By Eileen Sarson
The day after I facilitated a workshop on communication styles and the use of DiSC theory to sort it all out, a woman from the class came up to me and said, “I have a story to tell you.”
“Every day, Jane comes barging in to my office, talking rapidly. She leans over my desk and rattles off the things she needs from me. She never notices that as she starts to lean in, I start to lean back. She fires off in rapid succession all the things she needs from me that day, tells me when she wants it done, saying, ‘Let’s get moving on this,’ and then she marches out. She never stops to think I might want to ask a question and make some sense of the information she gave me — so I can understand it and do a good job.
“I’ve dealt with her for years and I’ve never really liked working with her — until this morning. She marched in with her usual style, and she stopped herself and walked back out again. She knocked on my open door and asked if she could come in, and if I had a few moments.
“Then she came in gently, sat down and asked me how things were going. She slowed her pace down from the usual rat-a-tat-tat, and let me know what she needed. She asked me if I would need anything to help her get it done — and actually waited for me to answer. I felt great! She let me know to call her if I had any questions. I’m telling you something happened overnight. And now I’m trying to get her that information as soon as possible — I feel like our relationship just changed.”
It doesn’t cost anything to change and creating an environment where true dialogue can occur becomes your first point, your goal. Many people spend their life’s work on this, and I encourage you to use an assessment based upon the work of William Moulton Marston, Ph.D. of Harvard University as a starting point. Dr. Marston’s DISC Theory is not only research-based, it has proven the test of time-it has been used around the world for over 40 years.
Tandem Training uses behavioral assessments to help individuals understand their preferred or natural style of communicating, and can provide the user with surprisingly accurate details regarding their approach to work.
After answering a deceptively simple list of questions for 15 minutes, a report is generated. The behavioral report shows how individuals intrinsically operate, and their adapted behavioral style—how they respond to the demands of the environment. With this information, individuals (and their managers!) can use the information to objectively assess the style of communication they prefer. The see their strengths, where their strengths are not being leveraged, and in a workplace where you are buffeted by others with a differing style- where the dreaded sources of stress have potential to creep in.
So what is this “style?” Consider a circle as representing the entire universe of possible communication styles- the DiSC assessment attempts to help you find out where your talk fits in the circle. Are you up in the top-half of the sphere, upper right corner?
Why is this important? Well, if you are aware of where you ride in the circle, 1) you will appreciate there are benefits, and pitfalls to being in your particular slice of the pie. 2) IF you can appreciate #1, you may also develop the full understanding of what it means for others to have their own style — a style that is entirely natural for them…THUS, stay with me on this… 3) In order to reach others, to show up on their radar screen in a way that provides meaning to them, It is worthwhile to flex your own personal style and meet their needs.
So what are these styles? Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientious. DISC is an acronym used to help remember them. People with similar styles tend to exhibit specific types of behavior common to that style—as a natural expression of who they are—this is not acting.
The four behavioral “styles” include:
- D – Dominance — Also a ‘driver’; indicates a willingness to be in the driver’s seat regarding a challenge or a task. Think CEO’s and Team leaders forging ahead, getting things done, keeping others on the plan; sometimes taking no prisoners…
- I — Influence — The strength of this individual lays in influencing others to their way of thinking. This person knows the big vision — seeks out the big ideas, and all is possible — with others pitching in, nothing is impossible. The party is at their desk, and they’ll ask about your plans for the weekend…
- S – Steadiness — Also a ‘supporter;’ a strength of this individual is likely to be a measured, steady response to the pace of work — and they’ll do it with others in mind. For these people, the pleasure comes in working together and your needs may be put ahead of theirs.
- C – Compliance — also ‘conscientious’; strength here indicates how an individual responds to the need to follow rules. They have the details of the task and the overall direction and plan in place — they are the go to person for the numbers and the handle on how things have been done in the past.
Why would you want to learn this? Because it simplifies communication — it brings communication down to an actionable level — and it is non-judgmental. If I am a “D” and I want to get an “S” type of individual to accomplish a task, I may give them the time to ask questions and let them know how it will benefit the team. Each assessment report follows through with si,ilar scenarios — so individuals gain greater understanding; it tells them what to do — and what to leave behind— in order to enhance their communications. And the information can be applied immediately as we saw in the beginning.
Visit our online store and take a DiSC assessment — and encourage those with whom you work to take one also.
Three Rules for Better Communication actually become Four:
- Understand yourself- this will always be the first part.
- Learn to read others and anticipate how they would like you to interact with them.
- Flex your style and then give it to them — as they would like it.
- Practice doing it until it becomes second nature.
Know who you are, appreciate others, give them what they need — others bring a different piece to the table than we do. I mean, just imagine if all preschool teachers were trained only as engineers. Expand that thought to include all of the teachers in every classroom across the country. Every one of them engineers. Whew! Could be scary.
When surrounded by people who think and act like ourselves, we know we are understood. In a world that doesn’t work like that, flexing can be a solid investment of effort.
And what about the Rat-a-Tat woman? Jane’s side of the story? Decide for yourself if it was worth it.
“After the workshop, it got me to think about my style; I’m a big D — I like to drive for results, I like things fast and I like to be in control. What happened that morning? I decided to try something new.
“Alberta was a big C — an analyst. I always have trouble dealing with her. So although I started out in the usual way, something about the workshop made sense, and I decided to do something different, take a different approach and see if flexing my style changed anything.
What I found — and I was shocked — Alberta was actually more receptive and she seemed to come my way a bit, and I had already gone her way a bit. It does gnaw me inside — because I still want to give her a push — but I realize we can have a better working relationship and get more things done, if we both change our style a bit.”
When faced with communication difficulties at work, have you responded successfully, in a way that preserved the dignity of all — and moved the workplace in a positive direction? Please drop us a line to let us know…
Eileen Sarson works with Tandem Training & Consulting LLC, an organization well-known for offering customized training workshops that are facilitated using experiential training methods. Eileen makes her presence felt at Tandem while working with clients, assisting in curriculum development and teaching, and working with Workforce Training fund grants. Eileen is currently enrolled in the Fast Track MBA Program at Babson College. She holds a BS degree in Medical Technology from Northeastern University, and is certified as a Medical Technologist by the ASCP (American Society of Clinical Pathologists). At Massachusetts General Hospital, she supervised a new-for-the-hospital Satellite Laboratory, 24/7, for five years, and brought them up to MGH and Joint Commission standards. During this time she served as adjunct faculty at Northeastern University, teaching Introductory Medical Technology courses. In 2007, Woodbury College, nationally recognized for their work in Mediation, granted her a Certificate in Mediation.