I’ve always envied those colleagues who were seemingly able to navigate the landscape of a company in such an efficient way. They seemed to be able to get all of their work done in an effective, frictionless way. When I sat down with one of these colleagues they began to tell me that I was communicating to my colleagues in the ways of which I personally wanted to be communicated to. That struck me as wise. And true.
The lesson I learned when sitting down with this colleague is that everyone has different working styles and appreciates being communicated to in different ways. And while that’s not necessarily directly related to your job function, having the skills of being able to speak to a colleague in a way that resonates with them, will get your jobs done better. It’s vital that you learn which category of person you are speaking with and try to classify how you can better alter the way you communicate to allow them to hear you better.
This starts right from the interview phase
As I began to investigate more into this methodology I realized that great candidates often embrace this early in their process. While speaking with hiring managers, they often try to configure the conversation around what the hiring manager is seeking and how the hiring manager is hearing particular answers to interview questions. I’ve found this to be quite an effective talent in securing job opportunities. And relates to what it will be like once you are within the business.
Those colleagues of mine who have done this well have told me they can break down the steps to doing this in the interview process like this:
- Preparing in advance for interview questions that may be related to the business category. Using sites such as algrim.co or others.
- Listening to the hiring managers questions and extracting what they are actually trying to ask. For example, tell me about a time you failed; which means tell me if you are empathetic.
- Watching or listening to what answers they write down and their body language responds to one of your answers. If it’s positive, more of it. If it’s negative, alter the way you are answering.
As you can see, paying close attention to body language and visualizing how the other person is interpreting your communication, right from the start. But let’s assume you’ve gotten the job, now you are dealing with tens or potentially hundreds of your colleagues. How do you deal with so many personalities and communicating with them in an effective way?
Core personality types in the workplace
It’s important to understand that in our methods here, we aren’t trying to manipulate or alter the way that our colleagues work. Instead, understand that we are trying to take the time to learn more about our colleagues and try to speak to them in a way that resonates the best. Everyone has a different set of beginnings. Meaning, where they grew up. How they grew up. What education they have. What experience they have. There’s a significant amount of variation. And it’s important that you put that empathetic point of view first and foremost in your communication methods. That’s what our exercise here is intended to teach and practice.
Here’s how you might think of the 5 personality types you are going to engage with:
- The person who needs guidance
- The person who needs acceptance
- The person who needs independence
- The person who needs control
- The person who needs affirmation
Before we jump into how you deal more effectively with those who fit within these categories. Let’s boil it down to how you can identify these people and what they might be looking for.
The person who needs guidance
This person is one who is appreciative of the fact that you will provide them assistance. This does not mean providing them a to-do list or “doing their work”. It means that they are responsive to you providing them working principles and acceptance criteria for business objectives. This provides a sense of guidance from a higher level.
The person who needs acceptance
This person is one who is appreciative of the oftentimes social setting of workplaces. This means the inclusion of the team. If they are responsive to being involved in the team, be sure you are paying close attention to that. This person will be more willing to do great work that won’t let their team down, in the end.
The person who needs independence
This person is one who responds well to the fact that once they’ve been given guidance, they get autonomy. This means that the ability to self-motivate and provide direction on their own is a quality that they have. If they have this quality, this will be one of your highest performers. But be sure they are also responsive to guidance, listed above.
The person who needs control
This person is one who responds well to the fact that you listen and react in ways they were expecting. This is probably the most difficult personality type to be involved with. It will require you to practice patience and empathy towards where their need for control is. You may associate this personality type with a manager.
The person who needs affirmation
This person is one who is appreciative of the fact that by you verbalizing that they are doing a good job at their work, that they respond well to it. This person appreciates the words of affirmation more than the others. But understand the caveat here is that they may start to depreciate in value if they are not given these affirming words often enough.
Ways to optimize your communication for these personality types
Now that we’ve taken a moment to understand these personality types, you should be able to more readily recognize them. It will take time. If you are new to a business, it could take 3 – 6 months before you are fully aware of how to communicate with your colleagues more effectively. It will take making some mistakes, as well. Pay close attention to your colleagues working habits and spend the time to learn about their background. Really try to learn who they are.
Once you’ve done that, here are some helpful ways you can optimize your work around them.
Orient your conversations around company goals, working frameworks and insights. Utilize learnings of your work to steer conversations and ask questions to the other person as to what seems most insightful to them. Find out what is, and keep providing that.
Be mindful of team events, team communication, and the like. Ensure that the person is present in those situations. Be sure you aren’t excluding this person from insightful conversations. Make them part of the team. They will respond more effectively to you the next time you have an ask.
Be mindful that you aren’t exuding accidental control. Be aware of the way you communicate with this person and ensure you are treating them as an equal party in the conversation. Be sure to tell them what you need to do great at your work. They may depart from check-ins with you naturally, so be sure you lock in your asks.
Be mindful that you are patient and empathetic with this person. Never combat situations by trying to exude more controlling patterns. When empathetic, focus on what other factors this person is experiencing that causes them to feel control. For example, do they have a controlling direct report, so naturally, they become controlling too. Realize their efforts come from a place of good. Be cautious not to create friction as it could lead to what people classify as “internal politics”.
Those are the five personality types you will encounter most frequently in the workplace. And how you can be mindful to communicate with them effectively. By doing so, you will be able to get more accomplished. The way you position and communicate work in progress is also very important. As colleagues or managers will often have their personality types show during collaborative moments. Patience is a virtue.
About the Author
Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. He writes more articles like this one over at Algrim.co.