Guest Post | Strong Communication

David Rendall, one of our incredible keynote speakers at this year’s DIRECT conference, shared with us ways to embrace our weirdness to find our strengths. His presentation and previous blog post were wildly popular, so we asked him to once again share some of his wisdom with us. In this post, David provides insight into communication styles and how they can work for your team. We hope you enjoy it!

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to communicate effectively. But there’s a problem. Those strategies might not match your particular strengths.

Two definitions might be helpful here.

A strength is something that you enjoy doing and that you do well. Working with your strengths gives you energy and confidence.

A weakness is something that you don’t enjoy and that you don’t do very well. Working with your weaknesses drains your energy and reduces your confidence.

Using communication strategies that match your strengths makes you feel comfortable, confident, and secure. This will make it easier and more enjoyable to share your ideas. It will also make you seem more credible because people will sense your confidence.

Attempting to implement strategies that don’t match your strengths will probably make you uncomfortable, unhappy, timid, and insecure. Because of this, you’ll procrastinate them, dread them or simply fail to do them. Additionally, all of these negative feelings work against the goal of communication. You can’t be a strong communicator when you are feeling weak. You can’t gain people’s confidence if you’ve lost yours.

Instead of looking for the right way to communicate, start looking for a method that matches your particular strengths. Below are a few different styles that might work.

Presenter
This is the most common communication strategy. The presenter shares their ideas in meetings and other forums. If you are good at speaking in front of groups, organizing your thoughts and communicating persuasively, this could work for you.

Facilitator
The facilitator builds consensus by asking questions, gathering input and soliciting advice. They don’t present their ideas as much as they draw out the ideas of others. If you are a good listener and you enjoy collaboration and group dynamics, this might be the best method for you to use.

Writer
The writer influences people outside of face-to-face interactions. They don’t like to speak up in meetings. They don’t enjoy facilitation. However, they excel at formulating their arguments and sharing them on paper. They need time to think, edit and revise. Writing gives them that time.

Researcher
The researcher is good at locating and sharing existing information in a way that supports their cause. This can include forwarding relevant news stories, journal articles, or case studies. Researchers don’t necessarily excel at presenting their own ideas verbally or in writing, but they are excellent at finding support for their beliefs and sharing it in a meaningful way.

Relator
For relators, persuasion is personal, face-to-face, one-on-one. They don’t want to present to a group, facilitate a discussion, write a memo or organize research. They want to talk with people. They want to present their case individually. They want to address people’s specific concerns and customize their approach for each person they need to convince. They build strong relationships and gain the trust of others.

Coach
Coaches don’t play the game. They help other people to win the game. They look at their team and find people who can communicate well. They give the presenters on their team opportunities to speak. They provide the facilitators on their team the opportunity to organize meetings. They allow the writers on their team to prepare proposals and manifestos and help the researchers to gather information. They open doors to help relators connect with key people.

They also help these specialized team members to work together and combine their unique strengths in more powerful ways. For example, they might assign researchers to gather information that will help the writers and presenters. Or they might have facilitators and relators join forces to influence their co-workers.

After looking at these strategies, it can be easy to think that you can do all of them. That might be true. However, it probably isn’t true that you enjoy them all and do each of them with the same level of skill. They won’t each energize you to the same degree. Strong communication isn’t about what you can do; it is about what you do best and what motivates you.

Here are a few tips for maximizing your communication style and the styles of your team members.

1. Take time to identify everyone’s style.

2. Discuss each person’s style as a team. Do you have people with different styles or similar styles?

3. Identify responsibilities and activities that match each style. For example, where do you need presenters? How can researchers contribute to the team? When are facilitators the most useful?

4. Delegate based on style, not just position.

5. If your team is missing one or more of the styles, consider that in future hiring decisions.

6. For crucial presentations and projects, identify the main communication activities and create a team with complementary communication styles. Don’t expect one person to master each style.

7. Provide training to each person that allows them to build on their preferred style, as opposed to teaching them a different style.

8. All of this requires everyone’s willingness to be open about what they do well and what they don’t do well. Make it safe for people to be honest by admitting your own communication strengths and weaknesses.

The key point is that there isn’t one right way or best way to communicate. There are many effective strategies. The way to improve the effectiveness of your communication is to choose the strategies that match your unique strengths or those of your team. When you do that, you will have more success than if you try to implement methods that require you to overcome your weaknesses.

About the Author

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.41.27 PMDavid Rendall has spoken to audiences on every inhabited continent. His clients include the US Air Force, the Australian Government, AT&T, State Farm Insurance, Ralph Lauren, and BASF. Prior to becoming a professional speaker, he was a management professor, stand-up comedian and endurance athlete. He earned a doctor of management degree in organizational leadership, as well as a graduate degree in psychology, and is the author of three books:

  • The Four Factors of Effective Leadership
  • The Freak Factor
  • The Freak Factor for Kids 

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