By: Jeff Driskill, Sandler Training

As a leader of a company, division, department, team or project, one of our most challenging tasks is to communicate effectively with our staff and team. How often does a leader share what they believe is a clear, defined message to learn later the outcome isn’t close to the expectations, yet, everyone involved indicated they clearly understood the goal? Is there someone on your team that you can easily speak to and them with you, and it’s as if you can finish each other’s thoughts? Are there others who it seems as if you’re never on the same page, and talking with them is typically difficult? You clearly state your expectations. You speak the same language. You specifically use words you think are familiar to everyone. Despite all of your best efforts, maybe you are actually speaking a different language?

In the late 1920s, psychologist William Marston developed a theory that our behaviors and our  communication styles center around four different classifications. To varying degrees, we all display natural or adjusted behavioral profiles that combine what he defined as Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and/or Compliance (C). Based on Marston’s DISC Theory, a variety of tools have been developed to recognize behavioral characteristics and are commonly referred to as DISC Assessments.

The realization that each person’s DISC profile is a combination of the characteristics described above, it’s no wonder clear communication is such a struggle. When we provide information, share ideas and attempt to interact with everyone exactly as we want people to communicate with us, we effectively communicate with people like us, only. It is human nature to like people who are like us, and we tend to trust the people we like, also. Unfortunately, that eliminates the majority of everyone else who is different from us.

However, if we can identify a person’s dominate profile and make the effort to adapt our communications style and message to how they share and take in information, we stand a far better chance of achieving the basic human goal when communicating. We all want to be heard and understood. When we share our message in our listener’s “language” they are more likely to understand the actual meaning.

In addition to speaking our listener’s language, we must be active listeners, too. There is a difference between hearing and listening, but neither ensure understanding the message being shared. We are responsible for maintaining good eye contact, and responding both verbally and non-verbally to indicate we are listening to the speaker as they are talking. However, to be an active listener we are required to either restate the message or paraphrase what we heard to confirm our understanding, or to clarify the true message. That allows the speaker to know we grasped the meaning of what they said, or to redefine their message and clarify our understanding.

Leaders must communicate to accomplish the organizational objectives, but it’s rarely as simple as telling people what to do. Leaders hire and build teams in order to scale the workload. In other words, the team multiplies the  organization’s outcomes. Striving to understand and use the “language” of the staff members enables leaders to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.