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Better Versatility = Better Relationships

By Tom Roth

In conversations with clients about the impact of the current economic downturn, I keep hearing one concern everyone seems to share: “How can we help our people manage the strain of all the uncertainty, disruptions, cuts, and layoffs?

Employees are worried about their jobs even while adapting to major changes in their work environment and an unclear future—new reporting relationships, restructured work teams, working from home. Even when they understand the necessity for all the changes, the effects can be debilitating—communication gets more difficult, morale sags, productivity slows, and energy drains.

So what’s the answer? How can companies cope with these conditions and maintain productivity and efficiency? If you are a leader concerned about this question, you know you can’t control the external factors. You can, however, do everything possible to help your people cope. A simple place to start is to make sure communication breakdowns aren’t adding to everyone’s stress and getting in the way of trust, teamwork, and collaborative effort.

As people struggle to adjust to new realities at work, it’s normal for them to experience misunderstandings and increased relationship tension. By becoming more versatile in their interpersonal communications, employees, managers, and leaders can better understand differences in communication preferences and create more effective and productive relationships.

Versatility can be learned, practiced, and improved over time. It’s based on understanding your own and others’ Social Styles, defined in Wilson Learning’s model in terms of four categories—Analytical, Driver, Expressive, and Amiable. Each style is characterized by being either more or less “Tell” or “Ask” oriented and more or less “Task” vs. “People” oriented. People generally feel very comfortable communicating with others who share their style but can have problems with different styles. If you’ve ever felt impatient, intimidated, or frustrated in a conversation with a colleague, friend, or family member, there’s a likelihood that the root problem is a style difference neither of you recognizes.

To improve versatility, managers and employees need to:

  • Get feedback from others to understand their own social style. Knowing how you are perceived by others is critical. Study after study shows that most of us have no idea how we are coming across to others.
  • Learn to identify the social style of others (e.g., Analyticals, Drivers, Expressives, and Amiables)
  • Learn to adapt their own style of communicating to match the preferences of others, putting them at ease, building trust, and allowing both parties to work together to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Simply stated, “The more I know about you and the more I know about myself, the more I can take responsibility for managing the difference between us to increase the effectiveness of our communication and our level of trust.”

Have you experienced a communication problem at work caused by different social styles? What happened and what effect did it have on your work performance?

These are our thoughts . . . what do you think?

Tom Roth

Tom Roth是Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc.(美国)的首席运营官和Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc.(日本)的总裁,他拥有40多年的人力绩效提升解决方案开发和实施的经验,负责Wilson Learnin全球集团的战略方向和业务绩效。此外,他还领导全球营销服务和解决方案研发部门,负责所有解决方案和价值主张白皮书的研发。他在员工敬业度、领导力发展、战略调整和业务转型相关领域,为全球的领导团队提供协助。在担任现任职务之前,他曾担任全球研发和解决方案研发部门总裁,也曾担任Wilson Learning Corporation的总裁。

Tom Roth在开发和实施人力绩效提升解决方案领域拥有丰富的经验。他合著了《如何使企业重新找回活力》(英文原文),《创建高性能团队》(英文)的,并在众多商业出版物上发表过文章。他是一位在国内、国际会议和客户活动上活跃的演讲者,涉及内容广泛,其中包括:领导力、员工参与度、变革和战略实施。