Arriving at the Right Type of Language Professional

By Anne Connor

Business people don’t have to communicate with extraterrestrials (yet), but they can still learn a few things from the sci-fi thriller Arrival. The blockbuster film put a language professional in the leading role. Hollywood star Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor asked by U.S. Army Intelligence to help communicate with an alien species that has arrived on earth. However, the film blurred the lines between the three professions of translator, interpreter, and linguist, reinforcing some common misconceptions most business people have.

When you do, it’s helpful to know the difference between the types of professionals involved in the process. Who do you call for a meeting with a new or potential overseas client for your small business or when you need to localize your ecommerce company’s website for foreign markets? Who do you contact when you receive medical records from an employee who required medical attention while on an overseas business trip or a contract from a foreign country?

Put simply:

Translators help you with written material, like contracts, letters, brochures, and websites

  • Before pushing that “Would you like to translate this?” button for the material that your advertising people spend weeks refining, remember that the nuanced language geared at persuading others to buy your products or services is best translated by a human who specializes in your company’s line of business.
  • If you’d like to create a professional-looking brochure or web page in other languages for new target markets, the last thing you should do is trust that task to an automated translation tool instead of its flesh-and-blood counterpart.
  • Should you be in a position to apply for an international patent for your product, you will definitely want a human patent translator specialized in your field to do that work instead of trusting a machine translation into languages unknown to you. Not doing so may lose you the patent if something in the application is mistranslated.

Interpreters help you with spoken language in business, legal and medical settings

  • Say a potential client wants to visit your facilities before deciding to place an order for your products. What a great impression you would make if you hired an interpreter to accompany you both on a guided plant tour so that all questions and answers could be handled in each party’s dominant language, putting everyone at ease. Hiring the same interpreter for a preliminary or follow-up telephone or videoconference meeting would go that extra mile toward sealing the deal and keeping this client’s business for years to come.
  • Well-informed business owners and managers also hire interpreters for employee health and safety training meetings that include limited-English-proficient workers. This helps them meet OSHA compliance requirements and keep their operations running smoothly and without interruption from preventable accidents.
  • Conference interpreters ensure that all attendees at an international business or medical gathering understand the presenters’ messages and are able to ask questions about the presentation’s content.

Linguists analyze language (including structure, history, and more)

  • To decipher an unknown extraterrestrial language, the linguistics professor in Arrival works with the aliens to learn the basic concepts of their language—the individual words and what they mean, building a lexicon as she goes. In the end, she has to use a complex, computer-assisted analysis to break the code and understand how the alien language works. This is neither translation nor interpreting, but linguistics.
  • In the real world, linguists help translators do their jobs by developing and updating the terminology-management software that allows those translators to work more quickly and efficiently, resulting in lower costs for their client and ensuring consistency throughout the entire translated document or website.

One thing that translators, interpreters and linguists all have in common is that they draw upon their extensive experience to solve linguistic “puzzles.” The stakes might not be as high as saving the planet from potential annihilation, but the work of all three professions is vital all the same, helping:

  • businesses communicate beyond borders
  • governments avoid conflict
  • healthcare providers make lifesaving decisions, to mention only the tip of the iceberg.

In order to “arrive” at the right language professional, you have to understand your needs. In the movie, the producers understood they needed a language expert as their protagonist, even if they mixed up the terms for how she went about helping them communicate with the aliens. What they did get right was to demonstrate that language professionals all draw upon:

  • extensive language study
  • expertise in the field
  • research skills
  • their ability to learn and utilize the latest technologies to solve linguistic “puzzles.”

Anne Connor is a professional Spanish and Italian-to-English medical and legal translator and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit

7 Ways to Navigate Office Politics

By Walt Grassl

Walt GrasslThe first time Jay met with his mentor, Brian, he asked him what the most important thing to know to be successful at work was. Jay was surprised when Brian said, “Politics.”

Politics in the workplace is often an afterthought. But it is important to understand the landscape, the people, and the rules of the workplace. The key to reaching agreements is an understanding what motivates a person or organization.

Trusted leaders are aware of the politics. They make sure their team is aware of them as well. Trusted leaders seek balanced solutions. They navigate the tension between the competing needs of the bigger organization and the team.

Here are seven ways to navigate the politics of the workplace.

1) Be Visible: If nobody knows who you are, you will have little or no impact in the organization. There are several ways to effectively make your presence felt.

Take on tasks that get you out of your comfort zone, and find opportunities to interact with people and organizations that you haven’t worked with before. Readily volunteer for events, such as open houses or teambuilding outings. When important assignments come up, make sure you go beyond the norm to ensure its success.

The more people you interact with—work related or not—the more you will make your presence felt and provide an impact.

2) Everyone is a Volunteer: Treat the people you work with as if they are volunteers. You increase your respect. When you approach a subordinate and say, “We need to ship this part today. Can you please take care of it?” you give them the opportunity to push back. They may have a more urgent assignment that you aren’t aware of. Ask, never tell. If you ask someone to do their job, good employees will always say yes and respect you for it. When you demand and don’t tolerate push back, you sacrifice short-term success for long-term influence.

3) Be a Person of Influence: When people know and respect you, you will be more influential. As often as possible, you should be positive. You should not complain and you should avoid passive aggressive behavior. Help as many people as possible. Be aware of what is going on around you. Who is struggling? Who contributes beyond their job description? Who is an untitled leader? Be a mentor or coach to junior employees, in and out of your chain of command. Make sure the political nature of the workplace is part of the coaching and mentoring.

4) Have Many Networks: Develop relationships horizontally and vertically in your organization. Know your peers that work in other organizations. Know the people from top to bottom in your organization. Know the people in your internal suppliers. Know your internal customers. These relationships will improve the likelihood of you learning things informally. This will help you and your organization look good formally. These relationships will allow you to be more successful.

5) Manage Knowledge: Manage Knowledge, Share Knowledge. Share it to the people who need it. It will improve the value of your relationships. When you inform your team of a change in direction sooner, rather than later, you create good will. Why? They can immediately stop following the old course and redirect to the new course. They won’t feel like they’ve wasted their time and effort. However, one must be certain the change will occur. Things like impending job actions (layoffs, promotions, transfers) must never be shared until it is time. Never gossip at work and hold secrets close.

6) See the Big Picture: A common fallacy in the workplace is that my job and my organization contribute more than the rest to the success of the project or company. When employees realize that what they do is important, it’s a good thing. The inverse is true when the needs of the other employees and other organizations are discounted. Some decisions that flow down from above may not make sense to the team. Look at the bigger picture. Look at the needs of the other players. Understand the other’s position. Keep focused on the end-to-end process. Not just your link in the chain. Understand your organization’s role and the roles your internal suppliers and internal customers. This knowledge will help make processes make sense.

7) Managing Conflicts: Inevitably, there will be tension and conflict between individuals and organizations. The best course of action is to be neutral. Facilitate communication and seek to find a third alternative that satisfies both parties. When you are one of the parties, know when to push back. What are the ramifications for bringing up the problem? Not every battle is worth fighting for. When you must address a conflict, understand the other’s point of you before you explain yours. Look for a win-win result. And never make it personal. Always focus on the issues.

Should you play politics or not? Whether you call it politics or a best practice, you must play. Understanding office politics is critical to being successful. How you use your knowledge is even more important. When you use your political insights to manipulate or create win-lose situations, you lose influence. People won’t trust you. When you use political insights to create win-win results, you become a force to be reckoned with.

Jay rose through the rank of leadership. He was liked and knew many people. He understood all the organizations in the company. He was brought in to lead dysfunctional teams and was able to get them aligned and successful. People would go the extra mile for him because they felt he understood them. Nobody ever called Jay a politician. He just got things done.

Walt Grassl is a speaker, author, and performer. He hosts the radio show, “Stand Up and Speak Up,” on the RadioStar Worldwide network. Walt has performed standup comedy at the Hollywood Improv and the Flamingo in Las Vegas and is an in demand leadership speaker. For more information on bringing Walt Grassl to your next event, please visit

Mastering the Mastermind

Making the Most of Cross-Mentoring Groups

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickThe mastermind concept came from an admirer of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Napoleon Hill described the idea in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, but the mastermind plan adapts to many forms of business networking, not just entrepreneurs, as originally foreseen. The principles of a mastermind group can apply to any employee or workplace group aimed at continuous improvement and personal development.

A mastermind is a group of individuals devoted to mutual support, a sort of mentorship in the round, where each member plays both the role of mentor and mentee. The focus is on enabling the success of others, while in turn drawing on the resources of the group for oneself. As Hill saw the concept, he applied it to business owners who were otherwise on their own. This remains a very effective application for broadening knowledge and experience horizons.

Applied to the workplace, the mastermind structure suits groups of supervisors or department heads, those facing similar challenges yet with differing circumstances. The philosophy of the mastermind suggests a new approach to group dynamics over traditional workplace units. However, for those devoted to gaining a competitive edge, membership in an effective mastermind provides a fast track to success.

Why Should I Join? What Can I Really Expect to Gain? This is the critical question, isn’t it? The “what’s in it for me” factor. While that might seem cynical, there really isn’t a point in being involved if you don’t feel you can gain from the experience. That’s obvious. But the point on which many such groups falter is not the taking, but the giving. Before you look at how to invest in a mastermind, look at four distinct takeaways an effective alliance can offer.

  1. Community: The most effective masterminds bring together people with both like and unlike backgrounds. Each member is after increased success, for example, but comes from a different industry. That’s the model behind the typical business club mastermind. The group is connected by a desire to progress, but not undermined by direct competition. The key factor is, however, a new and diverse community that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It’s a community of intent, not chance, with members invited in for the strengths they can offer as much as for the benefits they can receive.
  2. Collaboration: Being the captain of a small business enterprise can be a lonely position. It’s all on you. If you’re an entrepreneur by nature, you’ll relish that feeling most of the time, but everyone is human, social creatures, so there are times you don’t want to be the lone wolf. Managers and supervisors sometimes face similar isolation. When everyone is looking to you to run the show with confidence and authority, to whom do you turn to express doubt or bounce ideas? When you can’t show weakness before clients and staff, a mastermind collective presents a safe sounding board for expressing concerns, doubts and options, while providing input, feedback and advice.
  3. Consolidation: Networking is generally accepted as a key to business growth, yet processes required from typical networking opportunities are often uncomfortable and consequently many of us don’t do them well. It’s “first date” syndrome – there’s not enough time to relax and be yourself. A mastermind alliance checks that in a couple ways. First, everyone is there by strategic invitation. Next, everyone around you is interested in your success as well as their own, for the good of the mastermind group. Opportunities to build effective cross-promotions don’t have to develop on the fly, in a couple hours. When you connect with a network partner on a deeper level, you’re closer to their network now too, in a way a business card exchange just can’t match.
  4. Continued Motivation: Inspiration and motivation may be the two biggest takeaways a mastermind has to offer. There are probably other sources for the new information you’re learning through your mastermind group. Consider the mastermind concept itself came from Hill’s book. But to get really excited about an idea, direction or plan that’s then reinforced a week later at the next meeting of your alliance, that is something so intangible yet so essential to your personal and business growth. Think of it as an inspirational pep pill, keeping you nourished, nurtured and invigorated on a regular basis.

Enjoy the Campaign: No matter if you are joining or starting your own group, whether you succeed or fail, there is experience to be gained and lessons to absorb. The clichés have all been used, and they are all true: enjoy the ride, it’s the journey, not the destination, and so on. Each mastermind can be enriching, even if it’s not what you were expecting or doesn’t achieve what you want. Part of the process that’s most valuable is that you’re opening yourself up as a person, to other people and other experiences. Ultimately, while a mastermind is a group experience, you will find the rewards are deeply personal. Good luck on your adventure!

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker, author, and authority on Leadership. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book, The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life. Elizabeth teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit:




The Six Pillars of Professional Power

P.A.M.P.E.R. Your Way to Success

By Wayne Schoeneberg

Wayne SchoenebergRubbing shoulders with successful people has demonstrated that they all share certain characteristics. There are six traits that all successful people have in common, and they serve as drivers to success. Some of those people came by the traits naturally. Others learned the traits one at a time from various sources. Now they are all right here.

You can P.A.M.P.E.R. your way to success if you incorporate these six pillars of personal power into your daily routine.

Purpose: It may take a while for you to come to grips with this but you probably do not have some grand purpose in life. Get away from the idea of a grand purpose and start concentrating on those things that really matter. Call this your daily purpose. What does your heart desire? Who do you really want to be?

Once you start to explore those questions the vision of your daily purpose will come clear. What is most important to you?

Take a look at where you are in your career. What is it that people applaud about your efforts? What part of your job really makes you stand out? Keep an open mind and you will find that your purpose may soon reveal itself to you.

Look at yourself and your life. That is where you will find all the purpose you need to achieve fulfillment. Do your best each day to be the best you that you can be. There is hardly a better purpose than that.

Attitude: With the right attitude you can turn all your goals into accomplishments. It all comes down to faith. You have to believe. You have to believe that you are destined to live out your dreams. If you have that faith in yourself, you are on the right road.

Wake up each morning with an attitude that tells you there are treasures for you to discover. Rather than dwell on the problems you see, turn your attention to the good things that await you. Do this and you have what is called an “opportunity outlook.” Rather than think about things you have to do, think about things you get to do.

Do you have a job? You don’t have to go to that job. You get to go to that job. There is someone out there who would take that job if you don’t want it. Once you change your thought pattern from “have to” to “get to” you are going to find more opportunities in every aspect of your life.

Modeling: Successful people model themselves after other successful people. You should do the same. It is quite simple. Kids do it all the time. There isn’t a young basketball player who does not want to be like LeBron James. They watch what he does and try to repeat it.

Find someone who has what you want. Study that person. Watch how they behave, what they read, how they dress. You do not have to invent a new way of doing something. All you have to do is learn what they do and then try to improve on it. Do it better, do it smarter. Their success can be your success.

The next step to success is to share the knowledge. Find someone to mentor. Help another person achieve his or her goals and you will be rewarded repeatedly. Do it with enthusiasm and that person will tell the world how smart and helpful you are. That’s the best advertising you can get. Soon people will be coming to you for advice and counsel.

Passion: Everybody has a passion. Your passion makes up a big part of who you are. Your passion is that thing that you would do for free. When you are pursuing your passion, time means nothing. You are in a joyful state.

Take an inventory of your dreams. Identify your passion. Then honor it. Your passion may never allow you to earn an income. That does not mean you should put it out of your life. Your career does not have to be your passion.

Just make sure you make time for your passion. Go deep into it. You can be assured that by pursuing your passion all other aspects of your life will be enhanced. Success follows happiness.

Ethics: Real success requires that you be ethical in all you do. Ethics is a measure of what you think about yourself and others. Honesty in your relationships with your co-workers, employer, or employees is an absolute requirement for success. Your reputation as an ethical person will either help you or destroy you. Nobody wants to do business with someone who cannot be trusted. As tempting as it may be to “look the other way,” or do something “just this one time” you have to “just say ‘No’.”

You will never have peace in your life if you let your ethical standards slip. A lie or act of dishonesty will follow you for the rest of your life and you will regret it. Treat your reputation for ethics as if it is the keystone to your success. It is.

Respect: Respect begins when you look in the mirror. If you do not respect what you see, start there to make changes. Start with your appearance and build out from there. It sounds so simple but everyone knows that there are people who ignore this very important facet of success.

Look your best every day. If you work from home, put on clothes that reflect the type of person you want to be (remember modeling, above). Respect is more than what you show to others. It begins with respecting yourself first.

Respect can only be earned. While you want to show common courtesy to everyone you will notice that you will only respect him or her after they have earned that privilege. The same goes for you. Learn to respect yourself, show respect to others and you will earn the respect you deserve.

Now you have the tested formula for success. Make these attributes part of who you are. Use them, each of them, daily. P.A.M.P.E.R. yourself. You deserve success.

Wayne Schoeneberg is a Certified Professional Coach, a dynamic speaker and bestselling author of No Clients? No Job? No Problem! With his distinct perspective on the influence of fear, Wayne’s inspiring message instills in his audience the courage to be confident, and provides them with the tools to become the architects of their own success. For more information on hiring Wayne Schoeneberg, or to purchase his book, please visit

Harness the Power of “Thanks” and Step-Up Your Gratitude Game

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate ZabriskieIf you’re grateful but don’t take the time tell anyone, does it count? Maybe, but it’s a bit like clapping with one hand. You know you’re doing it, but does anyone else? Probably not. When shown appropriately, gratitude has tremendous power. At a minimum, it will keep you from appearing like an ungrateful and uncouth toad. On the other end of the spectrum, well-expressed thanks can open doors, solidify relationships, and change careers. The key to giving and getting with gratitude is knowing who to thank, when to thank them, and how to do it.

Who to Thank: Thank up; thank down; thank out; and thank around.

  • Thank up: When bosses take the time to support you, provide you with an opportunity, or include you in something to which you’re not usually privy—thank them. Chances are, the next time they are deciding to whom they will extend an invitation, your name will appear higher on the list than it might have had you failed to recognize an earlier kindness.
  • Thank down: Maybe your team stayed late to finish a project. Perchance someone put forth extra effort to create a presentation. Perhaps an employee who has had a hard time meeting expectations finally does so. If you want those types of activities to continue to occur on any kind of regular basis, you need to recognize them.
  • Thank out: Customers, colleagues, and suppliers will support you if they feel you acknowledge their efforts. If you want to grow and build your network and workplace support system, those are the people you must cultivate. Doesn’t it make sense to nurture the relationships you have with them?
  • Thank around: Do you take the time to thank your office’s cleaning staff? Have you done anything to appreciate the cafeteria’s cashier? How about the security guard? A lot of people forget those individuals, and they shouldn’t. After all, chances are nobody would miss the CEO if he or she were absent for few days. Try that with the janitorial staff—not a pretty thought.

When to Thank: The world would be kinder and gentler place if people displayed more grace. Can you imagine how your workplace would function if everyone expressed sincere gratitude at least once an hour? Motivated, appreciated, and valued are some possibilities that come to mind. When you think about it, once an hour may be a bit much at first, but it is not a bad goal to work toward. And as with most activities, the more you do it, the easier it will become. But be warned: you must choose well. Recognizing people inappropriately is worse than not recognizing them at all.

For example, ask any kid how much a certificate, award, or trophy received for some trivial activity meant to him. If you don’t already know, the answer is a whole lot of “zero.” Kids are not stupid, and neither are the big people they turn into.

Gratitude should feel real and be relevant. If either one of those elements is missing, your “thank you” will most likely seem hollow.

How to Thank: The words “thank you” are an adequate choice for acknowledging common courtesies shown to you. However, when people go beyond the basics, your recognition should as well. By following a few simple guidelines, you can quickly and easily step up your gratitude game.

  • Get specific: Focus on a detail, and your “thank you” will mean more. For instance, “The lemon muffins you made and brought into the office today were some of the best I’ve ever had. The glaze was amazing. You were so thoughtful to share them with us.” That’s a whole lot better than “Thanks for the muffins.”
  • Get personal: Share with others how what they’ve done meant something to you, and your thanks will both seem and be more sincere. With a little thought, you can connect feelings to the most mundane topics. For example, “John, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated your presentation this afternoon. I’ve struggled with using PowerPoint animations and never been able to get them to look professional. I learned a lot from watching what you did. You have real talent.”
  • Great creative: Ironically, the phrase “thank you” hinders most people’s ability to express gratitude effectively. Avoid using the phrase at the start of your sentences, and you’ll find you are more imaginative. For instance, “Thank you for allowing me to attend today’s meeting. I appreciate the opportunity to be included in the decision-making process.” That’s okay, but consider the following: “I learned a lot about the decision-making process at this meeting. I never understood how the committee system worked until today. It was real eye opener. I appreciate you allowing me to attend.” Choice number two is stronger and it doesn’t use the words “thank you.”
  • Get to your keyboard: Email is appropriate when a verbal “thank you” seems a bit inadequate or is not possible. Although you don’t want to fill people’s inboxes with unnecessary messages, recognize that for most folks, it is a pleasure to receive an occasional note of appreciation among the usual dreck. Start typing.
  • Get out your stationery: If you really want to show your thanks, think “old school.” These days, hand-written notes are few and far between, so when you take the time to craft one, it won’t go unnoticed. Write at least three sentences using your best penmanship, focus on a detail, and tell your recipients how what they’ve done for you has made a difference.

So there you have it: the who, what, and how of a good “thank you.” And at this point, if you are still reading, I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to consider these ideas. As you might imagine, it’s great to feel as if what you have to say might be useful to someone. You’ve made my day. Thank you!

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit