leadership communications five communication styles
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How To Master Leadership Communications: The 5 Styles

Have you ever had a fitness regimen that didn’t quite fit your body type, leaving you more worn out than empowered? Just like you can’t expect a one-size-fits-all workout to suit everyone, you can’t rely on a single communication style to effectively manage your team.

Imagine going into a workout without stretching first; chances are you’ll end up sore or, worse, injured.

Similarly, taking time to understand each team member’s communication style is like necessary stretching—it sets the stage for effective communication, preventing misunderstandings that could lead to organizational strain.

So, let’s dive into this leadership communications workout for your team’s different communication styles and skills and understand how leadership and communication are so intrinsically tied together.

Key Takeaways (TLDR)

  • Managers should adapt their communication to ensure effective leadership.
  • Understand and recognize are five recognized communication styles.
  • Stimulators thrive on variety and need diverse communication channels.
  • Expressers value the big picture and emotional dialogue without deep details.
  • Drivers are assertive and decisive, requiring concise and respectful communication.
  • Relaters are the emotional glue of teams, focusing on trust and collaboration.
  • Analyzers are detail-oriented and need time to process data.

Your Workplace Needs a Personal Trainer, Not a Drill Sergeant

What’s the game plan here? Well, the communication style of each team member is as unique as a fingerprint. If you’re the manager, it’s crucial to adapt your style of improving communication to fit the mosaic of individual styles in your team.

Experts in emotional intelligence have identified 5 communication styles: the Stimulator, the Expresser, the Driver, the Relater, and the Analyzer. Recognizing these styles and tailoring your approach can be a game-changer in effective communication and even boost your brand’s health.

Becoming a master of leadership communications skills begins with understanding how employees communicate with you and each other and how you communicate with them.

Just as in Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why,” before you can effectively understand “what” your employees are saying, you have to understand “why” they are saying it.

Understanding The Five Communication Styles For Effective Leadership Communications

1. The Stimulator

Think of Stimulators as the extroverts of the team, always thriving on new experiences. Their language is humor, storytelling, and a lively tone.

They’re like those friends who always want to try a new coffee shop; they need variety. So, offer them different channels for internal communication—text, calls, face-to-face—to keep them on their toes.

Why Managers Should Pay Attention to the Stimulator Communication Style

First, let’s dissect why you, as a manager, should adapt your managerial style to fit the Stimulators in your midst. Think of your team as a sports car. To perform optimally, every part has to be in sync.

If you’ve got a bunch of Stimulators, but you’re communicating with them like they’re, let’s say, Analyzers. It’s like putting diesel in a car that runs on petrol. You’re going to get a different performance than you’re expecting.

So, better understanding your Stimulators is like knowing the specs of your sports car—critical for getting that high-octane performance.

Unique Traits of the Stimulator Employee

Before diving into the management techniques, let’s walk through the garden of traits unique to Stimulators.

These are folks who are the life of the party but in a business suit. They love novelty and challenges and often say, “Hey, let’s think outside the box!” You won’t find them stuck in routine; instead, they’re always looking for new hills to conquer.

You’ll notice they’re most responsive to energetic presentations in a meeting. They’re your folks who react best to visual stimulants—videos, colorful graphs, and even a well-timed joke. They’re the ones who will “ooh” and “ahh” and not in a sarcastic way.

Their enthusiasm can be contagious, and if channeled correctly, it can energize your entire team.

Managing Communication with the Stimulator

So, how do you encourage employees and manage these bundles of energy? First and foremost, remember that Stimulators thrive on, well, stimulation. They want new projects, challenges, and opportunities to collaborate and bring their ideas and shared vision to life.

  1. Expressive Language: Let’s be real; you can’t approach a Stimulator with the same monotone delivery you might use for a quarterly report. Nope. You’ve got to bring the fire! Use vivid descriptions, get animated, and engage in some storytelling. It’ll hook them in better than a fisherman with top-grade bait.
  2. Multichannel Conversations: Stimulators like variety, remember? So, why stick to the traditional email or a yearly review meeting? Go for video calls, interactive webinars, and a quick coffee break chat. Switching up the channels keeps them on their toes and makes your proactive communication much more effective.
  3. Tone & Body Language: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked. Stimulators pick up on your tone and body language like a dog picks up a scent. If you’re enthusiastic, they’re enthusiastic. If you’re dragging, they’ll sense it and mirror that energy. So, be mindful of how you present yourself.
  4. Freedom to Express: Stimulators love to share their ideas. Provide platforms where they can do this, like brainstorming sessions or open forums. This not only makes them feel valued but often produces genuinely innovative suggestions. You’d be surprised how many “next big ideas” can come from these interactive settings.

Real-World Example

Even industry giants like Google recognize the value of Stimulators. The tech behemoth has something known as “20% Time,”‘ where employees can spend 20% of their time working on any project they choose.

leadership communications - google - 20 Time

This is prime real estate for Stimulators—giving them a sandbox to play in and develop the next groundbreaking innovation. No wonder Google is a breeding ground for creativity; they’ve figured out how to manage their Stimulators.

Challenges to Keep in Mind

Sure, there are challenges—life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Stimulators sometimes get so excited that they overlook details or fail to follow through on less stimulating tasks.

It’s why many employees feel like they’re great at starting the party but not so keen on cleaning up afterward.

This is where you step in with focused objectives, communication goals, and periodic check-ins to make sure the job gets done from start to finish.

Key Takeaways For Stimulators

Managing Stimulators is something other than your run-of-the-mill task. It’s like being tasked with capturing lightning in a bottle—you’ve got to handle it with care. Still, the energy you’ll harness is potent.

By catering your communication tools, best practices, and strategies to fit the unique mold of your Stimulator employees, you’re creating a happier workplace and setting the stage for the kind of innovation and collaboration that can propel your company to the next level.

2. The Expresser

They are your instinctual teammates, often relying on gut feelings rather than data. They’re a bit like that cousin who decides to take a spontaneous road trip without checking the weather. So, to keep Expressers engaged, stick to the essentials and avoid diving too deep into details.

Why Managers Should Pay Attention to the Expresser Communication Style

Imagine you’re trying to build a jazz band, and your Expresser employee is the saxophonist who comes in with a killer solo that steals the show. Wouldn’t you want to ensure that sax player feels right at home?

When it comes to leadership communication skills, the Expresser can be your company’s untapped reservoir of creativity and intuitive decision-making. Ignoring it is like leaving money on the table—or worse, trying to play jazz with a metronome instead of feeling the groove.

Unique Traits of the Expresser Employee

Expressers are the ones who walk into a meeting like they’re stepping onto a stage. Bursting with energy and fueled by gut instincts, they are your company’s spontaneous idea generators.

Picture them as the brainstorm on a sunny day: unexpected, intense, and honestly, quite refreshing.

But don’t be fooled; they don’t always follow the script. Like your favorite improv comedian, they can go off on a tangent and derail a tightly-scheduled meeting faster than you can say “point of order!”

While they can be the life of the office party, there are some caveats. Expressers don’t typically revel in the nitty-gritty details. Hand them a 50-page report, and you’ll see their eyes glaze over faster than a batch of fresh doughnuts.

They crave the big picture and can get restless if bogged down by excessive minutiae. Their style is less “death by PowerPoint” and more “elevator pitch on a rollercoaster”—fast, thrilling, and to the point.

Managing Communication with the Expresser

So, metaphorically speaking, how do you make sweet music with your in-house saxophonist? Here’s how to tune into their wavelength:

  1. Keep it Snappy: Time is of the essence with Expressers. Provide an executive summary, and they’ll ask for more if intrigued. It’s like giving them the movie trailer—if it’s compelling, they’ll stick around for the feature presentation.
  2. Emphasize the Big Picture: Draw a roadmap, but let them drive the car. Show them the final destination and the critical pit stops, but let them pick the route.
  3. Be Clear and Direct: Subtlety can get lost in translation. Hit your points home like a comedian delivers a punchline.
  4. Provide Emotional Space: Expressers react from the gut, so give them time to process information. It’s like letting a fine wine breathe; it enhances the flavor of the discussion.
  5. Engage in Dialogue: Make room for back-and-forth. Expressers don’t want a lecture; they want a conversation. Consider it a tennis match of ideas—serve, volley, and occasionally let them smash an ace.

Real-World Example

Let’s talk about Steve Jobs, the quintessential Expresser. Jobs had this uncanny ability to captivate an audience with his presentations.

Leadership Communications - Steve Jobs - The Expresser

His secret? He stuck to key points and was electrically charismatic, generating excitement without diving into tedious details. Not only some are Steve Jobs, but we can certainly learn from his ability to engage and inspire, a hallmark of the Expresser communication style.

Challenges to Keep in Mind

Ah, but it’s not all roses and jazz solos. The Expresser’s reliance on gut instincts can sometimes lead them astray, like a GPS that occasionally tells you to turn into a lake. They can be impulsive, and their shoot-from-the-hip attitude may not always be well-received. Plus, their tendency to speak first and ponder later can sometimes be akin to lighting a firework indoors—a spectacular display but potentially damaging.

Key Takeaways For Expressers

Managing an Expresser is like conducting a jazz band—you must let them improvise within a structured environment.

Understand their need for the big picture, offer them emotional space, and engage them in stimulating dialogue. Your reward will be a dynamic, energized team member who can think on their feet and often surprises you with unexpected brilliance.

So, as many managers say, keep your baton ready; your Expressers are eager to play their solos.

3. The Driver

These folks are your go-getters who want to get straight to the point. Think of them as the quarterbacks of your team, decisive and assertive. You want to be concise, respectful, and open for a two-way dialogue. It’s like talking to someone with a movie to catch in 20 minutes—you must make your points quickly but effectively.

Why Managers Should Pay Attention to the Driver Communication Style

Think of your company as a well-oiled machine. If you’ve got a Driver on your team, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a turbocharger! These individuals are the ones that make things happen—fast. Ignoring or mismanaging this potent energy can be a huge miss.

Drivers can propel projects at a speed that leaves the competition in the dust, and they can also significantly impact the team’s overall dynamics.

Recognizing and harnessing the Driver’s potential is a good manager’s shortcut to fostering a high-performing, efficient work environment.

Unique Traits of the Driver Employee

Drivers are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill employees. They’re the take-charge types, characterized by an almost unstoppable zeal to get things done. They’re often the first to speak up in a meeting, always eager to steer the team towards a decisive action plan.

Their internal communication channels and style are as straightforward as a freeway; they don’t beat around the bush or dilly-dally. When they talk, they usually lay down roadmaps for what needs to happen next.

The flip side? Well, their directness can sometimes border on brashness. Drivers have a laser focus on objectives and can get irritated when they perceive others as slowing down the process.

They’re the type of people who walk into a meeting thinking it’s a pit stop, not a scenic viewpoint. While this makes them incredibly effective leaders, it can also make them less receptive to input from others, potentially causing friction within the team.

Managing Communication with the Driver

Okay, now that you’ve got the 411 on what makes Drivers tick, let’s delve into how a manager can effectively communicate with them.

  1. Be Direct and To the Point: No novel is needed when a short story will do. Drivers appreciate straightforward, clear communication. If you’ve got feedback or instructions, say it succinctly. Your Driver employee will thank you for it.
  2. Set Clear Objectives: Drivers are goal-oriented, so laying out clear objectives is like giving them a treasure map. They’ll go after it with all they’ve got. Just ensure that X truly marks the spot because they will only stop once they arrive.
  3. Pick Your Battles: A Driver will have strong opinions, and they won’t hesitate to share them. While it’s crucial to let them take the lead sometimes, you should also know when to put on the brakes to consider alternative viewpoints gently.
  4. Time Your Feedback: Timing is everything. Knowing when to provide constructive feedback can save a lot of headaches. Drivers are more receptive to feedback in communication when directly linked to achieving their objectives.
  5. Provide Autonomy: Let them steer their ship once in a while. Drivers relish autonomy; when trusted with responsibility, they’ll often exceed expectations.

Real-World Example

Let’s take a page from the tech world playbook. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, is often cited as a classic Driver. She’s known for her ‘lean in’ philosophy, a testament to her goal-oriented, assertive communication style.

Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook at World Economic Forum in Davos
Sheryl Sandberg at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Source: Jean-Christophe Bott/AP

Sandberg has been instrumental in scaling Facebook into the behemoth it is today, in no small part due to her Driver traits. When Mark Zuckerberg paired his visionary thinking with her Driver approach, it was like putting rocket fuel in a sports car. Now, that’s synergy.

Challenges to Keep in Mind

While Drivers can be your organization’s secret weapon, remember—they’re high-caliber. Misfire, and there could be collateral damage.

They can become impatient with what they perceive as inefficiency or indecisiveness in leadership communication styles. Sometimes, this can manifest as steamrolling over others’ ideas or not giving enough credence to alternative viewpoints.

As a manager, ensuring that your Driver is aligned with your objectives and your company’s organizational culture and values is essential.

Key Takeaways for Drivers

Managing a Driver in your workforce is akin to driving a high-performance sports car. Sure, you can go zero to sixty in a blink, but remember, you also have a team in the car with you. Navigating the Driver’s energy effectively will yield outstanding outcomes and foster a culture of respect and collaboration.

Managers should see Drivers not just as assets but as catalysts that can make the entire organization and team perform better, drive faster, and aim higher.

4. The Relater

They are the nurturers in your work environment. Imagine them as the group’s gardeners, ensuring everything is growing harmoniously. They want to know why decisions are made and may avoid confrontation to build trust and keep peace. This can be good for building relationships but may sometimes avoid essential conflicts.

Why Managers Should Pay Attention to the Relater Communication Style

Relaters are the emotional glue that often holds teams together. If you’re a manager looking to build a culture of trust, collaboration, leadership, open communication, honest feedback, and genuine teamwork, understanding and adapting to Relater-style communication is crucial.

Think of these employees as the essential hydration to your marathon of a work project. Without them, things can quickly dry up and crumble.

Unique Traits of the Relater Employee

Relaters are your go-to people for harmonious relationships within the team. They often have an uncanny ability to read the room and adjust their approach to keep everyone at ease.

Picture them as the host at a dinner party who effortlessly circulates the room, ensuring everyone has what they need and subtly steering conversations away from controversial topics. Their primary currency is emotional intelligence; they’ll often know if something is wrong before anyone says a word.

While they excel at forming solid and personal bonds, Relaters tend to avoid conflict like a cat avoids water. They have a strong need for harmony, often leading them to go to great lengths to avoid upsetting anyone.

However, this can be a double-edged sword. Their conflict avoidance may mean important issues get swept under the rug, allowing problems to fester and grow like that forgotten container of leftovers in the back of the fridge.

Managing Communication with the Relater

Just as you wouldn’t water a cactus as you would a rose, Relaters require their specific kind of care in communication. Here are some pro tips on how to manage your interactions:

  1. Provide Context and Emotional Framing: When delivering any information, be it positive or negative, offer an emotional frame. This allows them to better understand the ‘why’ behind decisions, making them feel connected and valued. Remember, to a Relater, the ‘why’ can often be just as important as the ‘what.’
  2. Validate Their Feelings: They love a good “I hear you” or “I understand where you’re coming from.” Validation is a quick and easy way to earn their trust. Think of it as their version of a fist bump.
  3. Offer Safe Spaces for Feedback: Encourage an environment where they can express their concerns without judgment. A confidential chat over coffee can sometimes be more effective than an official meeting.
  4. Manage Conflicts Carefully: Avoid putting them on the spot in team meetings if you suspect a topic might be contentious. Instead, approach them privately and gently to hash out any issues.
  5. Give Time for Personal Connections: Allocating time for small talk is well-spent for Relaters. These brief conversations allow them to build rapport, which will often lead to increased productivity down the line.

Real-World Example

Let’s look at a CEO from a well-known tech company who once told me about managing his team of Relaters. He specifically scheduled a monthly management session. It was an informal setup where team members could freely express their thoughts and concerns or share personal stories.

They led to actionable changes within the company. When it comes to improving teamwork and project outcomes, it starts with giving Relaters what they need—a platform for emotional and contextual dialogue.

Challenges to Keep in Mind

As wonderful as Relaters are for team morale, it’s worth noting that their desire for harmony can sometimes lead to indecisiveness or an inability to confront pressing issues.

It’s like having a skilled mediator who, in the pursuit of peace, allows certain injustices to continue unchecked. If left unmanaged, this can become an issue for team dynamics and overall productivity.

Key Takeaways For Relaters

Understanding the communication style of the Relaters within your organization is not just good interpersonal practice for effective leadership; it’s good business.

By adapting your leadership style to meet their specific communication needs, you’re ensuring a more harmonious work environment and leveraging their unique skills to benefit the team and the company.

Just like adding a pinch of salt to a bland dish, Relaters can enhance the ‘flavor’ of your team’s dynamics, creating a more cohesive and productive unit.

5. The Analyzer

These are your detail-oriented folks who crave structure and logic. Picture them as the architects of your team, always focused on the blueprints. They’re not fans of being rushed into decisions. Give them the data, and give them the time to process it.

Why Managers Should Pay Attention to the Analyzer Communication Style

Imagine your company as a machine and your employees as the gears that keep it running smoothly.

Now, think of your Analyzer employees as the precision gears. They’re analytical, detail-oriented, and methodical. Ignoring their communication style is like disregarding your machine’s small but essential gears; the entire system might not break down, but it’ll definitely be less efficient.

In other words, learning to communicate effectively with Analyzers can result in a more harmonious workplace and, consequently, a more successful business and brand.

Unique Traits of the Analyzer Employee

Your Analyzer employees are the Sherlock Holmes of your corporate world, always looking for evidence and data before jumping to conclusions. They thrive on logic and are often the ones who’ll spot that tiny error in your quarterly report that everyone else missed.

Now, they might not be the life of your office party, but they’re often the guardians of quality and efficiency.

But beware, they can get bogged down in the minutiae of employees’ roles and sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. They’re like the people who focus so much on getting the spices right in a recipe that they forget the main ingredient.

So, it’s not just about what they bring to the table but also how you, as a manager or business leader, can guide them to integrate their skills effectively within the team.

Managing Communication with the Analyzer

Okay, you’re sold on why you must understand Analyzers for good communication, but how do you communicate with them? Let’s get into the nuts and bolts:

  1. Provide Detailed Context: When you present a new project, don’t just skim the surface. Analyzers are like culinary aficionados; they want to know every ingredient in the dish. Give them the background, data, and reasoning behind decisions.
  2. Be Open to Questions: Expect a Q&A session. Analyzers are naturally curious and will have questions. Being open to this will make them feel respected and heard.
  3. Offer Time for Reflection: Don’t expect immediate decisions. Analyzers are the chess players in your corporate game; they like to think several moves ahead.
  4. Avoid Pressure Tactics: Never corner an Analyzer with ultimatums. It’s like trying to hurry a meticulous artist; you won’t get their best work.
  5. Encourage Big-Picture Thinking: Gently remind them to zoom out and see the forest, not just the trees. Sometimes, a nudge is all they need to elevate their perspective.

Real-World Example

Let’s talk about Bill Gates for a second. Love him or hate him, he’s a textbook Analyzer. Gates is known for deep dives into issues, only moving with data-backed evidence.

Leadership Communications - Bill Gates
Source: Wired / Photograph: Ali Cherkis

When Microsoft was in its nascent stages, Gates ensured that every line of code was perfect. That’s the Analyzer’s commitment to detail for you—making them valuable assets when precision is required.

Challenges to Keep in Mind

However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Their tendency to get lost in details can sometimes slow down project timelines. It’s like having a perfectionist chef in a fast-food kitchen; sure, the burger will be divine, but your customers might starve waiting for it.

Set clear deadlines, internal processes, organizational goals, and expectations to mitigate this.

Key Takeaways For Analyzers

Analyzers play a critical role in the grand symphony that is your own company culture. They’re your violinists who play the intricate notes that may only sometimes stand out but make the composition richer.

Learning to communicate with them effectively will not only harmonize your internal operations but also put you on the path to a robust and dynamic brand.

So take the time to understand them; you’ll be investing in the fine-tuning of your corporate machine.

Key Considerations: The Workout Regimen

To effectively adapt your communication style for building high performance teams, it’s crucial to be mindful of a few things:

  1. Tone and Language: This is especially important for Stimulators who thrive on expressive language.
  2. Conciseness: Keep it brief and to the point for your Drivers and Expressers.
  3. Open Dialogue: Relaters and Analyzers appreciate a two-way communication channel.

Going Beyond: Advanced Communication Workouts

What’s next on the horizon? Consider some training programs to enhance emotional intelligence with key stakeholders on your team.

You could also bring experts for workshops tailored to these 5 communication styles.

And, for a truly healthy brand, keep an eye out for how these styles improve communication and manifest positive change in customer service interactions, too.

The Finish Line: Summing it Up

Just like a personal trainer would adapt a workout to suit individual needs, mastering the art of communication in the workplace involves understanding and adapting an internal communications strategy to the various styles present in your team to improve team communication.

Whether you’re dealing with a Stimulator, Expresser, Driver, Relater, or Analyzer, being aware of these styles and adapting your communication strategy will lead to effective conversations and a robust, thriving brand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the major communication styles?

The major communication styles identified in a work environment include the Stimulator, who thrives on enthusiasm and creativity; the Expresser, a high-energy individual led by gut instinct; the Driver, assertive and highly focused on tasks; the Relater, who values emotional connections and harmony; and the Analyzer, a methodical and detail-oriented communicator. Each has unique attributes requiring tailored communication approaches.

What are the 4 types of communication styles in the workplace?

Although I’ve mentioned five styles if we’re talking about a more simplified model, the four common communication styles in the workplace are often categorized as Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive. Passive communicators avoid confrontation. Aggressive types dominate conversations. Passive-Aggressive communicators indirectly show their needs and frustrations, and Assertive communicators balance clarity with respect.

What are the 5 methods of communication in business?

In business, communication is a multifaceted game. The five main methods include Verbal Communication, often done face-to-face or via phone calls; Written Communication through emails, reports, or memos; Non-Verbal Communication, such as body language and facial expressions; Visual Communication using graphs, charts, or slides; and Digital Communication, which encompasses platforms like instant messaging and video conferencing. Each has its own set of rules and best-use scenarios.

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