The Language of Leadership

The Language of Leadership

If you want to be a business leader, you need to speak like one. I’m not talking about just being able to explain technical complex topics in terms that business leaders understand. In this day and age, that is table stakes for a CIO. I’m referring to understanding and discussing business issues using the lexicon that other business leaders are using in your company.

Every company has its own set of internal terminology, but it can become quite confusing for CIOs and other C-suite executives when employees have different definitions for the same terms. As an IT leader, you are in a very unique position to help the company create The Language of Leadership.

How do you make sure that when the president of the business unit in Germany talks about profit margin he is using the same definition of profit margin that the president in Canada is using? The answer is to create a “Glossary of Terms” for your company. Whether you refer to it as glossary, data dictionary, master data, or whatever, the point is to have a unified set of terms and definitions throughout the company.

The era of Data Warehousing has certainly given us a leg up on building a standard lexicon for our companies. Although, glossaries need to be in a language that business leaders actually understand. They need to avoid techno-babble metadata definitions. Unfortunately, some of the most expensive data warehouses seem to miss this point.

How to Get Started with a Company Glossary

    1. The best way to initiate the development glossary is to gather up the data elements in your various business applications – and your data warehouse, of course. Be prepared to spend some time cleaning up the definitions with your team. You may also need to update systems so that they are reporting data accurately.
    2. The terms don’t have to be totally based on what is in your systems. There are plenty non-system terms that you can add that can help create clarity throughout your organization. It becomes a invaluable tool for new employees to ramp up on the terms.
    3. Give business stakeholders an opportunity to edit the definitions. By following this process, you will likely find discrepancies with the formulas in your systems. It is better to proactively discover the discrepancies and resolve them than to risk the business making decisions based on misinterpreted data.
    4. Assign an employee to be a “Glossary Steward” to maintain the Glossary and perhaps leverage your existing Governance Model to decide on additions and changes.
    5. Create a simple form where employees can submit requests for new terms to be added to the Glossary.
    6. Make the Glossary accessible to everyone – create a “Wikipedia-like” experience.

By establishing a Glossary of Terms for your company, you create a valuable repository of commonly used terms that employees rely on when discussing the business. The Glossary can also ensure effective communications with your business partners as they request new software applications and reports. Stand out and make a difference as a true business leader in your company: Create the Language of Leadership!


Nicholas Colisto

Nicholas Colisto, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Avery Dennison

In his role, Mr. Colisto is responsible for driving and executing an enterprise IT strategy for the company, including shepherding the overall company strategy with respect to information technology trends, driving efficiencies across the o... More   View all posts
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