Episode 47 - Ann PageShould you avoid using jargon in your business conversations? We're making conversations about jargon count!
Ann Page, Yorkshire Courses for Lawyers
Making Conversations about Jargon Count!
After heading up the legal department of the Co-Operative Bank, today’s guest transformed her skillset to helping the law industry become more approachable.
Solicitors speak the language of the law which is full of jargon and we’ve all thought it, ‘what does that actually mean?’
This is where Ann Page has dedicated her career in training over 7000 lawyers in leadership, management and interpersonal skills both in the UK and internationally.
Her book ‘Business Skills? Don’t be daft I’m a Lawyer!’ is endorsed by Managing Partners of regional branches of The Law Society and is packed with insightful observations.
But Ann’s path to becoming a lawyer was not a simple one and in retrospect that part of our conversation is intriguing…
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Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode Forty-Seven
September 9th 2021
Wendy Harris & Ann Page
00:01:47 Business Skills, Don’t be Daft I’m a Lawyer
00:03:14: Trainees have to be invested
00:05:12: Make it relevant
00:07:06: Bad habits
00:08:46: Seek first to understand
00:10:45: Five wives and one husband
00:13:52: Hate being sold to
00:15:32: Relatable and real life not jargon
00:17:51: Ann’s pivotal conversation
00:20:48: Passionate chain reaction
00:23:27: Final conversation
Wendy Harris: Does your business use jargon? If it does, are you using it when you’re addressing your customers? If you are, you could be turning them off. No one wants to admit they don’t understand what they’re being told or feel comfortable asking for it to be explained. In this episode we are joined by Ann Page, who has trained over 7,000 lawyers in her time and that wasn’t her obvious career choice, as she explains. Let’s get onto making conversations about jargon count.
What’s new Wendy Woo? Well, remember that top secret opportunity? Well, I’ve planned and posed questions to a dragon. I was so excited to be selected and you can share what happened with me by following the hashtag #diaryofaconversationqueen. Hopefully that will give you a clue too.
I’ve received this review from Drehan in Buckhurst Hill, “Hi Wendy, I had a listen to Jem Hills. Wow, what a great episode, I absolutely loved it, especially the part about the dancing and that’s something that just clicked in his mind saying he was actually good at something. He has really come a long way since”. I couldn’t agree with you more Drehan, Jem is a real gent and a tribute to our armed forces. If you’ve not listened to the episode do seek it out and have a listen, he’s a great guy.
Business skills, we all need business skills, yet we are also experts at what we do. I have with me now author of Business Skills? Don’t be Daft I am a Lawyer!. It’s Ann Page, thank you for joining us today, Ann.
Ann Page: Thank you for asking me, Wendy, I’m delighted to be here.
Wendy Harris: I’m intrigued, previous lawyer, long career in that field and you saw that particular industry needed some help. Tell us more about that.
Ann Page: As you have mentioned, my career’s in two halves and I was actually more of a business lawyer, because being an in-house lawyer means you work for companies. So, I predominantly worked with banks except for one stint for the retailer called Next. So, you saw lots of business ideas come to fruition and out into the marketplace.
Then my profession has gone through so much change in the last 20 years and it’s getting faster and faster, so about 18 years ago when I came out of there, I wanted to take my business skills, my leadership skills, my management skills and experience out to them. One of the fun statements or credibility statements is, I’ve trained nearly 7,000 lawyers in that time on these skills.
Wendy Harris: That’s incredible!
Ann Page: I’m a great believer it has to be fun as well and I love the in-person training.
Wendy Harris: Same. You can replicate some and I think the hardest part for any training is that the people on the training have to be invested in it.
Ann Page: Absolutely, whether they’re in the training room or on virtual platforms, and if they don’t put their screens on, that makes it even more difficult, because the kind of workshops I do are very interactive. It’s not a question of me telling them what this act says or what this case says, it is about, “Where is your business? What are your challenges within the particular context?” It could be resilience, it could leadership, could be having challenging conversations, etc, so it has to be more of a dialogue and more interactive. Plus the fact I like to make you work in my workshops.
Wendy Harris: This is it. I was only having this conversation this morning and it is that any recommendations that we make as trainers has got to be because we can see that that change will bring about results. It’s not about just identifying what change needs to happen, but how can they implement it? They’ve got to see themselves actually doing it, or it’s just never going to stick. Of course, if you do that in a fun way, I think it’s way more memorable.
Ann Page: I totally agree, Wendy. I’m a “how” girl, so I want to know how things are done. Even in my book I have exercises, so here’s how to choose your name in terms of law firms; do you add legal; do you add solicitor? These are examples and this is the process, just for thinking it through. Even on my website, I have complementary exercises, whether it’s personal branding, whether it’s personal qualities as a leader, all sorts of things, so plenty of ways for them to learn how to do things.
Wendy Harris: Exactly, if you go back 30-odd years when I first started, and I’ve been on some really really top-rated expensive training courses, and I’ve come out of there absolutely buzzing because I can see the logic, I can see that that’s going to really make a difference, and then you get back to the office and you go, “How am I going to do that, because it’s not specifically relevant to my business? How do I make it relevant?” Then you get stuck, because it was kind of too generic, too flannel.
Ann Page: It goes in the “too difficult” box. At the end of each workshop or each coaching session, we look at what actions are we going to take, because sometimes you can learn lots and you need to avoid going into overwhelm. So, pick one or two that you can easily do and then build up into those that might be a bit challenging that you might need some coaching help with. So, yeah, definitely embedding new stuff.
Wendy Harris: It’s creating a habit, isn’t it? Do one thing at a time.
Ann Page: Yes, yes.
Wendy Harris: Let’s think about the things that we can do ourselves, because they’re the quicker things to work on.
Ann Page: Absolutely, yes.
Wendy Harris: Prioritise the things that really have to happen as well, even the things that you’ve been putting off.
Ann Page: Absolutely.
Wendy Harris: Make them the must-do on your to do list, else you’re never going to really effect any change, are you, if you’re not going to embrace even the bits you don’t like?
Ann Page: Absolutely, it does take commitment and what was it Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit”. As you said, and it’s something that I believe in, “What can I do on a daily basis or weekly basis?” We’ve only got to look at all the good stuff on wellbeing and exercise to know that.
Wendy Harris: Yes, definitely. We’ve had a difficult period, haven’t we, where things have changed. Our routine has been turned upside down and the way that we work has changed and we’ve all had to evolve and adapt. It just meant that some bad habits have crept in, haven’t they?
Ann Page: They can do or what we’re hearing now is this desire, with some law firms, to return to the pre-COVID working days, regardless of actually examining what they want to keep or what they don’t want to keep. For example, an email will go round say, “Everybody back in the office from Monday”, or whatever day they’ve got in mind. In fact, I’m doing a leading out of COVID workshop on Friday where we’re going through and actually, “What is working for you that can change? What is not working for you that you want to end once all the restrictions go? What can you do now?” We’re going though that process.
Wendy Harris: It’s good to evaluate, not just from a company point of view but also the wellness of your culture for the staff, isn’t it? There’s lots to take on.
Ann Page: Yes, certainly been a lot of change, a good change. Certainly, one of my clients is an advocate for mental health wellbeing, does an awful lot in that way and I have seen lots of differences in law firms whereby they are taking these onboard, so we don’t want them to slide back to bad habits.
Wendy Harris: Absolutely. Whilst all of this is being looked at under the microscope, in actual fact what’s happening is lots more conversation is happening and the right kind of conversation to effect the right kind of change, which I am obviously an advocate of.
When it comes to your day-to-day world then, Ann, I know that you’ve written a few books. I know that you do these webinars and you help in the law firm. What would you say conversation means to you to run your business?
Ann Page: It’s a really good question. One of the skills that I teach nearly on every workshop I do is called Active Listening, because it’s a skill. We are so programmed as experts to be wanting to provide our expertise that the client or customer has just said, “Hello”, and we’re delivering their solution; so, just actually giving them time to tell their story so that they can feel heard.
There’s a little exercise I do where in pairs they have to listen for 30 seconds, one listens and then one repeats. So, it can be fun, some find it easier than others. Active listening is really important so that’s where I would start. What is it Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then be understood”?
Wendy Harris: That’s interesting, because you’ve just made me think about those times where we go networking and we have 30 seconds to sell ourselves and we have so much to say, don’t we? In actual fact, less is more and I would say that sometimes people need to slow down, than speed up. I would say that they need to just make one point to be remembered, because if you’re so busy writing something down, you’re trying to remember what it is that you’re writing down, you’ll miss the next point.
Ann Page: Absolutely, and certainly talking to my lawyers who think they demonstrate active listening by writing things down, when in fact or if they sat face-to-face all the client sees is the top of their head. One of the things is once they’ve told the story, then go back and say, “There’s some points I’d like to capture, can we just revisit them?” That’s one way.
Wendy Harris: Those that are listening that are in a sort of sales role, and I know a lot are in the sales and marketing role in the audience, would say that actually active listening whilst yes, it is a fundamental key to getting on with and building those relationships, it’s even simpler than that, do you think, than it is just about making sure that everything that you do is about the customer.
Ann Page: Yes, you have to be customer-centric or client-centric. It’s easy to say, “What does that mean? That’s why I started with active listening, because I can’t help you out. I can make educated guesses and be right maybe 90% of the time, however whoever’s coming to talk to me about their business challenges wants the space to talk to me first. So, I must listen before I can say, “Well, actually I can help here”, or, “We can do this”.
Wendy Harris: Yes, you’ve got to really understand, or assumptions are made, aren’t they, and that can really get you into hot water? If you make an assumption and there’s nothing that that’s based on, then you have to sometimes just use your gut instinct as to what they’re alluding to as well.
Ann Page: Certainly, in terms of questions without trying to put them on trial, you can use the five wives and one husband, “What, Where, When, Who, How, Why”.
Wendy Harris: I haven’t heard that phrase for such a long time, Ann. I’ve always referred to them as the Bible, the Bible open questions. So, if you think of the Bible.
Ann Page: Five wives and one husband.
Wendy Harris: I like that. Probably get on better with four other women to help me out!
Ann Page: I couldn’t possibly comment! The caveat I would say is that with a why question, you will generally get a justification, “Why were you late?” “Because the train was”; just bear in mind. The others, “What?” “How would we do that?” “What does that mean?” Those kind of questions open up, as you know. From a sales point of view, I am sure they’re embedded, however you call them, into your psyche, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: “Why” can be opinionated, can’t it? It’s very opinionated, yes. There’s less you can do about that opinion rather than be factually based, so how are you backing that up? It’s all about taking control, isn’t it, and I suppose it’s about taking control of the conversation back, that when I say to people we don’t work with scripts, we don’t have sheets of paper that are written out step by step to ask a question; because sometimes the other person doesn’t see what that script is, hasn’t got a clue what questions you’re going to ask, will offer up more information than you’ve asked, because it naturally leads for them and then you’re off script, aren’t you?
Certainly those five wives and husband, I am going to start using that, Ann, now. Those fives wives and a husband, if you order them cleverly, can be those leading questions as part of that customer journey to incorporate that active listening.
Ann Page: Absolutely, and to remember, I guess, whichever professional background you’re in is, yes, the clients/customers want results; they also want to enjoy the experience, and in fact my last blog was on this. They want to enjoy it now, so that has been a great change.
Wendy Harris: Yeah. There’s been an interesting article that I’ve read on LinkedIn that was produced by LinkedIn, so I can’t imagine that it’s not credible sources, and it was talking about a journey that whilst there is still a place for businesses to go out to customers to encourage them to buy from them, in actual fact it’s a fairly even split now, that half of the market just does not want it any longer. Now, that used to be a much higher percentage, you’d be sitting at about 20 to 25% that just really didn’t like being approached, and that is now sitting at about 53%. So, in actual fact, it’s swung in favour of a majority; they don’t want to be approached.
So, if you are using outreach in any way shape or form, you’ve got to be really smart and succinct with how you convey your messaging and come across in your conversational marketing or just your pure conversations.
Ann Page: I agree, and it goes back to knowing your clients or the client base that you want to attract, knowing what products or service, particularly in the legal field, that they need in a business context, and what you’re going to provide yourself, what you’re going to introduce them to, how to engage them on lots of different levels. Certainly the legal profession hates being sold to.
Wendy Harris: Yes, the legal profession, I’m going to come onto this, because I know this is something that you help them with; they have an awful lot of big posh words, don’t they, Ann? Then can leave whoever needs it a little confused as to why they should have it in the first place, or it becomes too complicated to unravel. What’s your view on that?
Ann Page: There has certainly been a drive over the last few decades to simplify the language. Some of it’s set out in, if you like, the statutes, so it is trickier. At some stage, some of the technical language is going to be used and IT has more technical terms.
Wendy Harris: I was just thinking, “IT”.
Ann Page: The lawyer is the interpreter and if I am trying to explain neurolinguistic programming, NLP, then it’s up to me to explain that in as simple language as possible and the same for a lawyer, the same for an architect. Whoever it is, you have to use the client’s language where possible or at least guide them in stages, so they’ve got a platform of knowledge for you to introduce these complicated terms.
Wendy Harris: I think it is about making it relatable, isn’t it, to real life scenarios? And I think that lawyers, solicitors, legal, finance, I would say that it’s what I would class as white-collar workers, tend to get wrapped up in the jargon, don’t they?
Ann Page: Certainly, I’ve seen a vast difference, Wendy, however, the last 18 years I’ve not been employed in businesses. There was certainly a drive when I was Head of Legal at the Co-operative Bank, we certainly wanted it in everyday language and certainly what we call private client, those are the consumers, want it to be in everyday language, because otherwise we’re not going to engage them.
Wendy Harris: Absolutely, so all of this unravelling the jargon is all about being able to identify ways of promotion really, isn’t it, and in communication, conversation it’s going to be key? What’s the biggest example or a story that you can think of that really proves the point? Have you got any anecdotes?
Ann Page: I have an anecdote about an important conversation that changed my life, so if I share that, then you can decide whether that hits the mark and if not, I’ll think of another one. The context of the conversation was I was at Leeds Polytechnic doing my law degree. The way we were taught criminal law was the lecturer came in, opened his book and read to us, so you can imagine I was at the back of the class.
That did not engage us, so if I fast forward to the exam and I’m sat in the criminal law exam, must have been full of jargon, I think, “I don’t understand this”, and I came out, I just walked out because I thought, “I’m not sitting here”. I was fine about it but the people behind me just went overboard a little bit to make sure I was okay.
What it did do was made me think, did I want to be a lawyer; did I not want to be a lawyer? Because I actually left school with no O’ Levels. The reason I started the journey to become a solicitor was I got an A in A Level Law at a business college. I’m thinking, “Do I want to do this? Do I not want to do this? I don’t know what I want to do”. I was in a departmental store when I bumped into my sister’s teacher, who was a family friend and she grabbed me.
Wendy Harris: By the scruff of the neck.
Ann Page: By the scruff of the neck, yanked me towards her, and I’m quite little, so when nose-to-nose, looking at me, and she looked me in the eye and said, “Promise me, Ann. Promise me you will go back and complete your degree. Promise me, promise me”. I just thought, “Okay. Okay, I’ll go back”.
I thought, “Wow”, I mean my parents were just, “Whatever makes you happy”. Christina was so passionate about fulfilling my potential, I guess, finishing my degree, and it did two things for me. It gave me a lifelong love of learning new things, whether that’s about the law, about communication, about business, I just loved it. Secondly, in thinking about specific conversations, it reminded me that my senior contract manager said something about my leadership and management style, and it’s on my LinkedIn profile, I just want to read it to you because it follows through.
It says, “Ann is very focused and successful in achieving the goals she sets. Really caring about those whom she works with and is keen to ensure that they learn and progress to the best of their abilities”. So, Christina’s passion for me to finish my degree, my staff got developed whether they wanted to or not. So, they loved me afterwards and have thanked me afterwards, maybe not so much at the time.
One of the great things about being my age is I can look back and join the dots a bit, whereas for the young lawyers that I help, I am saying they are looking forward to possibilities, which you and I can look back on. So I just thought, I would never have connected those dots if you hadn’t asked me to do this conversation.
Wendy Harris: I think what’s instrumental there is that almost that passion was like a spear that Christina’s come at you with a spear, and you’ve took it and that hit a spot and now you’ve got to take that spear out. To some degree, you’re going to be in a place of questioning, because you’d already thought that you’d made a decision that you weren’t going to be doing it, and now you’ve got to readdress your thinking, so you’ve got to heal really before you can go on and do that.
That somebody has given you that oomph of energy to do and then you’re still carrying that spear into your next role to go, “Who’s next. It happened to me, now I’m going to get you”.
Ann Page: Yes, please line up, form an orderly queue to the left!
Wendy Harris: Isn’t it wonderful that you’re transferring that energy, whoever she’s touched has touched you, and you’ve gone and touched them. If you think again about some of those people that have now thanked you, because let’s face it, when we’re in teaching mode or we’re in learning mode, it can be a little bit like we go into being children, don’t we, and we don’t want to listen to mum and dad always because we don’t always want them to be right all of the time?
Certainly, if you were to go back and have conversations with those people that have come through, I wonder how many people they’ve now touched. That’s the legacy.
Ann Page: I would hope that they touched lots of people I wouldn’t know, and I’d like to think so. I’ve been very lucky over the last 18 years; I’ve collected lots of testimonials. A little bit more about what they do with it I suppose to where they’ve taken it, but it would be nice. That’s a lovely thought to think that they’re taking it elsewhere.
Wendy Harris: I’m just going to say now, if you’ve worked with Ann Page, do get in touch with the show. I want to know what effect she has had on you so that we can shout about it, please. That’s what we all secretly want to do when we’re looking to develop ourselves to be the best we possibly can be and the change that we want to affect in our lives, isn’t it?
Ann Page: It is, and you summed it really well, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: That’s a really, really powerful story to say that those years ago — so glad she got you by the scruff of the neck.
Ann Page: Just in this departmental store and all I could remember was, “Everybody must be looking at me”. I’d be 20 and I’m thinking, “OMG!” I probably said it out loud; well, internally, I wouldn’t have sworn in those days!
Wendy Harris: How long did it take for you to get back and do your law degree?
Ann Page: I did another year, so I had four years as a student. What can I tell you; it was great!
Wendy Harris: Did that previous three years apply you in the last year, or was it that effect?
Ann Page: We did the degree at Leeds Polytechnic it was an LLB, so it was an external one, so the only way you could achieve it was by exams. So, because I had walked out, I had to then retake the whole year and do all the exams again.
Certainly, there’s a group of young lawyers that I mentor and they’re all talking about, did they get a first or they’re counting up their points; we never had any of that discussion. I just came out with a degree and a great time!
Wendy Harris: Yes.
Ann Page: What’s a first? I then went on into industry more as a graduate, into a bank, and then I took my training contracts with the legal department there and as I say the rest is history.
Wendy Harris: I’m so glad, because you’re now here telling the tale; an inspiration to others who maybe they’ve started their journey and they need a quick shift of steer.
Ann Page: A Christina touch.
Wendy Harris: Yes.
Ann Page: They want me to grab them by the collars.
Wendy Harris: If you need shaking down.
Ann Page: Nose-to-nose!
Wendy Harris: Yeah, if anybody’s up for a bit of nose-to-nose, then how is the best place for them to get in touch with you, Ann?
Wendy Harris: That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing with us today, I’m sure there’ll be lots of people that will enjoy listening to that anecdote; I really appreciate you sharing it with us all today.
Ann Page: You’re very welcome, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: What do you think? Will you be thinking about jargon differently now? A turn of phrase and the language we use seriously influences our conversations and the outcome. This was a lesson I learned very early in my career, one of the top tips when working with clients today for me.
Let’s carry the conversation on, shall we? If you’re in the legal profession, get in touch with Ann as it’s a specific skillset. For anyone else, I’m here to help. You can grab a copy of Ann’s book: Business Skills? Don’t be daft I am a Lawyer, on our website makingconversationscount.com under Guest Offers and Resources. You’ll find lots of other tips, tricks and downloads there for you too. Join me again next week.
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