Work culture often trickles from the top. Company vision, corporate values, and a mission statement are all traditional ways of developing and maintaining a work culture. But in my opinion, it’s a lot simpler: company culture boils down to words.
Language, after all, shapes how we think. It’s a prism for viewing the world around us, influencing both how we describe what we see and how we experience it. The words and expressions that dominate an office impact not only company culture but also influences how creative (and productive) its employees can be.
This goes for large and small companies alike–take former Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black, who would fine employees $10 every time they said things like, “We’ve tried that already” or “That will never work,” to combat workplace negativity.
In our Israel-based office, b’kitzur and chutzpah are more than just prevalent buzzwords; they capture the essence of the entire startup nation’s ethos. Our defining words don’t need to be yours, but by recognizing that language creates a company culture, you can bring greater focus and purpose to all aspects of your organization’s operations.
Here’s how a little slang can go a long way toward unlocking a company’s full potential.
B’kitzur: getting to the point
Translating literally to “in short,” the Hebrew phrase b’kitzur carries special meaning at my company. If brevity is the soul of wit, as Shakespeare said, it’s also the soul of an efficient, productive organization. You’ve probably been in drawn-out meetings that did nothing more than delay decision-making. And what does that lead to? Organizational chaos, and a lack of creativity and innovation.
Keeping meetings to a minimum have made us more effective. Far from discouraging people from airing their ideas and considering all relevant alternatives, this approach compels us to make the most of meetings, inspires us to convey ideas concisely, and spurs us to get things done.
Chutzpah: showing some nerve
More commonly known, chutzpah is a Yiddish word defined by Merriam-Webster as “supreme self-confidence.” Those who demonstrate gall and nerve can be said to have great chutzpah.
What does workplace chutzpah look like? Contrary to some misconceptions, it’s not about arrogance. It is about being direct and not beating around the bush about what you want and expect. And if they fail to meet those expectations, you shouldn’t hesitate to express your feelings.
To outsiders, this directness may seem brusque and forceful. But at our company, we treat each other like we treat our siblings or cousins. This means being tight and close-knit, and being direct and honest with each other. We find that this improves our productivity because we’re able to get to the roots of problems faster and figure out how we can solve it together.
Integrating slang in the office
You could say that b’kitzur and chutzpah are guiding commandments for many Israeli startups. But even if you don’t speak Hebrew, you can still integrate Israeli slang into your office.
B’kitzur and chutzpah are often intertwined. For example, I have an always-open office door. Staff members know that if something demands immediate attention, an executive is always available. The occasional disturbance is far preferable to letting something get “stuck.” By encouraging direct communication and quick responses to critical challenges and issues within the organization, this open-door policy promotes both b’kitzur and chutzpah. Employees know how and where to convey what they need, and aren’t hesitant to be upfront about it.
Similarly, before the product team starts an assignment, a CPO should never be too shy to ask, “What’s the point?” This question, packed with chutzpah, also helps get to the heart of the matter. That’s b’kitzur rearing its head. Knowing the point of a task helps prioritize the product team’s projects. When you look at your to-dos by examining the minimum and maximum impact, you can significantly increase your team’s performance and productivity. Sort the tasks so that you can start with those with the smallest effort and biggest impact, and you’ll find your productivity skyrocket.
B’kitzur and chutzpah are mantras at my company, but different businesses will have different words that resonate with them. In deciding your company’s north star, think about which terms, phrases, or slang you frequently use and share the lingo with your employees. Of course, you have to make sure to live it and integrate it into every day-to-day interaction. B’kitzur, you’ll find that your company will become more focused, more creative, and more productive.
Eden Amirav is an Israeli entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of Lending Express.