There's a scene in the first Rush Hour movie, where Chris Tucker yells in frustration at Jackie Chan about whether or not Chan understands anything he's been saying (of course he's more colorful and funnier, but you get the picture). While this failure to effectively communicate is hysterical in the movie, it proves to be incredibly difficult in social change efforts. Speaking the same language is something I cover in my article in Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity. And it's definitely not a new concept. But anyone who has tried to lose weight or stay within budget knows that there's a big difference between understanding what to do and actually doing it.
In fact, the need for translators becomes even more important the more complex the issue you're trying to solve, which is highlighted quite well in Stanford's article on Collective Impact. So what are you looking for in a great translator? You want someone who is
- Incredibly biased towards outcomes. Their little cup of joy should overflow with the desire to align folks on both goals AND measures that show that what you're doing is working.
- Equally unbiased towards any one stakeholder or solution. Some folks who call themselves translators are actually peddling the same approach for every problem. Others believe that one stakeholder is "right" and the others should assimilate. And often, most don't realize they are biased in the first place.
- Frequently fail along the way to achieving measurable outcomes. This is evidence that they know how to course correct when things go wrong. And don't kid yourself- things ALWAYS go wrong.
- Stubbornly believe that your impact is possible because they have seen it themselves. When the going gets tough and those around you are beginning to fatigue, their resolute confidence can be the X factor that keeps the team motivated.
Now that you have the right people at the table, at the right time, with a translator who keeps everyone speaking the same language, you are ready to achieve collective impact. I call this the Opportuni"T" FrameworkTM and have been fortunate to see it work for thousands of folks with the head and heart to see aspirations turned to actuality. The best of luck with yours!