What’s Your Communication Style?

July 1, 2011

If you’re a fan of Myers-Briggs, then you’ll get a kick out of this, too.

I attended WWPR‘s brown bag lunch a couple weeks ago. The speaker was Carol Vernon, Certified Executive Coach and Managing Principal of Communication Matters.

She has developed four designations for communicators. Perhaps you like the bottom line, or love to get lost in facts and figures. Maybe you’re a storyteller, or you believe compassion is the way to go. Whatever your preferred style, Vernon says you can use it to your advantage, in both your professional and personal relationships.

We all know people we consider good communicators. What traits do they possess? They’re usually friendly, interested, knowledgeable and good listeners. But after hearing Vernon speak, I realize there’s more to it than that. Just like with Myers-Briggs, when you meet YOUR type, it’s such a relief. You feel like you’re with your pals and you can relax. The same holds true when you meet others who communicate the way you do. Perhaps this makes a difference in how you perceive a good or not-so-good communicator?

Here are the fours styles Vernon has spelled out. She does say that no particular style leads to greater success or effectiveness. I believe successful communicators are more likely to morph their styles to fit a particular situation.

  1. Direct – decisive and pragmatic. Tends to speak quickly and formally, with direct eye contact and a firm handshake. Focus is on WHAT needs to be done.
  2. Systematic – analytical and logical. Prefers details like charts and graphs, and looks at processes. Uses precise language. Focus is on HOW to get the job done.
  3. Spirited big picture – storyteller. Excited about ideas and innovation. Very expressive and persuasive. Focus is on WHY the project is necessary.
  4. Considerate – supportive listener. Speaks slowly using soft tones. Values relationships and is more comfortable with workplace closeness. Focus is on WHO is involved.

Why style are you? I identified with all the styles to a certain extent. When I spoke with Vernon about this, she said that some people are able to blend or flex their styles naturally when they interact with people of different styles.

We didn’t take a test to determine which category best suited us. Instead, Vernon asked us to self-identify and then split into groups.

About half of us self-identified as Direct Communicators. Vernon says this is unusual. I wonder if direct-style individuals are drawn to the communications profession? Again, according to Vernon, you will find a certain type of person more drawn to a certain profession, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other types.

Only two of our group put themselves in the Systematic category. Again, Vernon says this is unusual. The styles are usually a bit more spread out. About 25 percent fell into the Spirited category, with the remaining 25 percent as Considerate.

So how can it help to know your style? When you recognize your style and your bosses or colleagues’ styles, you can consciously make an effort to blend or flex your style to better communicate.

For example, when dealing with Direct Communicators, get to the point and answer the question asked. For Systematic Communicators, provide facts and figures. Spirited Communicators need recognition of their contributions. Focus and really listen to the Considerate Communicators.

Interesting, isn’t it? Since I attended this session, I’ve been thinking about the people with whom I interact, and trying to determine which category they fit. With some people it’s easy; with others, it’s not so easy. But it certainly does explain why I feel some people are easier to get along with than others.

Let me know what you think about this. Also, check out Carol Vernon’s web site; she has much more information.

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Nonprofits: Revisit Your Mission to Revitalize Your Organization

October 4, 2010

Mission Focus at Nonprofits Important for Morale, Success

As I peruse and participate in Linked In groups and surf the blogosphere, I’m noticing the singular aspect of communications queries and tips. What should I put on my website? How can I drive traffic to my website? Should I have a two-fold or three-fold brochure? My response is a question. How do these message distribution channels fit into your overall communications strategy? Do you have a strategy? And if you do, how does your strategy communicate your mission?

                                                What is Your Strategy?

The days of counting newsclips as success are gone (I hope). The days of fuzzy ROI regarding public relations are also going by the wayside. There are countless ways to publish your news and promote your organization. But you need a plan.

Start with your mission or your goals. Why are you in business? What do you do? To what end? You and each and every employee should be able to state the answer to these questions in one short sentence. If that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.        

Most organizations start with well defined goals and a business plan. When your business was new, I’m confident the boss and employees knew exactly what the goals were. There was probably a lot of excitement – and possibly exhaustion from working so hard to get the word out. But as time passes, it’s easy to become complacent and lose sight of your goals.

When is the last time you really looked at your mission – and really read it? It’s important to review your mission at least every couple years to see if: 1) it’s still relevant; and 2) you are following your mission.                          

 Focus on Relevance

Hold a brainstorming session for all staff. Or if you have a large organization, hold a few brainstorming sessions. Encourage everyone to participate. Focus on questions like: Is our mission relevant and current? Does it describe our goals? Does it need to be changed or completely rewritten?

Depending upon the results of these brainstorming sessions, hold follow up meetings. Rewrite your mission, if necessary, and include the staff in the process. Or maybe you don’t need to rewrite your mission. Kudos. Then ask the employees to articulate what the mission means to them.                                                                                                                    

Either way, a focus on your mission will generate a renewed commitment to your organizational goals. It will motivate people by reminding them of why they do what they do, and why your organization is important.

Morale will improve and productivity will improve. This is a vital first step towards developing your messaging and messaging strategies.        

Next post: Know Your Audience


Send compliments up the chain of command, too

September 7, 2010

Even the best writers appreciate compliments. This isn’t something I gave much thought to until very recently.

I’ve always tried to respect everyone with whom I’ve worked, no matter what their position. I pride myself on being an egalitarian, and I truly believe everyone has a contribution to make. I do have trouble with those who don’t work hard or don’t work to their potential, but that’s another post…

We all enjoy compliments; they make us feel valued. While it’s easy to compliment your staff or your peers, compliments don’t always work their way up the chain of command. I realized this a long time ago, and accordingly often communicated my respect to my bosses regarding their ideas and accomplishments.

This has startled my bosses, which I think is a bit sad. Now I’m not talking about being a sycophant; rather, I’m talking about genuine compliments and respect. When I was in the top position, I was saddened to see how many sycophants circled around me. I looked for the real people – there were many. But when I looked for the real compliments, there weren’t many. Now, some could argue that I didn’t deserve compliments, but I hope that’s not the case.

Recently, I complimented one of my long-time mentors. She is a fabulously creative writer and has many articles to her credit. I’ve always taken her talent for granted. She was the best when I met her twenty-some years ago, and she’s only gotten better. Surely she knows that and I don’t need to compliment her, right? My compliment was really matter-of-fact, and I didn’t think twice about it, until her reaction…

She was thrilled that I appreciated what she had done. I was surprised she valued my opinion to that extent.

So, here’s to you, Linda. You’re the best, and I can’t wait to read your new book.

The moral of the story: let’s not forget to compliment all those closest to us, whether it’s staff or peers or bosses or spouses or parents or kids or mentors or that stranger sitting next to you. You’ll make their day.

You’re never too old or too established to appreciate a good compliment.


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