helping people get past the glass ceiling now, is I didn’t understand at that point that I had to market myself to the people who were a couple of levels above me.
In an opera company in America, they’re non profit organizations, and it’s the board who hires the boss, who hires the general director, the artistic director. I should have been marketing myself to them. Being known by my peers and being beloved by my peers was not enough. And one of the things about, the opera I’ve, one of the things, one of the things I really learned at that Great experience was treating everybody like they were valuable so that even the spear carriers, I would give them names and give them a name, give them a character, give them something to do.
It was important, which didn’t happen very often. And also. I. I tried to be respectful of everybody’s time and respectful of everybody’s talent. My job was to, my job was to have a vision, convince a lot of really smart, opinionated people to follow my vision, since most of them thought they could do it better than I could, pull the best out of each one in the time that we had, and then deliver a result by the deadline.
So in corporate terms, that’s what directing an opera is there’s the whole, what do you say that the stereotype of the temperamental artist, which you see now as the temperamental CEO, actually always male. Because that men can get away with losing their temper and being temperamental because that’s the great artistic thing.
Women can’t get away with that. And I learned that early on. I’m also a pretty, I, try to be calm. I don’t like to fight. I’m a pretty logical person. thoughtful person, and I tried a few times to act. I would put on a temper tantrum because I saw my colleagues getting all this recognition for putting on temper tantrums, and it was a disaster.
It was a, first of all, it’s not my nature. I wasn’t good at it. Second of all, people don’t take that from a woman. So I learned that. I learned that the rules were different for women and a woman in charge. For me, it was more about respecting everybody’s talent and everybody’s underpaid. In the non profit arts, you’re doing it for the, love of it.
Nobody does it for the money. Nobody, if you ever, one of the rules is you never ever count up what the, what your hourly rate would be. Because of all the hours that you’re going to spend on it, you’re probably earning four cents an hour. It’s just it doesn’t, just, Don’t do that math. Never do that math.
But what I loved about, what I learned at Opera Theatre of St. Louis was to treat everybody as an equal participant and inspire them, get them excited. I had all these little tricks for getting the chorus and the spear carriers Involved and excited because it would be a better performance if even the people who weren’t the stars
Got excited by what they were
doing It’s I don’t even know if I answered your question.
Russel Lolacher: You did in a sense of…
Elizabeth Bachman: There’s my rant. So there.
Russel Lolacher: You very much got into what you took with you from it. Cause I think everything’s a learning experience and nothing lasts forever. In any job that we have, but it also leads directly really well into the topic we’re talking about today, which is misunderstandings in the workplace. Where you can have a well oiled machine and there still can be misunderstandings, but thankfully you have that trust that you keep bringing up at, which is so much a part of the DNA of being able to resolve those misunderstandings, but that’s not always the case.
So the first question I have for you to kick us off is, what are the common causes for misunderstandings in the workplace?
Elizabeth Bachman: Every, every location is different. Every group is different. One of the things that I see over and over, and that’s one of the reasons why I work with women and men about this, is language. So I’ve been working internationally, living and working internationally since I was 17. So I’m used to being the person who doesn’t have the common language, as well.
We’re not always working in a language that I’m really good at. But what I found is, gendered language. So traditionally, it, men’s language versus women’s language. Which is not the case anymore. But it comes from centuries of men having one role and women having another role. I think back to, 15th century feudal societies, for instance or earlier before you had societies that
I think of it as single focused versus multi focused. So you’ve got the single focused, task oriented people, who are perhaps the men. Or nowadays as women in higher, levels of organization, because it’s about time. Task focused gets things done faster. But also, you can fall into tunnel vision.
And so if you can be so focused on your task that you don’t notice the things around you, you need the multifocus people who are traditionally the women, but now not so much anymore. That’s now we see, now we can see how much of a spectrum there is. But it’s the multi focus people who notice details such as, has anybody actually asked the client if you want this, if they want this, before we spend all this time and money?
Or, one that came to me was, a client of mine came and she said, My boss has this, wanted to create this wonderful new app, and it had all sorts of bells and whistles. But our competitors already had a version on the market that was easier to use. It wasn’t as fancy, but it worked just fine. And he wouldn’t hear, he actually fired me from the project, and assigned someone else to create it.
And so they spent thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours. And then they couldn’t sell it. They rolled out this fabulous new app, and nobody cared. Because they had, there was another one that worked just fine. And it’s that kind of thing, that, Where you need the multi focus people and the single focus people together.
And statistics show us over and over again that if you have diverse teams in leadership, when you have gender diverse or ethnically diverse teams in leadership, as long as they can talk to each other and they know how to listen to each other, the company profits go up. It’s literally 15% better ROI.
What I’ve discovered, though, is it’s two different languages. And the multi focus people try to talk to the single focus people in multi focus language, which is saying five things at once, and talking about this, and this. And the single focus people, they’re focused. They’re not going to listen to you.
You have to adapt to the way the other person listens.
Russel Lolacher: What’s the danger of not doing that? Because these misunderstandings happen all the time, and I’m not going to say they’re always resolved.
Elizabeth Bachman: The danger of not doing that is that’s where you get, that’s where you get the stereotype of, we’ll say men and women for the moment, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but just in general, men and women. The woman says something to the man, doesn’t hear it. And then later the woman says, What did you think about my idea?
And the man goes, What idea? So the woman thinks she hasn’t been heard. And the multifocus person says she thinks she hasn’t been heard. And on the other hand, the single focus person, actually this happens. I’m working with a team right now where the single focus person has male and female experts reporting to him and they come in and they start talking about the historical context and they never get to the point.
And are they rambling along and the single focus manager says, Why? What are you talking about? What’s the point? What am I supposed to do? The multi focus person. For multi focus people, context is everything, and details are very important. What the multi focus person needs to know is that the single focus person just won’t hear it.
And, so they think the other’s not listening, they think the other’s person’s being rude. ONe of the technical terms for the multi focus people is relational. They define themselves through their relationships.
You can think back to the hunter gatherer days. The women at the cave need to, you need to have a group to see to gather to see that, that mushroom’s edible and watch out for the two year old who’s about to walk into the fire and in the fireplace and things like that. Whereas the single focus people are focused on catching that bear and killing that bear so that you could eat.
Single focus people now need to know that multi focus people require acknowledgement. And here’s what happens is, if the single focus person says yeah, and they just truly don’t hear it, they don’t understand, then the multi focus person feels personally hurt. Because it’s a relational, it’s always interpreted through relations.
So the single focus person thinks, he hates me, or she hates me. When actually, maybe she was just busy.
The real difference… it’s as if single focus people speak Spanish and multi focus people speak Italian. And if you are if you’re an Italian speaking to a Spaniard, they’ll understand the gist of what you’re saying. But if it’s really important, you want to hire a translator. I think of it as same words, different languages.
As a presentation skills trainer, my job is to help somebody make a presentation that addresses the listener in a language they can hear. So the real point is, it’s not, wrong, it’s just different. You have to recognize that, it’s different. Single focus people tend to rise to the top in organizations because Western business was built on single focus principle.
Western business was built by men. It’s only in the last 30, 40 years that women are really taking a, an equal place. For the multi focus people, you have to recognize That the single focus people, you have to put yourself in their shoes. I call it strategic empathy. The misunderstanding, the danger is, they don’t understand each other, they get mad, and then the multi focus person quits.
They say, I can’t, they don’t listen to me, they’re not paying attention. Okay, I’m out of here. And then the company has thousands of dollars in cost to find somebody new and onboard them. Months of time, everything grinds to a halt. The people who are left are working twice as hard, and they’re angry. My thought is, if you’re going to quit, make sure you really know why.
Russel Lolacher: So my question is, if it’s working for those single focus people, why do they have to learn? Why do they have to be off the path that’s working for them traditionally?
Elizabeth Bachman: The truth is, it’s harder for single focus people to change. But they can understand. That the multi focus people need acknowledgement. So the single focus person can say, I’m in the middle of something right now. I’ve heard you but I can’t really pay attention. Could we talk later?
Let’s make it, let’s talk at 4:30. And then, the multi focus person has the single focus, has, is the single focus, which is lovely, it’s wonderful. The, multi focus people are just, tend to be more adaptable. It’s part, it may not be right. I don’t, often I have, most of my clients are female executives and they say, why do I have to change?
And it’s because you can, and the single focus people really only hold one idea in their head at a time. Most of the time. And this is always gross generalizations, so every individual is different, and there are always exceptions, but in general, the multi focus people will adapt more easily. And then the idea is, you’re still talking about what you want to say, you’re still saying what you want to say, you just say it in a way that the other person can hear and take it in.
Russel Lolacher: And if the single focus person, Is really truly interested in things like, I don’t know, innovation, diversity…
Elizabeth Bachman: Yeah.
Russel Lolacher: Which are all the things every organization sure seems to spout on about, they’re the ones that are going to have to change to embrace that multi focus because they’ll be stagnant.
Elizabeth Bachman: Mm hmm.
Russel Lolacher: For, far too long.
Elizabeth Bachman: Yeah.
Russel Lolacher: If they don’t embrace that different way of thinking,
Elizabeth Bachman: And to actually, even, not even so much embrace that way of thinking as to recognize that it exists. To recognize and then listen with perhaps your single focus is to understand the other person, put yourself in the, shoes of the other person.
bHow does this work at different levels in the organization though? You’ve mentioned executive, but there’s a lot of leaders in an organization that probably want to be promoted or want to work up in the organization. And they’re looking to figure out how to engage with those around them.
And if they’re different from them and they want to be understood, how did they go through their employee journey with this kind of contrast?
Elizabeth Bachman: Usually, I find again, since the single focus people are the ones who tend to be tend to be promoted, just because time and efficiency, the multi focus person can adapt the way they, speak by saying it say right away at the beginning, what is it? This is something I want to update you on, or this is something that needs a decision.
So that the single focus person knows how to listen. Am I just listening for information? Am I listening because I have to decide something? And then, give the bullet points. Here’s the other piece of it though. Is that the multi focus people often talk in stories. And you tell stories, sometimes they are long, rambling stories.
I have relatives who, who go into long, rambling stories, which the single focus purpose is not going to understand. However, people remember stories. Human beings remember stories more than we remember facts cause, cause we’re raised on stories, it’s anybody who had parents read to them as a kid are learning to read.
You’ll learn to read on stories. So what I do is I combine this knowledge, that there are two different languages, with how do you tell a short, concise story with a detail. Details are important. Find a detail that hooks in somebody’s brain, but just one of them. Don’t give twenty details. I call that the expert trap.
Experts, male, female, and everything in between. I work with a lot of scientists. Experts want to tell you the whole story. And we all do it. It’s really easy to fall into that trap. The expert trap. If you recognize that it, you only have a certain amount of time. I like to think of it then, the story is an illustration.
The story is, say the stories are the, grace notes, if you will. Sometimes I think about, about a pizza. If you’ve got a presentation, it’s like a pizza. Say you’re Italian, presenting to a Spaniard. And you’re going to do a pizza for your Spanish manager. You’re not going to put 15 different toppings on it.
Even a pizza with everything doesn’t really have everything. And you’re only going to have one or two pieces of everything. Nobody wants to have a pizza that has mounds and mounds of all the toppings. You want to have just enough to strike a balance. In some ways you think of it, life is a balance. How does it work?
What’s a balance?
Russel Lolacher: I remember once you made, you reminded me of a story. I remember once I had a technical group who gave me a presentation for my feedback on. The slide deck was 127 slides.
Elizabeth Bachman: Oh.
Russel Lolacher: So I’m looking at this thing… I’m like, I haven’t looked at even the title page yet and I’m already bored. So what had happened was these are brilliant, people, but what they had done was, they had answered every possible question anybody could ever ask in the history of time about this particular topic and…
Elizabeth Bachman: It happens all the time. That’s the expert trap.
Yeah, and the thing is, I’m like, I’m already bored and I love this topic. So if you can get it down to six slides, because I think, what also is missing here is that the person that’s the expert is not understanding the respect of the time of the person they’re trying to engage with.
Elizabeth Bachman: Absolutely.
Because especially if you’re trying with executive presence, I know we’ve talked about that a little bit is if you’re trying to provide promotability or to be to be spotlighted in organization as an up and comer, then you have to respect the time of everybody that you’re presenting to.
You’re talking to you’re engaging with,
Russel Lolacher: And that doesn’t come from 127 slides.
Elizabeth Bachman: One of the, another way to think about it, so here’s a, metaphor for you, is a story, stories and metaphors. If you think about the difference between a stopwatch and a kitchen timer. A stopwatch, you start at the beginning and you go till you’re done. That’s the way most people speak, until they’ve been trained, a kitchen timer counts down. So you know how much time is left. So if, for instance, you have 20 minutes to give a presentation and then 10 minutes of, 10 minutes of questions, you always want to make sure that you have a structure. I like to think of the classic, old, rhetorical structure of the five point essay.
It’s a good place to start. Doesn’t work for everything, but it’s a good place to start. Write the conclusion first. Because that’s what they’ll remember. Write the conclusion first, then you’ve got your three bullet points that build to that conclusion. And you write the introduction last. And, one of the, and then one of the pro tips.
From, a professional speaker is make sure that your middle, that, that your tip number three, so talking bullet number three, so let’s say A, B, and C are the, talking points. Point C is going to be your strongest one. That’s going to be the one that they’re all excited about because then you could say it builds to that and then you go right into the, conclusion where you’re going to ask them to fund the project, for instance.
Point A will be your second most interesting, because you want to catch their attention. Point B should be something that you can say in one sentence, if need be. Because if you’re low on time, if suddenly the, the manager is ten minutes late, and you’ve only got ten minutes to give the presentation, always do C and the conclusion.
But number B, that’s your safety net. So if all, if suddenly you have to do the whole thing in only 10 minutes, then you could say I want to tell you point A, and I want to tell you point B, but really point C is the important part, so let me go into detail here.
Russel Lolacher: You’ve talked about the single focus and the multi focus people that you’re trying to engage with and how they differ. But when you walk into a room and you’re trying to avoid misunderstanding, where does generational, communication challenges fit into all this?
Elizabeth Bachman: That’s a very good question. I think that you have to respect the wishes of the senior people. Since they’re the ones that can, promote you or not. So you respect the wishes of the manager as much as possible. And address that person in the, in a way, in the, whatever language they can hear best. Even if your, manager is multi focused, you’re still going to give them just the five point report.
But you might add more stories. Stories should be illustrations. They should be that, extra little bit of garlic, like three or four pieces of garlic on top of the pizza, instead of solid garlic. And because people remember stories, generationally, you want to make sure that you’re using references that the other person will understand.
Rule number one is know your audience. Know your audience. So if you are a 40 something who’s gone to work at a tech startup and everybody else around you is 25 to 35, learn, how they communicate. Pay attention. Listen. Strategic empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. Then perhaps the 40 year old can say, When somebody’s panicking because they see something they’ve never seen before, the 40 year old can say, actually, I have seen this.
Let me see if I can help. So you can give, you can be the person who’s lived through some of this and share your wisdom that way. But you need to do it in a way that they can hear it.
Russel Lolacher: So you’re in the room, Elizabeth, and they’re not getting it. You’re in, you’re literally doing the presentation and you can see it in their eyes. They’re gone. They’re lost. They’re not connecting. There is a huge wealth of misunderstanding. Do you pivot or barrel through?
Elizabeth Bachman: You, you ask them questions. You involve them. You say, so Russel, does this, make sense to you? Hopefully, you’ve prepared your presentation in a way that you’ve thought about what’s going to make sense for them. I find this actually in multilingual situations a lot, because we’re in an international business world now, so you’re frequently working with people from around the world, you may have a team that’s in five different time zones.
Don’t use if you’re English, don’t use a cricket metaphor. I, had an, English friend of mine was was teaching a class and I was listening and he talked about buying a Hoover. And I unmuted myself. I’ve known, I knew him, so I unmuted myself and I said, for the Americans on the call, he’s talking about a vacuum cleaner.
Because I knew, I don’t know, I knew he was talking about a vacuum cleaner, but I knew that half the audience wasn’t going to get it. So use metaphors that people will understand. That’s actually why I mentioned a pizza. Pretty much every developed country in the world understands what a pizza is. Pizzas are great.
Food metaphors are great because people understand. But you’re going to use food that they understand that your listeners will understand. I spent half the year in Austria. I worked with Germans a lot and… The German version of I don’t care is das ist mir wurscht, which means that sausage to me… doesn’t translate into English.
Russel Lolacher: Does technology get in the way of this? Because as you’ve mentioned a few times, we work remote. So we’re suddenly adding a lens of screens and not being in those boardrooms or meeting rooms to do these presentations or connect with people anymore. Is it just another way of doing the same thing? Or are there some serious challenges?
Elizabeth Bachman: That’s a good question. I’ll try to give you the short answer. This is… there’s a lot I can say about that one. First of all, the screens are mostly a visual medium. So you want to make sure that if you can enable subtitles, if you have an international team. English is the, language of business, but not everybody understands everything.
They’ll understand the gist, but not everything. So make sure you’ve got subtitles if you’re going to do international. Make sure you have good lighting and good sound. There’s nothing more annoying than somebody saying, And the answer is…
So things like that. Also, if you’re speaking in a language that’s not your first language, make sure you have a halfway decent accent. I spent 11 years running an opera company in Austria. I had to give… I had to give announcements in English and German. And so I would have my basic German, but I got help.
I got help to make me do it because I’ve been the person up on stage who can’t remember the word because it’s not the language I was born with. I was born speaking. And actually, German was language number four for me. It’s not always fluent, and I won’t always use the right phrase. Lighting, sound, clarity. Don’t rush. That’s the other thing. Take your time. Speak clearly. If it’s a really important phrase that they might not understand, say it a couple of times. And, Or, And, make sure your name is understandable.
Russel Lolacher: Misunderstanding has been weaved through this on how to, when we’re engaging and how to avoid those misunderstandings, how do we turn that lens around on ourselves? So you’ve mentioned, get to know your audience before, so you can minimize misunderstandings, but do you have any other suggestions that we can do ourselves in order to minimize that disconnect before it even happens?
Elizabeth Bachman: Hopefully you have written your presentation for the audience. Then get somebody from the outside. Get outside eyes. This is actually what I do as a coach and speaker trainer often, is I’m the outside eyes for somebody because I’m you probably know your own material really well. There’s a saying you can’t see the label when you’re inside the bottle.
Get somebody who has fresh eyes and fresh ears to pay attention. That’s something I will often do when somebody says something and they’ll, go into an acronym that makes perfect sense for them. And I always say, will your audience understand that? Or actually where it happens a lot is with technical terms.
So if you’ve got technical terms, but you’re speaking to a mixed audience. Say the term so that the other experts know you know what you’re talking about, but then explain it. So you, just say it twice if you need to. Quite often, you just have to hear it more than once. And you just say it twice and explain it or a use a metaphor. I had a company named Zoccoli and so they would say broccoli with a z.
Because nobody ever understood.
Russel Lolacher: Thank you for that. I’m going to ask you before our wrap up question, I have one more is… Is around misunderstandings and building that connection with your presentations. Where have you seen the biggest misstep when people are trying to connect and they’re just not getting it?
Elizabeth Bachman: It’s when someone’s not listening and… and then they get so frustrated that they’re not being listened to that maybe they maybe they lose their temper. If you are the person that has, said the thing that hurt somebody’s feelings, then apologize. Just say, I I don’t know quite what happened, but I’m sorry if it made you feel this way.
Here’s what I was trying to say. And if you’re the, if you feel like someone has said something insulting to you, then you can go to them and say, when you said that it made me feel, whatever saying you did it wrong, that’s that people instantly start, instantly want to defend themselves.
But make it about the I message. This is how I felt. Is there a better way of doing it? Or that is a term that really in my culture, that’s a term that is painful and has triggers. So I would rather, I would, rather, not hear that.
Russel Lolacher: It’s amazing what humility and vulnerability can do in creating a space for misunderstandings to be figured out and just…
Elizabeth Bachman: Yeah.
Russel Lolacher: We have a connection here on another level. Let’s figure out what this misunderstanding was. So, I love that. Because that’s leadership.
Elizabeth Bachman: Yeah, and for instance, what I work a lot with Germans, because if you’ve got Germans who are working with North Americans in North America, we are taught to say please and thank you every two seconds please. And thank you. Please. And thank you. Please. And thank you. It’s just automatic.
You don’t hear about it. The German language doesn’t work that way. So my bilingual opera company, I always had to teach the Germans that the, North Americans, we’re going to ask, we’re going to expect, please and thank you. And my German friends will say, what a wimp, you just say it. Why do they need all these extra filler words?
But it’s expected. And what happens all the time is you see German executives get transferred to America and then the American team say the North American team say, I can’t work with them because they’re so rude. And it’s just, it’s the way the language works. So you have to recognize that, but then also recognize what, what your listeners expect to hear.
And if they’re expecting to hear please and thank you, then do that. And on the other hand, if you are working with a German government official or an Austrian government official, you’re going to use the formal Z. And not the familiar do. Where in North American English, it’s just you. We don’t have those divisions. In other languages, it’s really important. And you need to know that.
Russel Lolacher: It’s and don’t make assumptions because for example that, that, Western…
Elizabeth Bachman: Ask for help
Russel Lolacher: The Western person saying they’re being rude. I’m like, actually it’s more rude for you to make assumptions about what their intention is than it is otherwise.
Elizabeth Bachman: But you know, that’s a feeling. It’s a feeling. I just have this feeling that she’s being rude to me. A Swiss woman I was talking to who said, Why do they they had a hard time with me because they thought I was rude until they met me. And then they said but over the screen, there we go. They spoke virtually for several months before they met in person, and the American team was really upset. This was in Silicon Valley. The American team was upset. And the the Swiss lady didn’t understand what the problem was until until, someone expected it. That’s when I got called in.
Russel Lolacher: I’ve got one last question to ask Elizabeth, which is what is one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?
Elizabeth Bachman: I would say, just write down for yourself, are you single focused or multi focused? And then write down your direct supervisor, and if you’re in C level, it’s the board, so everybody reports to somebody. Are they single focused or multi focused? And then if you’ve got time, the five people you interact with the most.
And just think, it’s two different languages. Same words, different languages. Once you know, you can start, you can pay attention. then you can adapt. To the way they need to hear it. Again, you’re going to say, if they’re Spanish, say it in spanish. Instead of Italian, hoping that they understand.
Russel Lolacher: Love that. That’s Elizabeth Bachman. She is a corporate advisor and speaker trainer for corporate leaders and also a fellow podcaster as host of Speakers Who Get Results. Thanks so much, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Bachman: Thank you, I love it, love being here.