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Book Excerpt

Excerpt: Conversations for Change

Jonathan, the president of a mid-sized university, invited me to observe one of his advisory board meetings because he said he was "stumped by the team dynamics going on with this group of people." As I observed their meetings, I noticed that when a team member, Mike, spoke, no one seemed to pay attention. But a few minutes later in the meeting, when another team member, Kim, made the same point using different words and another example, everyone seemed to be engaged, agreeing to move forward with the idea….Jonathan told me that he had appointed Mike to this board because they worked together on another board and Mike had made significant contributions to that team. Why was this dynamic happening?

In short, it all comes down to adapting to preferred communication styles. Who do you know that is masterful in communicating with a variety of people? I often ask this question in presentations. Frequent answers are Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Anderson Cooper. People who are known for being outstanding communicators know how to say what other people need to hear in a way they can hear it. They know how to spot different communication needs. They understand the different communication styles and why each one adds value to the whole effort.

The four communication styles are Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Compliant (DISC). Each has its own cluster of predictable behaviors. Once you notice two or three of these tendencies in a person, you can count on the others being there too.

1. High Dominant Style

The High Dominant style has these behavioral characteristics:

• Likes challenges and a fast pace

• Wants to control the agenda

• Is good at handling problems and challenges

• Relies on gut instinct

• Is very active and can be perceived by the other styles as being aggressive in getting results

• Goes directly at conflict or problems with no fear

• Will take risks that others styles would not consider

• Is quick to challenge others and likes a back-and-forth debate (may be seen by other styles as argumentative)

• Loves to win

• Does not like repetitive work and dislikes not being able to make decisions

• Fears being taken advantage of

• Likes to initiate change for self and others

• Reduces stress by working out, engaging in competitive physical activity

• Needs to learn humility

• Makes quick decisions (will say yes or no quickly)

When speaking with a High Dominant-style person, frame your ideas this way:

• "We can make this happen if we decide today…"

• "The results we are aiming for…"

• "We can be the best or the first at this if we…"

• "The bottom-line benefits are…"

• "Let's take action on this now…"

• "Let's pick up the pace on this…"

2. High Influence Style

The High Influence style has these behavioral characteristics:

• Likes to interact and persuade others to his or her point of view

• Is good at including others, interacting with others, selling ideas

• Is outgoing and social

• Trusts others easily

• Is very enthusiastic and optimistic and does not want to focus on topics that bring him or her down

• Is a creative problem solver, especially involving people

• Is great at networking

• Is fun loving and impulsive

• Can be perceived by other styles as insincere because he or she is so friendly to everyone

• Does not like pessimism, negativity, or skepticism

• Fears not being liked

• May not notice changes going on around him or her

• Reduces stress by going to a social event, talking with people he or she likes

• Needs to learn self-discipline

• Makes quick, impulsive decisions and will appreciate creative new possibilities

From Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Most Matters by Shawn Kent Hayashi, reprinted with permission from McGraw-Hill. Copyright 2010.

When speaking with a High Influence-style person, frame your ideas this way:

• "I'm excited we are going to…"

• "Imagine this…"

• "So many people will…"

• "I feel so happy about…"

• "You'll win the chairman's club award if you…"

• "Wow, this is going to be fun…"

• "I love working with you because…"

• "This is great news!…"

3. High Steady Style

The High Steady style has these behavioral characteristics:

• Likes security and steadiness

• Is good at creating the pace or process for self and others

• Likes to create short-term plans

• Prefers having clear directions and guidelines for work and activities

• Wants to know how things will be done step-by-step

• Is good at listening and is able to calm others

• Masks own emotions (other styles may find High Steadies hard to read emotionally)

• Has great patience and will stick it out through difficult times

• Needs own space

• Does not like lack of closure or inability to complete a task

• Fears loss of stability and conflict

• Gets overwhelmed with fast change, needs time to adjust to change

• Reduces stress by having alone downtime like yard work or a hot bath

• Needs to learn self-confidence

• Is a methodical decision maker

When speaking with a High Steady-style person, frame your ideas this way:

• "Let's take a few days and think this over before we make a decision."

• "We have a solid reputation for service and reliability."

• "Would you help me with… ?"

• "I promise I will…"

• "Take your time so you feel comfortable…"

• "We can make this happen on our own time schedule…"

4. High Compliance Style

The High Compliance style has these behavioral characteristics:

• Likes accuracy and cautiousness

• Is good at creating policy and procedures and responding to rules set by others

• Can be perceived as too cautious by other styles

• May be overly critical of self and others

• Enjoys solving complex problems and thinking through details

• Analyzes and systematizes

• Has high expectations

• Expects others to follow the rules too

• Is troubled by risky situations and unscheduled events

• Does not like too much focus on emotions or feelings

• Fears criticism of work

• Will worry during times of change

• Reduces stress by having alone time to think

• Needs to learn to be more open verbally to share what is in his or her mind and heart

• Is a cautious decision maker

When speaking with a High Compliance-style person, use these phrasings:

• "The research shows…"

• "Would you analyze the data?"

• "There is no risk in us exploring these three options first…"

• "The facts are…"

• "There is a 90-day guarantee…"

• "This has a proven track record…"

Each person has a preference that includes looking out of one, two, or three of these communication styles. One or two styles tend to be used less than the others. The style we use less is the one that we likely have the most trouble with when we interact with people who choose that style as their preference.

From Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Most Matters by Shawn Kent Hayashi, reprinted with permission from McGraw-Hill. Copyright 2010.

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