All leaders have a variety of traits in common that contribute to the growth and success of an organization. But what can separate a good leader from a great one is the ability to communicate and connect with teams. While this may seem easy to achieve, even the most respected leaders must continually practice and refine these skills.
One of the things that makes engaging and connecting with others so difficult is that we all have such diverse personalities—and with that comes a variety of values, opinions, and needs. Leaders must learn to be fluid in their leadership and communication style in order to craft messages that are tailored to each individual.
Here are some tips that will help you better adapt to the personalities of each person on your team and empower you to become an even better leader.
The basis for any successful employee-manager relationship starts with listening. However, to be a truly effective listener, you have to do more than just give someone your full attention. You also must be mindful of any non-verbal messages such as facial expressions, body language, and voice inflection. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from what someone isn’t saying.
Take note of these cues and begin to build a list of the things that may inspire, discourage, or excite them. You will be able to use this information in the future to formulate messages that are more aligned with that person's motivations and desires.
Employees that feel they are being listened to are more likely to develop feelings of trust. You can give the members of your team opportunities to be heard by encouraging face-to-face meetings, group discussions, employee surveys, and anonymous suggestion boxes.
At Birkman, all employees are required to meet with their managers once a week for a 1-on-1 round-up. We use this time to discuss current projects, expectations for the week, and any roadblocks to success. I have personally found these meetings to be helpful, as they establish a foundation of trust between me and my manager. She always starts the conversation by asking if I have anything I’d like to talk to her about before jumping into the weekly objectives. This not only makes me feel as if she’s taking the time to actively listen to me, but also provides me with a safe platform to express my concerns.
Have an Open Mind
It’s easy for us to get so caught up in what we think is right that we forget to take the time to consider other options. But, going into a conversation with an open mind is an ideal way to recognize and generate new ideas.
One of the benefits of working in a team with many diverse personalities is that it gives you the chance to see the world through another set of eyes. The best leaders are the ones who are willing to not only listen to an opposing opinion, but also try to actively understand it. Often the best laid strategies and projects are a result of collaboration, and that starts with allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Google recently conducted a study that analyzed team dynamics to figure out why some teams were successful while others were not. They found that the most successful teams were the ones where all team members spoke in equal proportions, felt comfortable sharing their ideas, and were able to sense the feelings of others in the group. They determined this feeling of "psychological safety" was the critical element to making a team work. Check out the full study here...it's worth the read!
Opening dialogues with individuals whose ideas challenge your own is also an ideal way to stretch and develop your own mind. Leadership communication is not about bending other people’s opinions to match your own, but attempting to understand what’s on their minds and why.
Set an Example
Finding ways to connect with your employees on a personal level does more than develop trust—it also serves as a model for the basis of an employee’s own behavior. For example, if you’re actively listening and displaying an empathetic tone, employees are likely to do the same. The same holds true if you’re open to new ideas, free with praise, and constantly thanking people for a job well done.
The tone needs to be set at the very top of the organization, with CEOs and senior managers visible, accessible, and open to dialogue with employees.
Birkman leadership excels at setting an example for an open and honest line of communication. Every quarter, we have a company-wide meeting where leaders in each department discuss what their teams have been working on and any successes or failures they may have encountered. This not only gives everyone face time with senior managers, but also serves as a platform for them to openly give praise for a job well done and a sense of transparency for things that might not have gone as planned.
Adapt Your Style
One of the biggest roadblocks leaders face when communicating with others is learning how to tailor their message to match the diverse personalities of each person on the team.
Because we are all unique, we expect to receive messages in different ways. The closer that message is to our expectation of how it should be delivered, the more likely we are to be receptive of it.
For example, when you are providing feedback to someone, it is important to think about how that particular person is going to receive it. Would they respond better to a conversation that is direct and to the point? Or would they prefer to have the feedback tempered and more diplomatic?
The key to delivering your message effectively is recognizing what each person needs from the conversation and discovering how to give it to them. When deciding on the style and mode of communication for a particular audience, identify their interests and characteristics. Then ask yourself:
- What do they need to get out of the conversation? (Feedback? Information? Praise?)
- How you can best ensure they meet the goals of the discussion?
- What’s the optimal way of communicating to ensure they receive the message clearly?
Use Multiple Platforms
Using multiple platforms allows you to reach a broader audience while increasing the chances your message will be heard—and remembered!
Some of the channels you can choose from include:
- One-on-one discussions
- Forums and meetings
- Instant messages
- Video conferencing
- Social media
Some employees may respond best to emails that are short and sweet. Others may prefer a face-to-face meeting in a less formal tone. Some may require a few reminders of the same message, while others may have the job nearly finished before you even get through the first set of instructions.
It is important to keep in mind that the underlying message for each channel needs to remain consistent to truly enhance and emphasize what you are trying to say.
Working in teams that are rich with personality diversity can have many benefits—increased collaboration, better ideas, heightened employee satisfaction. However, it can also pose a challenge for leaders when trying to manage a group of people who all have different opinions, motivations, and needs.
Finding ways to personally connect and engage with each member of your team will take continual effort, but it's not impossible. Being self-aware and knowing how your actions are going to be perceived by others is a great place to start. By continually reassessing and refining your communication style, you will build a foundation of trust that results in a more engaged, productive, and passionate workforce.
Personality assessments, like The Birkman Method, take the guessing game out of understanding others who are different from us. At Birkman, we embrace the diverse personalities that make up our teams and view our differences as an asset. We display our personality profiles in our offices as a visual representation that shows people what we expect from them, and in return, what they expect from us. This makes connecting with one another effortless, as we are equipped with the knowledge to adapt our messages to each individual person. For example, if I know that one of my colleagues prefers to receive messages that are direct and objective, I can prepare for our conversations by having a list of facts and presenting it to them in a quick and concise manner. On the other hand, if another one of my colleagues prefers to preface a work conversation with a light-hearted social conversation, I will know it’s acceptable to ask about weekend plans or how the kids are doing. Having this information at our fingertips allows us to leverage our differences and creates a tight-knit company culture.