Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 93 – The Role Of The Translator

Dear leaders, today’s letter will introduce you to the most important unofficial role on the leadership team.

In the 21st year of my career, I have seen the landscape move tremendously, the shift to tools and different ways of operating has impacted how successful companies are and be. 

For instance, when you sit in a leadership meeting, you very often as a department lead sit there with your department hat on and advocate for your teams and you will use many abbreviations, industry language and your own lingo. Very rarely do you stop to think about how you make these nuances apply across the board. 

Defend: As the department lead you will often spend much of your time defending your team’s performance, much of the backlog and delays on external factors and go to great lengths to explain why but in the language of your own discipline. 

You will also go to a war of words with other department leads who have negatively impacted your teams’ performance. Alliances are created and battle lines are drawn. 

Adapt For The Room? Very rarely do you consciously change your language to make it land with the other members around the table (Zoom etc) and some deliberately do this as an ‘I know most’ tactic. 

I remember sitting in twice-weekly meetings where Product and Dev would almost deliberately go into the full technical mode to try and go over the room’s head to say they were late due to many technical reasons we may not understand.
The TLDR (too long didn’t read) was there were too many moving parts on old technology formats and needed more time. 

Sales would regularly blame ARR goals being missed and sales targets being impacted by Marketing’s failure to drive MQL’s (marketing qualified leads) and Product not releasing on time – all with adding how great their team were doing with a tiny headcount. I am sure you have been there and as it was this way when you were coming up, you likely continued the trend. 

Enter The Translator: 

There is a role within many functioning and highly functional management teams that is the unofficial role of the translator, someone who can and proactively does cut through the buzzwords and technical speak and explain what Product is suggesting or what the Finance team to trying to get across.

The translator often can be seen as the person breaking up fights and attempting to apply logic and bring teams together by positioning arguments differently and cutting through the noise and letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. 

Do you have a translator? 

Do they step up constantly and put the team’s performance ahead of their own team’s performance to ensure there is understanding and consensus?  

Does the business understand that this person exists and takes on numerous issues and enables the business to progress? 

If you have a translator, consider how you can support the translator in their unofficial and under-appreciated role and how you help them move the business forward. 

Have a great week and if you are the translator, congrats for being the unofficial leader of your business.

Danny Denhard 

The Other Unofficial Essential Business Roles