Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Why Different Communication Styles Matter

...and why it's so important for leaders to understand the difference...

I love to talk about the big picture – especially as it relates to culture and the media world. But we sometimes forget that getting our ideas understood by our friends, boss, employees, or team is critical to making the big picture happen. Two key types of communicators you need to understand are people who think by “talking about it” and people who think by “doing”.  Neither one is better or worse, but they are dramatically different.

Which type is your spouse, boss, clients, or team?

I’m a doer. Maybe it’s my A.D.D., but I’m not interested in details – I just want to see the dashboard. Tell me how fast we’re going and if we have enough gas and I’m fine. When my team members bring me detailed reports, or go deep into detail, I start to mentally check out. When people schedule an appointment with me, my assistant tells them “When his eyes glaze over, the interview is done.” If you want to reach me, you’d better be thinking bullet points, not details.

By contrast, my wife Kathleen is a processor and thinks by talking it out. Sometimes it’s a far better approach, and you need to have someone on your team who thinks this way. A processor takes the time to think through details, explore rabbit trails, and look at the problem from different perspectives. Fortunately, my wife knows how I think and I know how she thinks, so we’re able to extend a little grace to each other. But in an organizational setting not understanding why someone seems to ramble on and on, or why another person makes quick decisions, can create conflict.

Kathleen’s girlfriends get together and it’s a non-stop chat fest. I get together with a group of buddies and we sit in a friend’s backyard overlooking Los Angeles and light a fire. Sometimes 10 minutes go by and we don’t say a word.

The point? In the process of changing your company or organization, we’re constantly frustrated because we don’t take the time to learn how people communicate. It’s not a matter or right and wrong, it’s a matter of knowing which one you’re dealing with and taking action based on that knowledge. Stop just tolerating people and learn how to maximize their style of communication.

Know who you’re talking to and how they process information, so you can make sure the message you transmit is the message that’s received.

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