Recognising and Embracing Diverse Communication Styles = Happier Teams
There has never been a more crucial time than now to ensure our teamwork and communication is up to scratch as we work remotely and navigate new technologies. In the second of a three-part series, we look at identifying communication types in colleagues and how to use this knowledge to create more effective and much happier teams.
Team dynamics are often difficult to negotiate – I should know, as I spend most of my professional life helping them to improve!
And now, in the age of social distancing, which for many of us means remote working, we have the added complication of not being physically nearby others. This means trying to negotiate body language and social queues over video conferencing and other technology.
As I wrote in my previous blog, this series discusses different communication styles and how we can draw on them to improve our interactions while in isolation (and beyond). Last week, we looked at understanding our personal communication style. This week, we’re looking further at how recognising and understanding the communication types of others improves a team’s functionality and efficiency. Next week, I will look at combining an understanding and awareness of your own communication style with recognising the communication styles of others to lead with confidence, consciousness and compassion.
Working with different communicators
Working with horses teaches us a lot about individual and group communication, particularly learning to pick up and interpret non-verbal signs.
As a prey animal, a horse has highly astute senses meaning that they sense everything way before we do – you cannot hide behind any façade or persona around a horse, they see right through it. And their sheer size means you cannot help but notice their responses to you. So, if you are open to it, they can teach you so much about how others respond to you.
For example, a horse yawning may mean they are relaxed and releasing. For people, this may be a sign they need to do the same. Licking and chewing means they are processing information or new experiences, meaning the human needs to give them that space to think. You know it’s like when you need some time to process and digest information. And, if a horse is using a person as a scratching post, it’s a sign they may not be setting firm boundaries.
As we explored last week, we all have our own communication styles and to identify these in our leadership courses, we use the MiRO assessment. There are four main types of communicator:
- Driver, who wants to get the job done
- Energiser, who wants everyone else to feel good
- Organiser, who knows everyone’s roles and makes it clear what everyone should be doing
- Analyser, who needs to gather all the information
We are each made up of all four components but most of us have one or two dominant styles. Self-understanding is critical, but equally important is to learn to recognise the style of the others in our team.
Recognising the communication styles of others to improve team functioning
Obviously, teams can and do function effectively with any combination of communication styles. But what emerges in many of the leadership programmes here at Leading Edge Life Skills is that teams are being held back from reaching their full potential by a lack of awareness and understanding of the individual communication types within the group.
So where is the disconnect? The key is firstly recognising these individual nuances in communication styles and secondly accepting and embracing these differences for the value they bring to team dynamics.
I’ll set the scene for you of one of our typical leadership workshops and give an example of what I’m talking about. Our client groups are tasked with completing a number of obstacle type exercises in an area with a horse as a team member. Firstly, we divide the client group into teams of two or three people, typically randomly to create a situation that can happen in the workplace. Secondly, they choose one of our horses to join their team, thus introducing a brand new and very different team member into the dynamic. Thirdly, our exercises are deliberately vague allowing for interpretation and creative problem-solving. Lastly, the exercise is timed.
During an emerging leaders programme for a not-for-profit organisation last year, one team was made up almost entirely of analysers. They started out by discussing the first task. A good inclusive tactic, however with no one particularly focused on action, they took so long that they were not getting through the exercise at all. It took our usually very patient horse, Vinnie, himself an analyser, to get things moving. Atypical of Vinnie, he nudged a couple of the team members with his head – gently pushing them forward – as a clear sign for the team that they needed to make a start. Vinnie had stepped out of his comfort zone and into the driver mode, which really resonated with one participant, Steven, and snapped him into action. Afterwards, during the debrief, Steven remarked that Vinnie made him realise that he needs that “shove” as he often finds himself stuck in the detail and preparation, resulting in periods of procrastination at work. He also found that stepping out of his own comfort zone was actually empowering.
This example demonstrates how an awareness of our own and our colleagues communication styles can help teams move past challenges and pitfalls in the workplace. In recognising the team was made up of analysers, Steven was able to move into a more direct, action based style to help get the team moving forward on the right path.
So how can this help your teams, particularly in a remote working environment? Have a think about any challenges with projects that your team is working on. Perhaps you are not moving forward like Steven and his team. Perhaps the opposite, all action with less planning? Now consider this against the communication styles of your team members.
Hopefully this gives you some insight into how communication styles play into group dynamics and the ways in which it can help when remote working. Perhaps try thinking of a couple of colleagues and trying to discern their style.
We’re currently running a special on MiRo assessments, so if you’d like some more information please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We also launched a poll on communication styles which you can answer below if you haven’t already!