When good advice goes bad: how Mum made effective teamwork impossible

Simon Thiessen

Simon Thiessen About The Author

29-Feb-2016 13:49:21

4 communication styles that conscious leaders MUST understand

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My Mum got it wrong. I have NO PLANS to tell her, but one bit of advice she gave me was wrong. One of your parents probably gave you the same advice – and that advice can get in the way of effective team work and make leading teams more challenging.

Here’s the problem: effective teamwork depends so much on effective communication in the workplace – but everyone has their own definition of what good communication actually means. Those definitions become a person’s rules for deciding whether communication is good or not. Because everyone’s definitions are so different, sometimes these rules end up conflicting:

  • Some people like directness and plain speaking while others want people to be tactful
  • Some people like all the details while that just leaves others feeling overwhelmed
  • Some people enjoy colourful descriptions while others are much more factual
  • Some people have a compulsion to say what is on their mind right now, others prefer to ‘let the dust settle’
  • Some people prefer long detailed explanations, others just want the key points

When two different sets of rules meet, we actually have miscommunication about communication itself. Each person believes they are doing it right and therefore the other person is doing it wrong. No wonder this stuff can be difficult and so much can go wrong.

So back to Mum and that dodgy advice. In trying to navigate this communication minefield, it is tempting to go back to some advice pretty much everyone’s parents gave them at some stage: treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

But that’s the problem right there. When we do that we are meeting our own communication needs, not theirs.

What should we be doing? Treat them as they would like to be treated. Adapt our communication styles to their communication preferences.

Does this sound like a lot of hard work? Does it sound unreasonable that you are the one adapting? Here’s a simple choice for you:

  • Do what is easy and just use your default style in very situation and with every person
  • Do what is effective and adapt

Sure, the second option takes more effort – but do you want to see effective teamwork in your team and get positive results more consistently or not?

This infographic will give you some strategies to understand the communication styles of each person you lead. Most importantly it will help you adapt your approach based on each of those communication styles’

(Click here to download the high resolution PDF version)

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