Discover Yourself – Adapting to the Style of Others

One of the advantages of knowing one’s own personality type and being aware of the other personality types that might be encountered is evident in a business setting. Those in management positions have the most authority to force others to adapt to their own style – but to get the best from their workers, it actually benefits managers to adapt to others to some extent. For a productive team and a harmonious environment, it is a good idea for leaders to learn techniques to accommodate the preferences and personality types of those around them.

Today I’ll be sharing some practical tips on how managers can adapt to the style of others.

Communication Method

One big differentiator between various personality types in a work setting is their preferred method of communication. Introverted people often prefer to communicate through email, as it allows them time and space to process information and formulate a cogent response in their own time. Extroverted people, especially those who like to think out loud in a collaborative way, will often prefer to stop by someone else’s office in order to discuss an issue and get input on it. People who are highly skilled at multitasking may prefer talking on the phone so that they can accomplish some other small tasks while discussing a topic.

Of course, business necessities will always trump personal preferences. If a manager needs an answer immediately, then they are going to drop by others’ offices or call them to save time. If employees work remotely, then email will be the default. However, outside of these necessities, it is advisable for managers to be flexible. If they know that a given employee will give their best response to a query via email, then it makes sense to allow them to use that communication method where possible.

Communication Style

Another related issue is the complexities of communication style. This is an issue in which many people lack self-awareness, which is why it is important for managers to be proactive in addressing this topic. Some people, particularly those who are strongly focused on tasks, will want to know only the essential information that they require in order to complete their job. Giving these people more detail when communicating will only confuse or frustrate them. Other people, particularly those who are focused on relationships, will want to understand the part that their role plays in the bigger picture. Therefore, they will appreciate being furnished with all of the details of a situation even if it doesn’t directly affect them.

Managers who take note of the personality types of their employees can communicate with them more clearly by giving the appropriate level of detail for that personality type. A manager might choose to give a few key bullet points versus explaining an issue in depth, for example, depending on the preferences of the people they are addressing. When a manager needs to address a number of people, such as when emailing a group, then for maximum clarity they can include both: have bullet points with the essential information at the top, and then a section with additional information at the bottom. This way, the readers of the email can pick the appropriate level of communication for themselves.

Meetings

A challenge of the modern office is the dreaded meeting. Meetings are essential for conducting many aspects of business successfully, but they can be draining and are rarely enjoyed by all of the participants. When looked at in terms of personality type, this dislike of meetings is unsurprising. With multiple different personality types in one room trying to make progress all together, it is almost inevitable that there will be difficulties.

Managers have the chance to set the expectations and tone for meetings, and to moderate to make them more productive and helpful for everyone involved. The first step to a more productive meeting is to set goals clearly: is the purpose of the meeting to brainstorm, to plan, or to troubleshoot? Knowing the goal will help keep participants on track and allow different personality types to approach the topic in their own way. Also, is a meeting actually required? If the purpose of the meeting is purely to update others, for example, then this is best accomplished by sending out an email instead of gathering everyone together.

The second step is to send out an agenda for the meeting in advance. This will allow introverts to plan what they want to say, rather than forcing them to make off-the-cuff comments. The third step can be accomplished as a part of the agenda or as an in-person introduction, and that is to have a clear structure for the meeting. For example, first go around in a circle to share ideas or opinions without interruptions, and then have a free-for-all discussion session. This structure will help the more rigid team members know when to give input, and the more go-with-the-flow team members can thrive in the free discussion session.

Presenting, Teaching, and Workshopping

When it comes to presenting to a group, being aware of other personality styles can be a challenge. There are distinctly different learning styles as well as personality styles to consider, but a presenter will not always have a lot of information about a group’s styles before talking to them. Learning styles can include a preference for auditory material, written material, group discussion, or active engagement for best learning.

However, this needn’t be an insurmountable problem. Presenters already tend to use different teaching modalities – i.e. they talk to the group which is ideal for auditory learners, and they use slides which are good for visual learners. To make a presentation more accessible for other learning styles, presenters can set aside some time for group work and for practical hands-on work as well. These two new modalities will help those who learn best by talking an issue through with others or who learn by doing. Combining this approach to presenting and teaching with a personality-based approach for communication and meetings can enable managers to get the most from their employees.

To learn more about personality styles and how knowledge about them can benefit managers, visit www.discoveryourself.com.

Discover Yourself – Self-aware leadership

Thinking of the most important skills for a leader to have, most people will suggest qualities such as vision, charisma, determination, or discipline. But there’s one quality which rarely gets acknowledged in discussions about leadership but that is absolutely crucial, and that is self-awareness.

The concept of self-awareness covers two related aspects of personality: internal self-awareness, meaning how accurately a person perceives their own values, strengths, passions, and so on, and external self-awareness, meaning the degree to which a person knows how they are perceived by others around them. Both of these aspects are essential for effective leadership.

The importance of self-awareness in business

A recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review was written on the basis of interviews with more than 2000 international executives, and it found that self-awareness was crucial for leadership. In fact, the authors Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux argued that self-awareness is the single most important capability for a leader to develop. This is because to be successful, a leader needs to know about their own limitations and idiosyncrasies in order to allow for these factors when making decisions.

Self-aware leadership isn’t just important as an executive skill – it can affect a company’s bottom line too. A study by the Korn Ferry Institute found that in companies with employees who scored well on measures of self-awareness, there were significantly higher rates of return of stock when compared to companies with employees that had more blind spots about their own performance. Another study found that a high score in self-awareness was the strongest predictor of overall success. So self-awareness is more than just a useful add-on skill: it is an essential part of getting results in business.

Blind spots

The same Korn Ferry Institute study mentioned previously also found that 79% of the participants had at least one blind spot in their self-awareness – meaning that 79% of people had a skill that they considered to be a strength but that their co-workers considered to be a weakness of theirs. This shows just how hard it is to be truly self-aware at work.

As we’ve discussed before, people are generally pretty poor at assessing their own performance. The problem is that in order for a person to know if they are a skilled performer in, say, communication, they have to know a lot about the topic already and know enough about what makes a person a good communicator. If someone lacks this knowledge, they are likely to overvalue their own performance because they don’t know what they don’t know.

When trying to cultivate self-aware leadership, it is not enough for a leader to think about their own perceptions of their strengths and weaknesses. They need to gather feedback from co-workers too.

Perception is reality

These difficulties with self-assessment are why receiving feedback is so key for self-aware leadership. Often, feedback from co-workers can differ markedly from how managers perceive themselves. For example, managers want to be seen as open to new ideas and attentive to their employees, so they will often rate themselves highly in these skill areas. But employees might disagree – they might find that the manager is dismissive of issues they raise, or is overly rigid in their approach.

The important thing for leaders to realize is that when it comes to skills assessment, perception is reality. If underlings feel that their manager does not take them seriously, then this is the reality – no matter what the manager thinks about their own skills. Real world examples show how even a leader who believes that they are doing everything right, and who is getting good results for the company, can be perceived as a problem by co-workers.

Achieving self-awareness

Given how crucial self-awareness is for leadership, it is notable that it is rare for the topic to be covered in MBA courses or other forms of business education. Leaders can’t rely on their existing knowledge to achieve self-awareness – it requires active and ongoing examination and practice. Some of the ways that leaders can improve their self-awareness include gaining information by soliciting and listening to feedback, taking leadership coaching, and by taking personality assessments. To get the most from these information sources, leaders need to train themselves and promote the concept of effective listening: not just nodding along while others talk but actively engaging with them to understand their perspective. The more a leader listens, the more informed they will be about how they are perceived and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Other changes can help to encourage a self-aware leadership style too, such as adopting daily mindfulness practice to improve awareness of one’s own state and emotional responses, and taking regular breaks so that decisions are contemplated carefully instead of being made on autopilot.

The makings of a good leader

It’s worth remembering that self-awareness is a key skill for a leader, but that doesn’t mean that there is only one way to lead effectively. For example, a leader might be conflict averse and struggle with giving negative feedback – but as long as they are aware of this, they can get support from other members of their leadership team when they need to have a tough conversation. Conversely, if a leader has a very direct communication style and has a tendency to come across as harsh, then they can call on more diplomatic communicators from their team to help them make a good impression in meetings. In either case, the leader has some strengths and some weaknesses, but by being aware of these and surrounding themselves with people with complementary skill sets, a more effective team can be formed.

To learn more about how personality assessments can help to develop self-awareness, visit www.discoveryourself.com, and check back to our blog soon for more articles like this one.