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When Interpersonal Skills Take Off, Results Soar

Social Styles Versatility: The Engine of Success

By Tom Roth, Michael Leimbach, PhD

What if your company could learn a skill that will eliminate conflict, miscommunication, and slow decisions? And what if I told you that the mechanics team inside a global air fleet company did just that and saw a 56% boost in productivity? Would I get your attention? Thought so.

That skill is called Versatility, and it is perhaps the most powerful interpersonal skill you can have.

Numerous research studies show that diverse experiences are critical to innovation and performance improvement, but diversity naturally places a strain on communication. When people feel there is tension and difficulties in communication, it is difficult to carry out innovative decisions and actions with high energy. The good news is we can take responsibility for managing our communication, behavior, and reducing interpersonal tension by keeping the task focused on solving problems and achieving productivity, efficiency, and employee engagement improvements.1

Versatile Communication Skills

Versatility is the ability to recognize differences in communication preferences and to adapt to make others more open and receptive—creating more effective and productive relationships.

The first step is to recognize communication differences, and the Wilson Learning Social Styles model is the tool to help you. Social Style is based on our preferred communication approaches. Your Social Style varies in terms of your actions on the dimensions of Assertiveness and Responsiveness.

Because about 25% of people fall into each of these four categories, you share a Social Style with only about 25% of the people you meet. Just think about the consequences when we can’t or won’t adapt to the other 75%. Do you see an opportunity here?

“The more I know about you, the more I know about me, and the more I can take responsibility for managing the difference between us.”

If you choose to take responsibility and manage the differences between your Social Style preference with the other 75%, you can create more productive relationships and, as a result, maximize your effectiveness on the job.

The Key Is Versatility

Social Style helps you recognize communication preferences, and Versatility helps you take responsibility for managing differences. The good news is Versatility is a skill that can be learned and mastered. But Versatility requires effort, requiring you to modify your approach to fit others’ approaches, even when it may not be comfortable. You have to make a conscious choice to be Versatile:

  • Do I need this relationship to work so I can achieve my results?
  •  What will be the benefits if I improve this relationship?
  •  What will be the risks if I do not improve this relationship?

Having chosen to be Versatile, you then have to act on that choice with a process we call the Versatile Response:

1. Identify: What is the person’s Social Style?

You identify others’ Social Styles by focusing on what they value, the environment in which they work best, and how they like to work.

Tom Roth

Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (U.S.) and President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (Japan). With more than 40 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, Mr. Roth is responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. operations. In addition, he leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions group, which is responsible for the research and development of all solutions and position papers. Mr. Roth assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment, and business transformation. Before assuming his current role, he was President of the global R&D and solution development groups and also served as President of Wilson Learning Corporation.

Mr. Roth has extensive experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions. He is coauthor of the book Unplugged: How Organizations Lose Their Energy and How to Get It Back, coauthor of the book Creating the High-Performance Team, and is published in numerous business publications. Mr. Roth is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and client events, presenting on a wide variety of issues including leadership, employee engagement, change, and strategy implementation.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.