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Leadership: Leadership and the art of communicating

Effective communication techniques can have a profound impact on managerial and employee effectiveness.  The style in which a leader communicates the message to the intended receiver will directly influence the way in which the message is received.  In a rapidly changing work environment, understanding communication techniques can be extremely beneficial.

December 13, 2007
By Barry Bouwsema

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Effective communication techniques can have a profound impact on managerial and employee effectiveness.  The style in which a leader communicates the message to the intended receiver will directly influence the way in which the message is received.  In a rapidly changing work environment, understanding communication techniques can be extremely beneficial.

There are four perceived behavioural styles (Carl Jung, 1924), and each of the styles has its own unique characteristics when dealing with others in interpersonal relationships.  The four behavioural styles are as follows:

Amiable
•     Slow to taking action and making decisions
•     Likes close, personal relationships
•    Dislikes interpersonal conflict
•    Supports and actively listens to others
•    Weak at goal-setting and self-direction
•    Has excellent ability to gain support from others
•    Works slowly and cohesively with others
•    Seeks security and belongingness
•    Good counselling skills

Expressive
•     Spontaneous actions and decisions
•     Likes involvement
•     Dislikes being alone
•     Exaggerates and generalizes
•     Jumps from one activity to another
•     Works quickly and excitedly with others
•     Seeks self-esteem and belongingness
•     Good persuasive skills

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Analytical
•     Cautious actions and decisions
•     Likes organization and structure
•     Dislikes involvement with others
•     Asks many questions about specific details
•     Prefers objective, task-oriented intellectual work environment
•     Wants to be right, relies on data collection
•     Works slowly and precisely, often works alone
•     Seeks security and self-actualization
•     Good problem-solving skills

Driver
•     Firm actions and decisions
•     Likes control
•     Dislikes inaction
•     Prefers maximum freedom to manage others
•     Cool and independent
•     Competitive with others
•     Low tolerance for feelings, attitudes and advice of others
•     Works quickly and impressively by self
•     Seeks esteem and self-actualization
•     Good administrative skills

There is no one “best” style. Each person possesses some traits from all four styles in varying degrees.  Most people, however, will have a dominant behavioural style.  The important thing is to understand your behavioural style and how yours interacts with others.  By knowing the behavioural style of your co-workers, a supervisor can tailor his communication style to match that of the worker’s behavioural style.

Most people are familiar with the golden rule,  “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  This seems to be an effective rule, but as we become more educated as to different behavioural styles, the golden rule should be replaced by the “platinum rule” of “do unto others as they would have done unto them.”  This rule implies that your co-workers may not wish to be treated with the same style that you prefer, but their individual preferences may require you to tailor your response to their individual behavioural style.  In short, if you are a “driver” and you chose to communicate in the “driver style” you are effectively communicating only 25 per cent of the time. 

An example of conflicting styles and communication problems might be the expressive worker (warm, open handshakes, first names, questions about personal interests and the family) who complains about the narrow mindedness of the supervisor. The supervisor is an analytic (quiet, removed, task-oriented). The supervisor finds the employee to be lacking focus and intrusive into matters that have no bearing on the business at hand. The lack of communication has a direct effect on the quality of work being produced.  For this example the supervisor may want to “flex” his or her communication style to include more expressive characteristics (socio-oriented) as opposed to communicating in a driver style (task-oriented).  The supervisor could ask a few personal questions to solicit expressive interest before communicating the required task demands.

Effective leadership demands that supervisors understand the different behavioural styles of the work force.  By adjusting communication styles so that the sender and the receiver are “speaking the same language,” the effectiveness of the job and work site can be enhanced.

Barry Bouwsema is a company officer for Strathcona County Emergency Services, Sherwood Park, Alta.  He has been in the fire service for 20 years, and is a graduate of Athabasca University with a Bachelor’s degree in General Studies.  He lectures paramedic students at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and teaches firefighters (NFPA 1001) at the Emergency Services Academy.


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