Have you ever felt the frustration of feeling like your colleague isn’t hearing what you’re saying? You think they understand what you’re saying, but your message isn’t truly heard?
Most of us have (and for some of us, it happens more than we wish).
When this happens among friends and family, it’s frustrating. When this happens in the workplace, it’s bad for business. Nothing slows a business down more than an inefficient and conflicted leadership team.
But there’s a way around it.
It’s not a simple trick that you’ll master by the end of this article. But it is a simple concept, and if you commit to learning it, you can acquire a powerful skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
And you’ve probably already heard about how to do it.
The secret of great communicators is this:
Communicate your idea, thought or request in a frame that is meaningful to the listener – in a way that triggers their hidden motivators.
While this sounds like common sense, it’s surely not a common practice among groups that haven’t been trained to do it……and frankly that is about 98% of people and groups. Sure, we all know a handful of “natural communicators” – those people who seem to have an effortless way of sharing ideas and inspiring people to take action. By “natural communicator” I don’t mean people that talk a lot, talk loud or talk bluntly. The reality of most groups is that people don’t truly listen during business discussions; they simply wait until the other person is done speaking so they can speak their viewpoint – they are thinking while the other person is speaking, and that is not the same thing as listening.
Understanding What’s Meaningful
Successful management requires the ability to have people understand your ideas and take action on them. The idea part isn’t what’s difficult. The hard part is to be able to understand someone’s personal interests, attitudes, and values—the powerful motivating forces that drive their behaviors…and everyone has at least one attitude/value and most of us have two or three, so it’s not hard to learn this and become really good at becoming a world class communicator.
These motivators/attitudes/values truly drive “what people really want.” They’re the “why” of what you do. When you understand them, it’s not difficult to shape your communication into the ways that naturally motivate an individual to take action. If it were important for me to communicate effectively with you when I want to hire you, fire you, encourage you, discourage you, gain your confidence or simply help you then knowing what I’m about to tell you is critical to that process. You might not agree with my facts, but you will walk away with a positive thought about how I communicated with you.
While you can attempt to guess these, it’s a lot easier to use one of the modern validated assessment tools to quantify these in black and white.
The assessment I prefer is called The WorkPlace Motivators. (Here’s a sample report.) This assessment measures the relative prominence of six basic interests and values, or ways that somebody values life.
1. Theoretical: A passion to discover, systematize, and analyze; a search for knowledge.
2. Utilitarian: A passion to gain return on investment of time, resources, and money.
3. Aesthetic: A passion to add balance and harmony in one’s own life and to protect our natural resources.
4. Social: A passion to eliminate hate and conflict in the world and to assist others.
5. Individualistic: A passion to achieve position and to use that position to influence others.
6. Traditional: A passion to pursue the higher meaning in life through a defined system for living.
After taking the assessment, I felt that it was very powerful to see how I valued life in black and white. It helped me to face up to the reality that I placed too much value on time and money and how that affected my always feeling rushed, and that I was judgmental and quick to decide if someone fit my worldview. And it gave me wonderful insight to why someone might not be easy to connect with; simply put, we had different motivators, but now I knew how to “speak their language”.
But understanding how other members of your team value life, and allowing them to understand how you value life, is even more powerful. Have this understanding can turn a mediocre team into a high-performing team, or a dysfunctional team into an average performing team.
An Example in the Workplace
Steve is utilitarian. He’s driven by financial goals, is hard-working, competitive, practical and motivated by money. He is sensitive to time (and almost seems rushed most of the time) and worries about achieving future financial goals.
Susan is social. She’s driven by helping others, being flexible, and helping a group work in harmony.
Steve is Susan’s boss. How well would they connect via their communication? Well it can be a challenge. Utilitarians tend to think Socials are not as hard working as they should be, that they are often times too giving. A utilitarian can dominate a social.
Now if their roles were reversed and Susan was the boss, she might be frustrated at the seemingly constant need that Steve has to discuss his income to reassure him of his value. However, she will like his hard work ethic. Now this is an overly simple explanation, but you get the point.
For Steve to be and effective communicator with his team, it is important for him to learn all six languages, (another word I use for the motivators/attitudes/values). A great leader will learn to observe their team members and learn to frame their language to fit that person’s individual motivator.
Remember I told you that most people have more than one motivator? 55% have two motivators, 35% have three and 6% have as many as four. We call these people flexible. They speak a lot of languages … but they can also be frustrating because they offer many differing sides to their communication.
I always recommend that my clients test their team, learn the communication style of each member and study them and learn to speak their language. When you have an important message to deliver, they will hear your message much quicker and more clearly.
It’s not an expensive assessment, so connect with me if you’re interested and I’ll show you how to get started.