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Effective Communication Skills – The HR challenge explored

A look at styles of communication people bring to work

Often the strength of an organisation’s culture can be measured by the openness with which staff can address personal concerns and communicate these to colleagues.

So how do companies and those entrusted with people development help create meaningful and effective communications among staff?

What tools are needed to create greater co-operation and a place,where motivated teams thrive and become more effective business units, where they feel they can share their ideas openly and contribute in a meaningful way?

The Challenge for HR business partners

One of the main issues highlighted in HR survey by SilkRoad, was how to properly retain and engage employees. The key to unlocking this door rests in finding an organisational framework for communicating effectively within teams and with staff; a structure where diverse styles can blend together and create the level of co-operation needed for an organisation to thrive and retain its talent.

Fundamentally, it’s all about permission to communicate

One of the age-old challenges facing HR is dealing with this diversity of personalities or more specifically communications styles (effective and not-so-effective). It can be quite the headache without a framework to draw from. People do not leave companies, they leave “bosses” and colleagues due to personal communication issues, more than any other reason. A quick survey of people you know will uncover at least one story, where people left due to the communication and behaviour of others that was difficult to endure to a point where the relationship became toxic.

A microcosm of behaviour patterns

The corporate environment is a microcosm of the world, where diversity and difference show up, not just in culture, but in everyday behavior and communication between staff. When staff work in close proximity and have added time pressures, the differences can become more pronounced; it can turn in a way that negatively affects the people and the organisation. It is good to be aware of this…

People under pressure revert to their natural inclinations to communicate and relate in their own specific style, which isn’t always in everybody’s best interest.

Under Pressure, people do interesting things

I have written this in other articles; there is always a pattern to what people do in behaviour. When you put two people together with totally different communication styles, a task-focussed team member vs. a people-focussed team member, for example, it won’t take long for the differences to manifest across the project or the team. They can be positive and everybody wins. Under stress, however, the more negative aspects of the styles will show up.The crux of the challenge for managing staff in your organisations is this;

people show up in the workplace speaking the same language, but with very different rules of engagement, patterns and points of view.

The rules of engagement and culture are not always clearly articulated when a new employee joins a company, but they start to learn them as they spend time there. It’s a natural learning strategy to adapt to the culture presented. And on an individual level, it won’t take long to notice when there is a mismatch of communication styles and communication starts to break down.

People notice less about their work colleagues when things are going well.

It is when things start going awry that rules of engagement show up, as people adhere to their own ways of doing things.

And as each person shows up in the work place looking through their own eyes and fitting the world into their point of view and their version of how things should be. Some will be more flexible about it than others and it’s rooted in their way of thinking and processing their experience. Black-and-white thinking (on/off) vs. a range of possibilities and ways of looking at a situation.

Decisions and Deadlines change how people function

Styles of communication will become more pronounced in a team-project environment, where decisions and deadlines are the key drivers. Some people will be flexible and dynamic, while others will work rigidly within their own framework; and this is where the interpersonal relationships can silently disintegrate or become inflamed. And it’s not fun for anybody. Without a framework to express and communicate openly and de-personalise the personal issues, the company often pays in lower productivity, poorer staff relations, or worse, loss of key employees.

A snapshot of 4 communication styles

Here is a taste of the four communication styles below, which you can explore in more detail through psychometric profiling. Can you can see these operating in your company? Notice how well they function in your team environment, and how this impacts your bottom line and productivity.

To keep things simple and explain the styles, these are based on the key psychometric models of personality from Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychologist. There is alot more to this, but I am just highlighting the key aspects of the styles of communication. They have been developed and expanded in the last 30 years through NLP and the Myers-Briggs models and others like it.

The key thing to note is everybody has these styles and a preferred style is usually operating. It is not completely fixed as a personality, but a pattern of behaviour and choices that people default to. You may have one style in the workplace and a very different style at home or out with your friends. However, there are layers of consistency in how people show up and communicate.

Which style is your preferred style?

These styles are about what somebody does rather than who they are as a person. This distinction is valuable in helping avoid labelling people in a certain way.

We are not our behaviours, we do behaviours!

So here are a few key points about the different styles, which I have called the Analytical Style, The Director Style, The Team Builder Style, The Visionary Style:

The Analytical Style seeks out facts first, is a logical, planner and organiser, who takes time in expressing decisions and thoughts, and may be perceived as rather aloof and inflexible at times, but very organised. This style is great for project managing and planning, managing risk, assessing the impact of decisions in a team project.

The Director Style thrives on action, quick decisions, having control over situations and is usually direct in communicating a message, and may be perceived as blunt at times. This style is great for making decisions, leading others and getting the job done quickly.

The Team Builder Style focuses on feelings and relationships and is concerned with the welfare of others and their values; they may sometimes be perceived as sensitive and slow to give a response. This style is great for getting the team to work together and generating a team spirit.

The Visionary Style thrives on social relationships, future possibilities, new ideas, and high energy interaction with others; they may be perceived by others as dreamers and impractical. This style is great for motivating the team and keeping the energy of the team high in challenging times.

So how do we communicate with these styles?

Here are a few guidelines on working with the different styles:

Analyticals like lots of detailed information, the how and what, and constantly seeks clarification on the Why of a situation, before doing anything. So make sure you include the why in asking them to work on a project or task or with others.

The Director style  seeks and likes direct, confident communication, where you come to them with ideas and solutions rather than problems, where you get to the point, and just don’t take things personally that they say. So make sure you avoid waffle, communicate clearly and succinctly, with facts over opinions. Time is money for this style.

The Team Builder wants to know how people feel about things, who else will be involved and how it impacts on them personally; they like to take time to reflect and air their views without interruption. So make sure your give the people perspective on things and how it will affect others in a considerate, thoughtful way.

The Visionary is the enthusiast in the team, who keeps their eye on the bigger picture and goals. So make sure that any ideas have energy and speak of options and possibilities and are positively motivating. They want the vision to happen and love ideas and brainstorming.

Staff will benefit hugely by understanding how different people communicate and experience the world. One size does not fit all. It helps to understand how others operate and how a message is being communicated and received by each style of communicator.

Behavioural flexibility should be central to an organisational communication model. Staff would do well if they are encouraged to adapt to others’ styles of communication and their needs, be it for more detail, directness, involvement or openness and global thinking.

Flexibility in communication comes from self-knowledge and awareness of how people respond when things are flowing versus stressful situations.

What else?

To open the doors to better communication within an organisation, it helps to have open system, with some conscious rules of engagement and an effective model of communicating, that can be used across the organisation. It will pay dividends on a business and personal level for both staff and employers. Building better businesses is about cohesive, long-term profitable relationships and keeping one of the most valuable assets – the staff.

You may also like to read When Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Visit our Communication Skills Training Courses page to learn more about how your company can benefit from a course in Effective Communication Skills and Team Building.