In our previous article we discussed the Three Cs of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. We explored how a breakdown in any or all of them can result in dysfunction in the family business—frankly in any business. We also discussed the idea of simplexity—breaking a complex concept or issue into simple, actionable points. Today we’ll delve into what I consider to be the cornerstone of the Three Cs; communication. Without communication, there can be no collaboration or cooperation.
Complicated by Family Dynamics
In a standard business model, bad behavior is quickly addressed through coaching and development. However, in too many closely held businesses the dynamic of “family correctness” disrupts the normal flow of constructive feedback. It creates stress for the family member and those around them when the family member cannot fundamentally do the job. The only correct thing to do is address this with authentic, transparent, and well-defined communication.
Many times people define communication very simply – one person talking with another. While simple in theory, communication is very complex–communication is simplex. Communication is not just about listening more and talking less. Real communication is driven by a desire for mutually beneficial dialog and respecting and valuing the thoughts, ideas and input other than our own.
Communication in its simplex form means we take the time to understand how someone prefers to communicate; why they prefer to communicate that way, and how their communication style impacts their approach.
Understanding Different Styles
As complex as communication may seem, there are only four communication styles. At Perpetual Development, we use a TTI Success Insights Trimetrix HD AssessmentTM to analyze communication styles among team members for our clients in closely held and family companies.
- Big Picture
Strengths: People with a Dominance style see the big picture, willingly accept challenges, and exude confidence.
Challenges: This style may be interpreted as domineering, impatient, and blunt.
Strengths: They are outgoing, friendly, optimistic and collaborative.
Challenges: Can be perceived as flighty, shallow, and pushy.
Strengths: Sincere, patient, and consistent best describes this style.
Challenges: Fears change and needs time to adapt.
Strengths: High level of accuracy and independence.
Challenges: Gets stuck in the “weeds” and may not relinquish control.
Understanding each communication style will help us become better communicators, because we can adjust our leadership approach and draw the best outcome from our staff. The strongest communicators have honed their powers of observation to the point that they can adapt their communication style to elicit the very best from others.
Improving communication requires that we recognize and understand that we have different communication styles. Everyone has a dominant communication style; however people are a combination of all four. Each of us has a communication style that is our Achilles heel, or that is more difficult for us to use. Our dominant style often influences how we interact with others and how we are perceived. We also adapt our style when dealing with others.
Not Just One Style
Although we all have one of these four as our dominant communication style; very few of us use only one style all the time. There are times when a Dominance style may use Steadiness traits (calm, supportive) to diffuse a particularly volatile situation. Conversely, a Dominance style of communication may be required in certain circumstances–when we must make a quick decision.
More than Words
Words are only one of the ways in which we express ourselves, and often our behavior belies the words coming out of our mouth. How often has someone said he or she agrees with you while his or her head subconsciously shakes back and forth in the globally accepted motion for “no”? Their words indicate agreement, but their body language is telling you a different story. This is just one instance of how effective communication entails more than just speaking and listening; it requires observation.
Actions Speak Louder
I believe one of the secrets to becoming an exceptional communicator is honing your powers of observation because we often experience communication through the behavior of others rather than their words.
We often use action as a stand-in for direct interaction. When Bob does not receive a promotion, he feels he deserves he may show up late for work or “forget” an important meeting as a way to show his displeasure. Sometimes these behaviors are intentional; other times they may be purely subconscious. Either way, the behavior has a negative impact on the business.
Self-Awareness Plays a Critical Role
It is easier to point out character flaws in others than it is to see them in ourselves. However, the only way to adequately address dysfunction in others is to understand and manage our personal communication strengths and challenges.
Effective communicators have a heightened awareness of who they are and what triggers certain emotions or reactions. For example, Samantha is a self-aware leader that realizes she has a bias to hire and surround herself with people that agree with her. She also knows that diversity in opinion and background are crucial to the success of the business. As a self-aware leader, Samantha takes steps to minimize the impact of her bias by including people with differing values and backgrounds in the interview process.
Do you know your preferred communication style? The first step to being an outstanding communicator is to identify your style.
Real, meaningful communication requires what I like to call Full Mental Engagement (FME). It takes focus and practice to hone your self-awareness and improve your communication skills.
The next time you are in a dialog use your powers of observation along with your ears to increase your understanding. Consider the following;
- Do they demonstrate urgency or rapid pace of speaking?
- Are they verbal and optimistic in their approach?
- Do they prefer to do many things at once or do they prefer a steady and consistent pace?
- Do they demonstrate a high degree of detail and follow-through, or were the rules invented for someone else—only followed when there is no other option?
We’ll explore collaboration in its simplex form in our next article.
Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: ContactPDI@perpetualdevelopment.com or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter – @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.