What’s the true culprit of all misunderstanding?
Lack of good communication, how you communicate and how you receive feedback. Well meaning people who believe they have communicated their best intentions, often have the listener receive the feedback harshly. Here are some examples of where miscommunication might happen:
3) Giving a Colleague Constructive Feedback
4) Brainstorming Sessions
5) Delegating Tasks
This blog post will guide you on how to create a communication profile for each individual member of your team to empower everyone to have mutual, transparent insight into the aspects of each team member’s communication style. Not only will this practice help avoid miscommunication at the office, it will also help develop team collaboration and a culture of feedback.
First, let’s talk about the cultural and values-based frameworks needed for this advice to work…
15Five is a company that stands for powerful core values that create the cultural environment for these type of communication practices to be successful. Below are some of those values from our Philosophy Page. I have redefined them a bit from the context of communication. (Note: If you are developing your own core values, feel free to use any of the below that resonate.)
Hold & Be Held Accountable. The act of communication is to create change. When receiving communication from someone, you need to take responsibility for the change requested when it is in the highest service to the company.
Always Be Learning & Growing. Adapt your communication style to match for the person you are communicating with. Initially, there will be tension and discomfort, but that’s okay. Grow together and accomplish something greater.
Grant Trust & Be Transparent. Trust that when your teammates communicate their transparent, honest feedback, they have the best intentions for you and the collective good of the team. Reciprocally, your teammates should also work on developing the same attitude.
Embrace Freedom & Flexibility. Celebrate the fact that everyone has a different unique communication style, and have the flexibility to mutually meet halfway to better understand each other.
Keep Things Simple. If these other values are being practiced, you can speak honestly and directly. Period.
Have a Win/Win Mentality. (Not a 15Five value, but it’s a good one!) Be aware of shared values and be invested for the mutual benefit of all parties involved in the communication.
Here at the apex of technological achievement, communication channels are plentiful and diversified. Yet, our individual method of communication can be rendered ineffective or completely useless if the receiver operates on a different frequency.
First, identify which one of these types of communication is your preference. A good communicator should eventually master all of these communication channels throughout their lifetime. However, most people naturally gravitate to one of these types.
1) Verbal or Audible Communicator – This person prefers to use audible noise that transmit meaning, aka talking.
2) Nonverbal Communicator – Using facial expressions and hand gestures, these people communicate via emotional expressions and read the expressions of others to pick up on subtle cues lost in verbal communication.
3) Written Communicator – This person might prefer to have thoughts expressed in writing for further clarity and as a note for future reference.
4) Visual Communicator – This person expresses themselves best via using visual aids like power point presentations, art, video…etc…
Everyone on your team is likely to use a variety of one of these four communication styles. Below are some best practices to communicate clearly and unambiguously, and break through each style to understand the content being conveyed.
1) Understand Personality Traits
I recommend taking the short 16 Personalities Test first to understand your personality type, particularly your strengths & weaknesses, social propensities, and workplace habits. (I am an ENFJ – “The Protagonist”.)
You can also leverage the Gallup Strengthsfinder assessment to better understand yourself in the context of your natural talents.
Communication starts with yourself. How well do you understand your strengths and shortcomings in relationships with friends and coworkers? Here’s how you can take what you learned about yourself to communicate more effectively and enhance team collaboration:
Reflection. Reflect on the keywords that relate to your top strengths that you want your colleagues or friends to reaffirm and celebrate. Alternatively, exercise introspection on the keywords from your weaknesses that your friends or colleagues might trigger.
Selection. Next, think of a specific event, action, circumstance, or stimuli that triggers both positive and negative emotional responses from you. For instance, maybe the phrase “you have to” might trigger an emotional response where you feel like you are forced to do something. For some people who are blunt and direct, this type of phrasing is not triggering and will not negatively impact their receptivity to the message.
Expression. Based on what you learned about yourself, the keywords and themes you selected about yourself, be prepared to express this outwardly when interacting with people.
This is my theory of the iterative loop of effective communication: reflection, selection, and expression. The more frequently you practice these three elements, the more effective and efficient your communication with others will become.
2) Publicly Share Your Communication Style Profile
After knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your personality in the context of relationships, make your findings public to your team, or even the entire company. Take note of the particular traits that resonate with you and that best depict who you are. Collect those characteristics into a “communication style profile” and share via Google Doc, company intranet, or other public document where every team member can learn about each other’s profile.
The whole purpose of this communication profile is to find any excuse to encourage people and help them routinely feel valued, appreciated, and most importantly, understood. In the end, “people really are seeking love in return for their work”.
Admittedly, some workplaces are competitive, which is why creating and maintaining a healthy work culture is key to this process. To use this information as a weapon against your teammate defeats the purpose of this initiative. Leaders should encourage those overly competitive folks to question why that behavior is occurring. Is the culture toxic or is that person out of sync with the values?
1. A Picture of Yourself: This should be appropriate, but not formal or overly professional to demonstrate your personality.
2. Your Personality Type:
a. Strengths: List three strengths or talents that you want other people to know about, to look for when interacting with you, and to appreciate and value you for.
b. Weaknesses (Disclaimer: This is where practicing a culture of transparency and mutual trust is super important. The information shared in your profile is very sensitive and should be used as a way to help people grow not to take advantage of them.)
i. List out areas where you commonly make mistakes, have challenges, etc. You can also list aspects of your personality that might create tension.
ii. All this information should be received with empathy and understanding by the teammates. They should practice receiving and embracing the weaknesses that each team member has and over time help them improve and overcome.
3. Type of Communicator: Do you prefer verbal, audible, nonverbal, written, or visual communication?
4. Preferred Channel of Communication: Face-to-Face conversation? Text? Video call? Email? List the typical situations where this may change. For example, you may prefer email, but will hop on a call or meet face to face if the conversation is too intricate or too sensitive and may get lost in the translation of written communication.
5. Top 3 Values: Speak to what is important to you in life, work, and personal values. Ideally, you will also list the company values that resonate with you.
6. Hobbies and Interests: List out things that you engage in during your personal time. Having this level of insight is powerful in helping your teammates find ways to connect with you more authentically.
7. What Upsets Me: Discuss the types of conversations and situations that tend to create a negative emotional experience for you. You can list out a couple “when I hear _________, I feel _____________” type of statements for this section.
8. Key Phrases That Help Me Receive Critical Feedback: “My intention is to express the frustrations I have with you, for the purposes of making our working relationship even better.”
9. How To Communicate When You’re Upset: Maybe you need to not talk to that person for a set period of time, or communicate via a specific channel. (Note: Face to face conversation is the best way to resolve an issue and should include a third party mediator in extreme situations.)
10. How To Encourage Me: People receive encouragement in different ways. Knowing how to cheer up a person or to get them in a positive mood can have a profound impact on how communication is received. This ultimately strengthens workplace relationships and team collaboration.
Here’s an example for your’s truly, Alex Cho:
Personality Type: ENFJ- “The Protagonist”
Strengths: One thing I would love people to appreciate about me is that I am an independent, self-starter and love taking on new challenges.
16Personalities: Tolerant, Reliable, Altruistic, Natural Leader, Charismatic
Gallup Strengthsfinder: 1. Strategic 2. Learner 3. Focus 4. Communication 5. Activator
16Personalities: Overly Idealistic, Too Selfless, Too Sensitive, Fluctuating Self-Esteem, Struggle to Make Tough Decisions (too analytical)
Type of Communicator: Prefers written and visual communication over verbal communication because I want a documented interaction that I can pull from in the future.
Preferred Channel of Communication: Slack or written text type of communication
Top 3 Values: (These are great conversation starters later since the specific meaning of each value may require some explanation.)
Life: Interesting, Positive Challenges, Stability
Work: Lucrative Rewards, Progression, Big Potential
Personal: Freedom, Flexibility, and Private Victory
Hobbies and Interests: Surfing, Art Museums, Photography, Karaoke, Working Out, Playing Music, Singing (high baritone, melody, harmonies), guitar, light-keyboard
What Upsets Me:
When I feel that someone is limiting my potential
When I feel made fun of or belittled
When I feel invisible tension with someone due to ingenuine communication
Keywords To Receive Communication:
“This is not directly against you.”
“I am saying this to help you out.”
“My intent is to help you improve.”
How To Communicate When You’re Upset: Give me 1 day of communication isolation from you if possible. If not Slack or text me versus verbally communicating with me.
How To Encourage Me:
Physical high five, pat on the back, handshake
Compliment me on things I’ve done well via text or verbally
Treat me out to a cup of coffee or a meal
This process is designed to help you learn how you personally communicate and how to give and receive communication with others on your team. Hopefully these tips can help reduce any tension in team communication, enhance team collaboration, and prevent teammates from harboring negative feelings towards you.
Accepting and receiving each team member for who they are and for their communication style takes effort and commitment. These profiles will help your team members remember who you are and to use your preferred way when addressing issues. This will help prevent the trigger of a negative response that might impact receptivity of the message or harm your professional relationship.
Depending on your own company culture and even individual team culture, you may want to add other elements to your profile that would make sense for your team. Think of this blog as a template, a tool that you can leverage to accomplish greater levels of connection and communication within your team and hopefully scale up to your entire company.
Alex Cho is Sales Development Representative at 15Five, a complete performance management solution that delivers a full suite of integrated tools – including continuous employee feedback, Objectives (OKRs), pulse surveys, peer recognition, and one-on-one meeting agendas. Alex is well traveled in China (25 cities) and a breakdancer who was part of Boogie City Resident crew (now Jive City).
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