A Simple Change of Focus

communication communication skills in the workplace disc effective communication effective communication skills human behavior leadership leadership culture model of human behavior why is effective communication important May 12, 2021
Communication Skills in the Workplace

What we looked at in the last post can make an immediate impact in nearly every scenario but if we really want to build a culture of effective communication skills in the workplace, we may need to make a simple change in what we focus on…

We live in a world of constant pressure to perform and achieve results. Truth be told, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing! I believe that’s how we build a strong self image and earn a fair wage. The challenge that comes with that lies in how this can impact our approach to so many of the most critical conversations we have with the people around us - the people we work with AND the people we’re responsible for leading!

When we adapt the pace we use to match the other person, we’ve made a big step toward putting together a message they can more easily receive. But depending on what we’re focused on, our pace may only play a small part in the overall result!

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told how important it is that we place a high value on the people we’re working with. Heck, Advance Auto Parts used to even have a slogan stating that their best parts WERE their people… OK, I get it; we need to be nice. But darn it, we need to get work done too don’t we?

Have you ever heard someone say that “people do business with the people they know, like, and trust”? I’ve heard that hundreds of times. And nearly every time my first thought was about how I often struggle to ever like someone I don’t trust. Then I’d have this internal conflict about how I should be nicer and be more tolerant of the person whether I trusted them or not. That usually just left me confused…

Now let’s push all those catchy phrases and buzzwords aside to get to the task at hand: an intentional focus on the people we’re interacting with!

The most powerful and the most applicable thing I’ve learned through studying the DISC Model of Human Behavior has been just how much our focus in any individual interaction impacts how effective our communication is as well as how we built strong, long term relationships. With a nearly constant push to check things off our lists, especially as we take on more and more leadership responsibility, we can feel significant pressure to get straight to the point when we’re communicating so we make the absolute best possible use of the time; blunt, candid, and on with the show…

For the 35% or so of us who are more Task-Oriented, that can be music to our ears. But for two out of every three people we deal with on any given day who are more People-Oriented, this can send a far different message than we likely mean to. Statistically, between 80 & 90% of all major disagreements occur when a Task-Oriented person (like me) jumps right into the meat of a conversation without providing the People-Oriented person (like my daughter) with even the slightest sign of how much we value them. While the Task-Oriented person gets a sense of fulfillment by simply checking things off a list as being done, the more People-Oriented folks - which make up the majority of the world - view the tasks they perform as a way they can help or be around people.

That small difference in focus is critical! When we invest the time and energy into showing value to the individual we’re communicating with before hammering out the details of what needs to be done, we build a stronger relationship. If we skip that step, and I still do more than I care to admit, we send a message that the task at hand is more important than their individual contribution (whether we intend to or not!).

Unlike being able to see the Outgoing or Reserved pace almost immediately, we’ll usually have to pay close attention to the words they’re using and their body language to determine whether they’re more focused on the task at hand or the people involved in that task. If we’re just not sure, it’s always a safe bet to focus on the person first before moving to the task. Odds are that we’ll be right two-thirds of the time! And even when we’re not, the more Task-Oriented folks may get impatient for us to get down to business (which is fairly easy to see) but they’ll rarely get offended. With just a simple change in focus, we can build so much more effective communication into our workplace culture. And if we want to see even better results, digging deeper into applying The Model of Human Behavior throughout our teams can provide better results than I’ve seen from any other approach!