We cannot not communicate. Everything we say and not say, do and don’t do communicates something. However, in practice the biggest pitfall is thinking that communication actually happens. What comes to mind is the story of an American tourist in Italy who in his quest to find the restroom keeps repeating the phrase ‘Whera isa tha toiletta’, slower and louder, actually thinking he is speaking Italian and wondering why no Italian seems to understand what he is talking about!
Funny and absurd at the same time, isn’t it? In business that collective monologue is quite common. However, the problem appears not as obvious such as that you speak English and someone else Italian, Chinese, or Arabic, but more obscured and related to our different thinking and action dynamics, vantage points from which we see the same world very differently, regardless of the mother tongue and foreign language proficiency. As a result, a lot of communication is ignored or misunderstood while we attempt to speak louder and slower, just like that American in the story, to vigorously get our message across. In this modern day Babylon, I’m actually surprised that anything gets done.
Each profile will have certain ways to process and understand information and to best communicate with others. Some are big picture thinkers, others grounded realists, some introverts preferring to decide and act for themselves whilst others extroverts preferring to decide and act through and with others. Understanding how others naturally operate opens the bridge for a significantly better communication and so much more productive and fun experience in the office.
Creators live in vivid imaginary worlds. They have short attention spans, so all communications needs to be presented with brevity and impact – and ideally visually. They often imagine they have communicated things that they haven’t so make sure all expectations are spelled out and agreements and deadlines explicit and clear.
Stars are natural communicators when they take the stage. That means they will be better when communicating to a group than one-to-one, for which they have less patience. They buzz when having fun and getting attention. Stars work harder at preparing for the next performance or presentation than they will in the details of the long-term strategic plan or the financial forecasts. Star are not strong at the details so if you leave a 50-page proposal for a Star, don’t expect it to be read soon, if at all.
Supporters love to chat and an interactive verbal aspect to communication is important to them. They are not as comfortable as Stars with taking the stage, as they don’t work well with one-way presentations. However, they communicate well through casual conversation and concepts brought to life through stories and participation. It’s easy for Supporters to get distracted, so the key is for a Supporter to start with a clear message and outcome to ensure their communication is effective.
Deal Makers need to hear all sides so communication is always in stereo or even surround for them. They care about the interest of all parties involved and prefer one-to-one communication or smaller groups. To a Deal Maker it is about what is said and how it is said as well as about what’s not said. They read non-verbal and contextual signals well and will often address it indirectly. Sometimes they best communicate by saying nothing at all.
Traders, like Deal Makers, thrive in smaller groups and often find it difficult to perform in front of an audience. They don’t enjoy the attention being on them and are the first to shine it onto someone or something else. This means they will often find a spokesperson for the team and then prepare the information needed for them to shine. They need time to communicate and are happier when what they say is backed up with research and examples. They are always most comfortable of information that come with substance, and don’t have much time for conceptual ideas and pie-in-the-sky thinking.
Accumulators need quiet time to consider and think before saying anything. So they tend to get annoyed when there is too much conversation or stories around that don’t help them to concentrate. They don’t like to get things wrong, so are not as willing to volunteer a wrong – or unproven – answer, and would rather write things down and get clear feedback on how they can improve. Accumulators communicate best when can write down and present clear concepts, data and numbers.
Lords are logical so communication needs to be structured and make logical sense for them. They will be the first to put things in writing, and want to see all the detail and instructions clearly written down. Giving a Lord a big picture concept or ask them to think on their feet is the fastest way to lose their interest or get them on the defensive. Lords need time to think about their communication, and will often work through many drafts before being comfortable to present their final results or ideas.
Mechanics love brainstorming and investigating through visuals and charts. They communicate best when they have information that they can show in new and interesting ways, and when they have the time to prepare properly for their presentation. They are not good at improvising, so putting a Mechanic on the spot is never the way to get the best out of them. Mechanics also communicate best through questions and answers where they can uncover the areas to investigate further.
Well, in these short descriptions you may recognise yourself as much as you may recognise others.
The key for better communication is to acknowledge and respect the existence and value of speaking a different language and operating from a different perspective, no matter what it is. The first step then is beginning to listen to others first to recognise where they are coming for and what communication works best for them. Remember, the (adapted) platinum rule: “Communicate unto others as they would like to be communicated to themselves.”