“Ja-Nee”

June 1, 2015

2015 Blog 11

J stands for ‘ja-nee’. The expression ‘ja-nee’ is a totally unique South African linguistic phenomenon … authentic Afrikaans vernacular!

It is a very useful word in your daily business operations too. You can comment ‘ja-nee’ to any opinion you hear that you either do or don’t share, and keep the communication lines open. You can intone it with a deep voice, gazing philosophically over the head of your client, manager or employee, when you are requested to solve a problem and you’re unsure about the solution. ‘Ja-nee’ sounds like you’re really taking the request seriously, yet you are still sitting on the fence. And then there is the ‘ja-nee’ when you are asked straightforward for quick advice on something and you haven’t got it ready, and so gain thinking time to come up with a reply. In such a case, you can even repeat a few ‘ja-nee’ s but make sure to sound as if you are building up momentum.

Few words in our daily vocabulary have this versatile quality. It is a passe-partout (French for master key) both for the engaged and the disengaged listener. And it is a good peacemaker when injected – well-timed – in tense conversations.

Behind this simple and humble word, there is a surprisingly complex mindset: the see-saw potential of the weight of an emotion or argument going up or down, this way or the opposite. The back and forth mental swings of the typical procrastinator when it comes to decision-making. Or the forever weighing up of pro and con rationales of the typical ‘doubting Thomas’.

This double-faced word reminds me of the old Roman coins, with the two-faced head of the god Janus on them. This Janus looking at the same time to the left and to the right was seen as the god of endings and beginnings. He could have been saying ‘ja-nee’. He is certainly symbolic of the currency of decision-making: when we end something, we make a new beginning.

Deciding on a yes or a no cuts out the alternatives to the choice we make. The ja or the nee makes us move forward at the fork in the road.

Cutting the symbiosis between ‘ja-nee’ in two gives us an ‘unmistakable no’ and also a ‘clear-cut yes’.

Is our business investing in a generator in 2015 or do we stay at the mercy of Eskom for another year?

Are we hiring this person?

Are we firing that person?

Do we set our target at contacting 7 customers each day?

Will I get up at 7am or stay under the blankets till 9?

Do I offer a lift when I hear my colleague has a car problem?

Do I tackle the most daunting problem first?

Am I the first to apologize for having made a mistake?

Do I blame my mistake on our sales people?

When I see my partner coming home tired, do I take care of the kids — even when it is her turn and I am tired too?

The currency of making decisions is the most powerful tool we have for shaping our lives and directing our business.

But indeed many problems and choices present us with knots that are difficult to untie. The yes or the no are not always clear-cut. Business decisions can really put us between a rock and a hard place.

Then we can dither for a long time.

Or we take stock as fast as we can, and decide, embracing the risk.

Or we teach ourselves to trust our intuition, do what it tells us and take ownership of the consequences.

When you think of the managers and the businesspeople you admire most: do they tend to be philosophers or do they tend to be do-ers?

If they are do-ers, can you answer this question:

‘Are do-ers do-ers because they are snap decision-makers or because they don’t think?’

Ja-nee, that’s hard to say!

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