I didn’t have a great communication skills success record when I started a job in 1998 of managing 900+ volunteers for a sheriff’s office, I lost more volunteers than I kept. Then I learned that the number one reason why people leave their workplace, volunteer or paid, is due to a poor relationship with their boss. That was exactly why I lost my volunteers; I didn’t know how to build a positive relationship with my hires.
I realized after taking a DiSC® workshop that if I was serious about decreasing my turnover rate I needed to become more sensitive to the different communication styles people expressed. Did that mean to be successful I had to be a touchy-feely manager? I hoped not. Did it mean to be a successful manager I must write smiley notes every day to my people? I prayed not. Did it mean I needed to keep an updated list of birthdays, anniversaries, and their children and grand children’s birthdays, and then send cards and gifts for all of these? Heaven’s no! (Although people deeply appreciated it when I did any of these).
I did learn that having good communication skills means I become increasingly more present in my work conversations. Having good communication skills meant that I listened to each worker and responded to him or her as the unique individual they were. It further meant that I daily practiced active listening. Those three skills turned everything around for me and are still the most effective communication skills I use! Sarcastic spouse, gossiping coworker, angry customer, passive-aggressive vendor, or distant boss – these three communication skills work consistently. They are:
1. Listen Deeply
Put everything out of your head and just listen to the speaker. Listen for what is behind the words coworkers speak and look for the deeper meaning especially in complaints, lengthy explanations or excuses. Read your staff’s body language, terse responses, or overly emotional ones and sort through the exterior of what is said by looking for what is meant. Ask yourself what emotion is showing up, what frustration is being voiced. Listening deeply allows you to target the frustration and then more effectively manage it.
2. Read Their Communication Style
Pay close attention to the way your worker communicates – are they more chatty, more thoughtful and reflective, do they worry more about others, are they fastidious, concerned about details, focus on the big picture, loud, quiet, story tellers, or dramatic? It is HUGE to read this and respond to those behaviors or differences in a way that say’s “I get you and your differences from me and, it is OK.” Instead managers often miss the overt cues employees manifest as they beg to be understood. When each of us feels understood, we relax and can then listen to the other person. This seems like a no-brainer, yet it is perhaps one of the greatest frustrations my company’s “workplace culture survey” consistently reveals when given to work teams. If you are curious about what your workplace would say, take your own Workplace Culture Survey, just go to the Workplace Turnarounds page of my website and administer to your team.
When a coworker is attempting to convey something and they become agitated, or begin to shut down, mirroring is one of the greatest tools you can use to stop the downward spiral. It tells the other person you are listening and reinforces how well you are listening. Mirroring is repeating back to the other person what they said and if you want to do this really well, you will then tell them what you heard them say using your own interpretation.
The beauty of mirroring is that when you get it correct, the person instantly nods (good sign), and the agitation or shut down begins to reverse. If you don’t get the mirroring right in the first try, the person will correct you giving you a second chance, and sometimes a third. People are more forgiving when you try.
As a professional facilitator and intervention expert, I consistently get results by applying these three communication skills. When you use them over the long haul, you will see the furtherance of building strong and positive business relationships. Your people will stick around.
If you’ve been held back in your career or feel that your management could improve, brushing up on your communication skills is always an excellent first choice. Advisicon is offering a DiSC® Successful Communication Workshop on September 19th in Vancouver, WA. Keep checking back for more communication workshops in the future.
Editor, Pamela Cournoyer, CEO of Communicate with CLASS, Business Relationship Expert
Pamela coaches executives and managers in the art of interpersonal skills and people reading