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The Real Value of Understanding Communication Styles

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

As leaders, communication ranks near the top of our list of important skills. Because of its importance, it is talked and written about (a lot). Much training takes place every day designed to help leaders get better at this important skill. In fact, as I write this, I will deliver some of that training later today.

One of the reasons communication is difficult is that not everyone communicates in the same way, with the same tendencies or styles. This isn’t news; you already knew that.

The existence of these style or tendency differences hasn’t been lost on the assessment, training and learning communities over the past 50 years. There are a wide number of effective and useful tools that provide assessment takers with acronyms, colors, letters, animals or other designations to identify their personality and communication style.

These assessments are popular training tools—they garner high marks from participants because they are interesting and fun. After all, who doesn’t want to know more about themselves and why they behave and communicate in certain ways? Trainers can use them to ensure good reviews and perhaps get a chance to come back to deliver more training.

The problem with these activities doesn’t lie with the assessments themselves—while they have different strengths and weaknesses, any of them can add real value for individuals, leaders and organizations. The problem lies in the focus of the application of these assessments. At best, they are employed to be all about the individual and his or her self-awareness. At worst they are used as fun time-fillers and seem almost like black magic to the participants (“How could that assessment peg me so well?”).

Where does all of this leave a leader in regards to understanding and using these assessments to become a better communicator?

Let’s start from the beginning—communication is message sent and message received. For real communication to take place, one must send a message in a way that it can be effectively received by the other person. When we remember this basic starting point, we have the basis to understand the biggest value in communication and personality style assessments.

Whatever tool/assessment you use, the greatest value comes not in understanding your own tendencies, though that is helpful. The greatest value comes from understanding various styles well enough that you notice them in others, so that you can communicate with them in a way that makes it easier for your message to be received.

As with so many things in life (and leadership), we have greater success when we recognize and remember that it isn’t about us at all.

If you want to be a better communicator, by all means use a communication styles tool for self-awareness, but don’t stop there. Use the tool to help you understand, observe and diagnose the styles of others so that you can change your behavior to get your message received.

While this is simple for me to state here, it is much more challenging in application.

If you have internal training that offers an assessment as a part of the program, talk with your training department and make sure that this connection to the deeper value of these tools is taught in application—or invite the experts to deliver additional training to help your team understand these skills.

If you haven’t taken an assessment of this type (or haven’t in a long time), I recommend starting with the free version of our assessment here (there is an opportunity to upgrade to a more complete and detailed assessment and even get coaching if you choose).

If you don’t have access to training for yourself or your team to use these tools to accelerate communication success, you can start here.

Whatever your first step, take one. Take action today to learn more about how others communicate so that you have a better chance of getting your message received.

Your leadership success depends on it.

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