As I mentioned in the last blog, our recent trip to northern Italy was incredible. Along the 90-mile hike, we noticed the diverse cross-section of people of all ages, sexes, nationalities, languages, and skill and fitness levels. Because we went nine days without seeing another American, we tended to congregate with other English-speaking individuals – those from England, Scotland, Wales, and Australia. Our ages, preparedness, or skill level didn’t seem to matter much. We shared a common language and a common goal: to complete the Alta Via 1 trail through the Dolomites. So, we formed a tribe.
I notice that I tended to help the English-speaking folks more than others, as the language barrier made me more apprehensive to engage. For example, an Aussie gal on the trail ran into a bit of misfortune: the soles of her shoes literally delaminated and came off while at a hut at the top of a climb. Several of us rallied around her with our emergency duct tape and extra cordage. With her shoes temporarily patched, she not only made it out of the hut, she was able to hike to the next hut, where she was able to replace her boots. Over the next couple of days, Reka and I led the way with the Aussie and her friend. During this time, I connected with them and felt like I needed to keep an eye on them. Reflecting on it now, I believe that because of our ability to connect through language, I was more likely to engage with English speakers than the Germans and Koreans we saw on the journey.
It seemed that the presence of a language barrier was a factor in all parties, regardless of nationality, being a bit standoffish and reluctant to engage with people outside of their tribe. Along the hike, we observed Germans and Austrians hiking together, as well as several groups of Koreans. On a particularly long uphill stretch, Reka and I kept leapfrogging some Korean folks. They were formidable hikers, and although we shared a trail and hut for several days, we exchanged little more than smiles. While trekking up the steep slope with this troop, I said “hello” in Korean and a light switch flipped. With one word – spoken in their language – we immediately bonded. It helped me to see how important sharing a common language can be, especially when you share a common goal.
As the leader of your team, it’s critical to ensure that each person clearly understands where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. But that’s only part of it; making sure that everybody in the tribe speaks a common language will only increase the likelihood of success for you, your team, and your company.
Are you interested in strengthening your tribe? Want to learn more about identifying your organization’s common language? Reach out to us today!