In today‘s diverse and busy business environment, communication skills are possibly one of the most desired qualities of a leader.
With more and more processes becoming automated, and the rise of Artificial Intelligence looking to dominate many procedures going forward, interpersonal skills are increasing in importance as we recognise the need to maintain a human link in the world of business.
The Key to Leadership Success
We’re not all the same. One person’s working style is not the same as another’s. Understanding this, and knowing how to get the best out of everyone, is the key to leadership success.
I recently read a study which reported that building versatile communication skills yielded a 52% improvement in the ability to identify styles and recognise back-up behaviour – the “fall back” behaviour of each style when an individual is stressed. In the same organisation, 46% of employees reported a moderate to significant improvement in work productivity.
Employing versatility in your communication skills will enable you to understand differences in individuals’ preferences for communication. Excellent communication avoids difficulties such as misunderstandings and demoralised staff. It also fosters better working relationships, which in turn can improve morale and efficiency.
It allows you, as a leader, to understand the motivation of individuals. Adapting to their individual needs enables you to create effective and productive relationships, getting the best out of everyone. For example, you may find your sales manager too emotional, your CEO reserved, or your IT manager dogmatic.
The trick is to learn the communication preferences for different social style and use them to determine your response. That way, you can be sure to engage in communication successfully and see a positive outcome.
What Are the Main Social Styles?
One’s social style is their preferred approach when interacting with others. It describes the most comfortable and natural way you communicate.
David Merrill developed the model that we know as the Social Style method. The four styles are Driving, Expressive, Amiable and Analytical. These are top–level styles and of course, can be subdivided as some people will be on the boundaries between styles and exhibit more than one characteristic.
The Driving style values results above all else. They like to be given high reaching goals, rational tasks and freedom to make their own decisions at speed. Recognition of results is important to them, and ‘in the moment’ feedback is highly valued when relevant to the task. As their focus is on getting the job done, they are often direct and brief communicators. This really can be a strength but can be seen as autocratic if it is overplayed in the wrong situation.
The Expressive style loves enthusiasm! They are optimistic, inspired by big–picture ideas and love having room to trial new ways of working. They are quick to overcome challenges in creative ways and react well to personal, public recognition! Expressives thrive in environments with lots of quick wins and flexibility, but make sure they have firm deadlines in place in order to focus them on an end goal.
The Amiable style is sociable and people-focused. They work best in a supportive, team environment with mutually agreed goals, and they really are compassionate listeners. The relationship–driven nature of the Amiable style often means they will do everything in their power to avoid conflict with others and in extreme situations, this can be to their own detriment. It is important to maintain a healthy balance between task and people when working together.
The Analytical style is process–driven and, as their name suggests, analytical by nature. They favour making objective decisions by being given time to assess the facts and details, with precise instruction and deadlines. Often the strength of this style is an attention to detail that others may miss and their systematic decision making. But if taken to an extreme this can become a weakness if decision making becomes slower and human factors are overlooked in the search for data.
Do you recognise yourself or your team in these styles?
Working with Different Social Styles
If you are a leader with a different social style to some of the people in your team – there’s going to be a potential problem with communication.
Let’s examine some examples of different style types and the importance of versatility if you are to work effectively together.
A Driving style may want to cut to the chase quickly and not spend hours discussing the pros and cons of a situation. They may become agitated by a more Analytical colleague who wants to ask more questions before making a decision. As the situation develops, the Driving style begins to push for decisions and action, while the Analytical withdraws and digs their heels in, becoming less willing to discuss the situation.
Or take the example of trying to get a team to collaboratively decide on a project.
The Driving style wants to reach a conclusion and get on with the project as soon as possible. The Amiables want to hear everyone’s opinions. Expressives love to brainstorm, believing they’ve already got an answer. Meanwhile, the Analyticals don’t want to get involved in the toing and froing – they just want to be involved when the decisions are agreed, and they are assigned specific tasks.
So, you can see how difficult it can be to manage these different social types successfully, and why it’s vital to have the right communication skills to be successful and inspire your team. Asking the right questions will help you achieve this.
Building your versatile communication skills will allow you to identify different behaviours and manage them accordingly. As an example, for the project above you could set the Analyticals a task to come up with facts and figures to substantiate a reason to do X, while inviting the Amiables to collate the thoughts of others and report back to the team where the main points can be examined and decisions made.
Acknowledging different styles, and using them to help manage individuals more successfully, will inevitably lead to increased productivity and higher morale as people feel understood by their leader.
Versatility is the Key
In conclusion, with so many leaders taking on greater responsibilities for growing numbers of employees, it’s imperative to recognise that while there are many ways to communicate across teams, the essential factor for ensuring clear and effective communication remains Versatility.
Versatile communication is one of the main critical leadership skills. It enables a genuine competitive edge for both the individual leader and the company overall. Driven, productive and happy employees are the crucial key to unlocking company success and driving the business forward.
For more information on how you can recognise different Social Styles and work with them, click here.
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