As a leader of a company, division, department, team or project, one of our most challenging tasks is to communicate effectively with our staff and team. How often does a leader share what they believe is a clear, defined message to learn later the outcome isn’t close to the expectations, yet, everyone involved indicated they clearly understood the goal? Is there someone on your team that you can easily speak to and them with you, and it’s as if you can finish each other’s thoughts? Are there others who it seems as if you’re never on the same page, and talking with them is typically difficult?
You clearly state your expectations. You speak the same language. You specifically use words you think are familiar to everyone. Despite all of your best efforts, maybe you are actually speaking a different language?
In the late 1920’s, psychologist William Marston developed a theory that our behaviors and our communication styles center around four different classifications.
To varying degrees, we all display natural or adjusted behavioral profiles that combine what he defined as Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and/or Compliance (C). Based on Marston’s DISC Theory, a variety of tools have been developed to recognize behavioral characteristics and are commonly referred to as DISC Assessments.
“D” style people are direct and in a hurry. They often say exactly what they think, without a filter, and state their opinions as facts. They are perceived to be aggressive, demanding and impatient. They tend to focus on the big picture, the bottom line and make decisions quickly.
“I” style people are open and friendly. They tend to talk a lot, are animated and enthusiastic. They don’t focus on details, they don’t like to listen for long periods of time, and they usually don’t pay close attention. When they make a decision, it’s usually quick and spontaneous, and they can appear to be unorganized.
“S” style people are calm and thoughtful. They aren’t easily excited, listen carefully and are easy going. They ask questions naturally, are supportive and patient. Change is uncomfortable for them. They appear to struggle making decisions, but typically are trying to collect as many opinions and thoughts as possible before making a decision. They want everyone to feel included, and to know everyone’s thoughts, opinions and ideas are important.
“C” style people are detail oriented and cautious. They appear to be reserved, timid and quiet. They ask a lot of questions, analyze data and strive to make the perfect decisions. They appear to struggle making decisions because they are waiting for the latest data, they want to analyze it and then make sure there isn’t more information available. They may be very critical, but the criticism is based on facts and not their opinion.
The realization that each person’s DISC profile is a combination of the characteristics described above, it’s no wonder clear communications is such a struggle. When we provide information, share ideas and attempt to interact with everyone exactly as we want people to communicate with us, we effectively communicate with people like us, only. It is human nature to like people who are like us, and we tend to trust the people we like, also. Unfortunately, that eliminates the majority of everyone else who is different from us.
However, if we can identify a person’s dominate profile and make the effort to adapt our communications style and message to how they share and take in information, we stand a far better chance of achieving the basic human goal when communicating. We all want to be heard and understood. When we share our message in our listener’s “language” they are more likely to understand the actual meaning.
In addition to speaking our listener’s language, we must be active listeners, too. There is a difference between hearing and listening, but neither ensure understanding the message being shared. We are responsible for maintaining good eye contact, and responding both verbally and non-verbally to indicate we are listening to the speaker as they are talking. However, to be an active listener we are required to either restate the message or paraphrase what we heard to confirm our understanding, or to clarify the true message. That allows the speaker to know we grasped the meaning of what they said, or to redefine their message and clarify our understanding.
Leaders must communicate to accomplish the organizational objectives, but it’s rarely as simple as telling people what to do. Leaders hire and build teams in order to scale the workload. In other words, the team multiplies the organization’s outcomes. Striving to understand and use the “language” of the staff members enables leaders to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.
For more leadership tips or tactics, contact us here.