Managing a team can be tough. Not only do you have to keep track of all your team members’ work, but you also need to communicate with them regularly to gauge their workload, happiness, and other needs.
But what if your employees simply do not communicate in the same way your managers do? Poor communication and miscommunication alike contribute to the majority of problems in the workplace. Encourage your managers to pay attention to their team’s communication styles so they can become more effective supervisors. Understanding how each team member communicates opens new pathways of communication to prevent stumbles, tension, and mistakes.
That may seem like a major undertaking, but there are plenty of resources to help you understand your team’s communication style—and adapt to it.
Different communication styles in the workplace
Research on communication suggests there are four main styles of communication:
These four styles can conflict, but if they’re approached carefully, a team composed of these different styles can work cohesively. On top of that, different communication channels serve different purposes, and these should align with communication styles, too. Teach your leadership team how these styles interact with each other so they can enable their teams to perform better.
Managing someone with an analytical communication style entails exactly what you’d expect: this individual cares first and foremost about the facts at hand. Analytical communicators prefer discussion to be as direct as possible, with hard numbers to back up any theory or summation.
Every team needs a member who can take an analytical approach to problem-solving. This helps minimize emotional decision-making and focuses on the end result. But this means team members may have to compromise some of their social needs to work with an analytical individual—they’re not ones for small talk.
When communicating with an analytical type, encourage your team to be prepared with data, all the way down to the nitty-gritty details. Urge them to stay on topic, be clear with expectations, and seek out a data-driven perspective. Make sure they follow a detailed agenda and then follow up with meeting notes, action items, and expectations.
Intuitive communicators care about the data, but they know data isn’t the end-all-be-all. If you have an intuitive type on your team, you probably lean on them for the big moonshot ideas. They see the bigger picture and are ready to dive deep into the work.
Communicating with an intuitive individual can be a unique experience each time. Since they appreciate short, to-the-point communication, they can be prone to not paying attention to the smaller details. Prepare to hammer home the nuances so they don’t go missed by an intuitive type.
When managing an intuitive communicator, prepare for a blunt and quick conversation and multiple follow-ups. Provide visual aids to direct their attention toward the details. Get right to the point and listen to their big ideas—allow for out-of-the-box reasoning—as they will prove to be invaluable.
Think of your most process-oriented employee. They’re likely a functional communicator who takes a holistic approach to solving problems, then digs in step-by-step to make sure no detail is missed. Functional types are best at process and implementation due to their attention to detail.
Functional communication types look at the problem from multiple perspectives. This means they’re apt to mull on ideas to ensure every detail is considered. Their interrogative nature can lead them to “push back” or play devil’s advocate on a big idea—perhaps one presented by an intuitive type. Build communication lanes between these two types to fill in the detail gaps a functional type might anticipate with an intuitive communicator.
Managing a functional type requires strong skills in active listening. These types want to make sure you care about the details as much as they do—reiterate their conversations and confirm with them that their plans are clear. Encourage feedback from them and expect a lot in return. Establish deadlines, expectations, and processes to keep a functional mind at ease.
A personal communicator is likely the most sociable person on your team. Personal types come into meetings ready to discuss their weekend and ask what your children thought of the latest Disney film before they get to business. To them, the emotional connection to the team is what drives their success.
Personal communicators are focused on building relationships—both within your team and with your customers. They’re often the glue that keeps your team together. Perhaps they facilitate friendly discussions between intuitive and functional communicators, acting as a teamwide diplomat. But sometimes this can come across as too informal with team members. These types of communicators also need a little bit more explanation behind the decisions other team members make, so encourage your team members to explain their thought process when presenting new ideas, too.
When managing someone who communicates on a personal level, keep things casual. They appreciate personal, face-to-face conversation without it feeling like it’s all business all the time. Your conversations can be more informal, as these are the type of people who appreciate a walking meeting or a 1:1 at a coffee shop. Because of this, you should expect to follow up after meeting with any important details or contacts. Chances are, this employee wasn’t taking detailed notes. 😊
Determining your team’s individual personalities
So how do you figure this all out? Often, the best way to learn your team’s communication style is simply to ask!
Some straightforward types—like personal or analytical communicators—make their personality and communication styles known right from the start. Others aren’t quite as aware of their communication tendencies, and they may not be immediately evident to you as a manager.
There are various methods to determine your team’s communication identity, but three main approaches can transform the way you manage your team.
Workplace personality tests
Personality tests aren’t a passing craze—there’s a reason why many top business leaders highlight their Myers-Briggs types in their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Tests like the Myers-Briggs or DiSC profile can unleash subtleties in your teammates’ working styles that they aren’t even aware of.
The CliftonStrengths assessment is growing in popularity due to its extensive series of 177 questions that identify patterns to evaluate individual personality, strengths and weaknesses, and methods of communication.
Team building activities
We’re all sick of doing trust falls and “Hi, my name is Anna, and I’m bringing apples to the picnic!” games. But beyond icebreaker games, your team needs chances to work together informally so they can understand how each other communicates. Incorporate casual team building activities with your team so they can learn how to work better together. This can be something as simple as a virtual team meeting, trivia, or a creative project, like a poster contest. Once your team knows how to work together well—especially when working from home—communication will become easier across the board.
Listen to your team
The best feedback is often conveyed directly, face-to-face. So no matter how many tests or training seminars you have your team take, they’ll often just want you to be frank with them—and vice versa. Empower your team to initiate regular feedback loops, like asking questions during your weekly 1:1s. Encourage them to talk about a moment when they felt they communicated effectively or maybe a moment when they struggled to communicate with someone else. Conduct regular “pulse” and feedback polls where your team can anonymously express their concerns in communicating. This feedback is critical to managing a team well when they all communicate differently.
Managing individual communication styles while remote
As a manager of a remote team, how do you take all of this information and make it work across the digital sphere? Luckily, there are bounteous amounts of tools that make remote work easier for teams and managers alike. Adopt this as a policy for your managers to implement or include it in your onboarding process.
Your analytical employee likes information to be short and to the point. Your personal employee likes to greet you with a good morning. And your functional employee likes to start the day by running through their to-do list with you. They can do it all without interrupting each other’s workflow in a messaging tool like Flock.
Flock can be used to manage both projects and people, making it a handy tool for managers. Set up a channel for each project your team is managing so they can track individual initiatives and brainstorm there. Build out social channels for interests, like music and video games. Maybe your analytical team member doesn’t like small talk as much as your personal team member, but they can talk about PUBG for hours—we see that a lot here with analytical members of Flock’s team. Keeping your team talking is a number one priority in staying communicative and working well together.
If the chatting becomes too distracting for an analytical or intuitive type, give them the opportunity to work unilaterally and uninterrupted by integrating your tasks into a project management tool, like Asana or Trello. These tools are didactic in communicating a process, meaning analytical Allie can let personal Polly know it’s her turn to pick up a project without feeling bogged down by conversation. It’s all about letting the processes flow naturally.
As a manager, it’s important to gather feedback on your performance to make sure your team feels comfortable and well-managed. While you’re learning your team’s communication style, make an active effort to use your internal HR tools to track your progress. Pulse tools like 15Five allow your team members to provide off-the-cuff insights about their day-to-day experiences and can inform discussion topics for your next 1:1 or team meeting.