customer service workers on headsets customer service workers on headsets

Better Versatility = Better Relationships

By Tom Roth

In conversations with clients about the impact of the current economic downturn, I keep hearing one concern everyone seems to share: “How can we help our people manage the strain of all the uncertainty, disruptions, cuts, and layoffs?

Employees are worried about their jobs even while adapting to major changes in their work environment and an unclear future—new reporting relationships, restructured work teams, working from home. Even when they understand the necessity for all the changes, the effects can be debilitating—communication gets more difficult, morale sags, productivity slows, and energy drains.

So what’s the answer? How can companies cope with these conditions and maintain productivity and efficiency? If you are a leader concerned about this question, you know you can’t control the external factors. You can, however, do everything possible to help your people cope. A simple place to start is to make sure communication breakdowns aren’t adding to everyone’s stress and getting in the way of trust, teamwork, and collaborative effort.

As people struggle to adjust to new realities at work, it’s normal for them to experience misunderstandings and increased relationship tension. By becoming more versatile in their interpersonal communications, employees, managers, and leaders can better understand differences in communication preferences and create more effective and productive relationships.

Versatility can be learned, practiced, and improved over time. It’s based on understanding your own and others’ Social Styles, defined in Wilson Learning’s model in terms of four categories—Analytical, Driver, Expressive, and Amiable. Each style is characterized by being either more or less “Tell” or “Ask” oriented and more or less “Task” vs. “People” oriented. People generally feel very comfortable communicating with others who share their style but can have problems with different styles. If you’ve ever felt impatient, intimidated, or frustrated in a conversation with a colleague, friend, or family member, there’s a likelihood that the root problem is a style difference neither of you recognizes.

To improve versatility, managers and employees need to:

  • Get feedback from others to understand their own social style. Knowing how you are perceived by others is critical. Study after study shows that most of us have no idea how we are coming across to others.
  • Learn to identify the social style of others (e.g., Analyticals, Drivers, Expressives, and Amiables)
  • Learn to adapt their own style of communicating to match the preferences of others, putting them at ease, building trust, and allowing both parties to work together to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Simply stated, “The more I know about you and the more I know about myself, the more I can take responsibility for managing the difference between us to increase the effectiveness of our communication and our level of trust.”

Have you experienced a communication problem at work caused by different social styles? What happened and what effect did it have on your work performance?

These are our thoughts . . . what do you think?

Tom Roth

“Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (U.S.) and President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (Japan). With over 40 years of experience in developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, Mr. Roth looks after the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. operations. He also leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions groups.

Mr. Roth assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment, and business transformation. He is co-author of the books – ‘Unplugged: How Organizations Lose Their Energy and How to Get It Back’ and ‘Creating the High-Performance Team’. He is also a frequent speaker at national conferences and client events.”