I recently watched a magician named Derek Hughes perform… he was amazing! To the casual observer, he was empowered with supernatural abilities. The truth: although well practiced and eminently skilled, what the audience experienced were some tricks of his trade. I’m thankful magicians aren’t the only ones who have a few tricks up their sleeve.

What is a trick? Here’s a working definition: something difficult to explain without understanding the process or method used for producing the outcome. A trick, well-executed, often leaves people mystified.

Leaders have been known to pull their share of rabbits out of a hat. Like magicians, some leaders are slow to share their secrets, but I thought I would share one with you today.

Establishing a common language within a team, organization or culture unleashes huge untapped potential.

Armed with this truth, many leaders work diligently to forge a common language. It requires time, discipline and attention to detail. Leaders repeat stories, metaphors, descriptions and labels as often as possible – it is strategic repetition. Truett Cathy was famous for this approach. I had the privilege of listening to him tell the same stories, again and again, for decades.

You may find leaders practicing this trick by sponsoring training sessions or teaching classes themselves, as GE’s leaders have been famous for over the decades. Many organizations work diligently to embed core values deep in the culture. The language is always precise and repeatable.

Why does this trick work so well? A common language…

Minimizes Confusion – You may not have heard the story of why, in 1999, a Mars orbiter crashed into the red planet. Two sets of engineers, on opposite sides of the earth, did not share a common language – one was using the Metric system and the other was using English standards. As it turns out, a game of inches is very different than a game of centimeters.

Strengthens Culture – What we say and do repeatedly IS the culture. Culture is not what we want it to be; it is what it is. To change a culture, you must change language and habits. Language is a cornerstone of a culture. A change in language can signal a change of culture. Guests are treated differently than customers.

Fosters Unity – When we realize we speak the same language, it is a powerful, unspoken sign of unity. When you say something that others instantly understand – not just the denotation but the connotation, they know what YOU mean when you use a term or a phrase; you know you are part of the same tribe.

Increases Speed – How much time, energy and effort is lost when we don’t speak the same language? It would be hard to measure. If you don’t believe me, take note of all the questions you generate and receive in an attempt to clarify meaning over the next week. You will probably be shocked.

Facilitates Alignment – Language is the currency of alignment. Are your people talking about the same things? Do they all agree on the key priorities, strategies, and tactics? Alignment multiplies impact. Without a common language, the chances are good you are leaving results on the table.

Creates Synergy – Synergy is increased when people speak the same language. I don’t fully understand it. There is confidence, comfort, and enhanced creativity when we speak the same language. This produces trust and often leads to exponential returns – it’s almost magical!

Leaders who create a common language can often make the difficult look effortless. Only those on the inside will know the years of effort required to pull the rabbit out of your hat.