The Strength in Recognising, Understanding and Nurturing our own and others’ Communication styles
Working with physical distance between us highlights the need to work on our communication skills. In this final article in this series, I explore how combining understanding your own communication style, and recognising and nurturing others’ is a desirable and effective leadership skill.
Well it’s certainly been an unusual couple of months! Through all the difficulties we’ve endured, one of the best things I’ve seen is how many people are finding the positives in our current situation.
For me, one positive that I hope we can take away is a lesson on leadership. Good leadership is more crucial than ever as we negotiate changed working conditions, but also more broadly, for example helping others within our communities. Afterall, everyone is a leader of their own lives.
That’s why I put together this series of articles which I hope will give people another tool to navigate the changed communication dynamics of remote working and physical distance. This series, the first two of which you can find here. The first one delves into the importance of understanding your communication style, while the second looks at recognising and embracing the communication style of others. This week, I want to look at how to combine this knowledge to become a more confident leader by embracing the diversity in others and how diversity and inclusion make for a stronger workplace.
To recap, there are four different types of communicators identified under a specialised assessment we use in our leadership training courses known the MiRO assessment. Each person typically has one or two dominant styles, and how they communicate and how they work together with each other is important information for any leader. In brief, the styles are:
- Driver, who wants to get the job done
- Energiser, who wants everyone else to feel good
- Organiser, who knows everyone’s roles and makes it clear what everyone should be doing
- Analyser, who needs to gather all the information
Understanding and nurturing diversity in the workplace
In every team, there are going to be a range of types of communicators and it’s essential to nurture and include everyone. As this HBR article says, high performing teams are inclusive, in other words all team members belong, are valued and made to feel confident. In fact, as research referenced in the article says, teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively.
I agree wholeheartedly, because I have seen first-hand through my work that firstly recognising, then accepting and embracing the different ways people communicate and work makes for a happier and more effective team. This could mean recognising that any one of your team members may be the best leader in a given situation.
Let’s look at some examples of communication styles and how leaders can create an environment where everyone can thrive
An energiser such as myself would like you to speak using broader concepts, sticking to the big picture while keeping them involved them in the process. And organisers, which I also identify with, are best communicated with using a co-operative attitude, focused on people, ideas and benefits. Talk them through in a step-by-step manner and give them time to think.
This is different to interacting with a driver, who likes to have a goal and a clear-cut strategy to achieve that goal. And the analyser, who responds well to communication that’s not too personal, stays focused on the task, uses details and facts.
Our work with the horses highlights the importance of including all team members. Like people, horses want to feel safe in their environment. As a herd animal, they seek harmony within their group and respond to any discord. They are acutely aware of their surroundings at all times and react to external stimuli (including from us) in a very recognisable way. Horses give instant and honest feedback to the stimulus they receive, showing us how we are perceived by others. Social norms means that we humans may not always say that we do not feel comfortable but the horse hasn’t read the human handbook. He doesn’t know if you are the CEO or the intern, he responds simply to how we make him feel.
Our horse, Bart, made this very clear during a programme we ran for a leadership cohort from a bank. The most dominant person in his team, Mike, was so focused on the task, that he forgot to involve his other human team mates or Bart in the team strategy. Unused to being questioned over his actions, Mike was surprised when Bart planted his feet and would not budge. When we explored what was happening, it became clear that to get the task done, all team members needed to feel included and heard. A great learning moment for Mike.
A lesson in team dynamics
As I mentioned above, I am primarily an energiser with a lot of organiser too. However, many people guess I’m a ‘driver’, which is only a small part of my style. What does this tell us about communication dynamics within teams?
An analysis of the entire team here at Leading Edge Life Skills might provide some answers. Our dominant types are organisers and energisers (not a surprise given our chosen field). This means we are a creative, caring and practical team. It also means we have some downsides, like a natural tendency to avoid conflict and no dominant driver.
So, perhaps the reason I get mistaken for the driver is that not having a dominant driver in the group has motivated me to move into that role despite it not being my natural main style. A sign that it’s very possible to adapt, and make the best of individual strengths in order operate better as a whole.
How do I put it into practice?
Having coached many people through our leadership programmes, one of the main lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t tell people how to be leaders. You have to give them the means to discover how to do it for themselves. These so-called ‘soft skills’, such as emotional intelligence, are becoming increasingly important in today’s workforce and are now a major feature in job interviews and performance reviews.
Try thinking about your team and identifying any issues which you might have. Then, contemplate how you could overcome those as a leader. Perhaps your team is lacking a driver. Maybe there’s someone with secondary traits of a driver, who you could encourage to step up?
Maybe your team of analysers is so bogged down in facts and they never get started? Could a clear and detailed timeline for action be the type of communication you need?
And remember to include all team members. Ask the quieter people for their input, harness the enthusiasm of the more outgoing types – help nurture that inner leader in everyone.
Let us know below if you’ve got any examples of how you’ve negotiated team communication dynamics!
We’re currently running a special on MiRO assessments, so if you’d like some more information please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have also been running a poll on communication styles which you can answer below.