Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

May 21, 2019

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Eric Phinney

The Importance of Vocabulary

In the last year, my wife and I have done two things that involved using a new vocabulary.   The first was spending 8 months on our sailboat traveling from Maine to Miami and then to the Bahamas and  back. For life on a sailboat to be safe, enjoyable and successful, you need to add a good number of words to your vocabulary.   You have to learn what they mean and how to use them. Some examples are: helm, sheet, heading, head sail, winch, galley, berth, soul, head, anchor rhode, come about, burgee, Q flag, and one blast pass. The list can go on for several hundred additional items. It is not enough just to learn the terms; you do have to actually learn to sail. However, it would be nearly impossible to learn how to sail without learning the terms!


On a sailboat you will encounter a lot of “ropes”; truth be told there is only one “rope” on a sailboat; that is the bucket rope! Every other piece of “rope” has a very specific name that describes its use:  Line, rhode, sheet, halyard, painter, guy, small stuff, bow line, stern line, forward spring, after spring, breast line, etc.

The second thing we did was travel to the UK for 10 days.   In our ten days away, we had to do some redefining of terms for a good number of items and daily tasks.   If you talked about your pants, they would think you were referring to your underwear. When ordering food and snacks, you need to know the difference between chips and crisps. Let’s not even mention driving on the other side of the road! You needed to ask for the Toilet, not a “Washroom” if you wanted a toilet or you might find yourself in the Laundry! By the end of 10 days, we were speaking the language and becoming much more comfortable with everyday life. However, I’m still not sure what a “Humped Pelican Crossing” is.


Whether it is going to another country or sailing a boat, there is a redefining of terms that is absolutely key to having a successful venture.    Policy Governance® is no different. It is a system and comes with its own lexicon. Many of the words used within Policy Governance have meanings that are unique to the system and might lead you astray if you don’t how they are used.

Why not take some time with your board to review the lexicon for Policy Governance to make sure you have an enjoyable voyage!  By the way, “GOVERN” comes from Latin and Greek and means to steer the boat in safe water and keep away from danger.

Check your understanding on the following terms:

Ends, Executive Limitation, Beneficiaries, Owners, Stakeholders, , Operational Definition, Evidence, Compliance, and Monitoring

See also this Glossary of terms from Govern for Impact: https://governforimpact.org/resources/glossary.html

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