As a leader, you are aware that excellent communication skills propel career growth and business success. Yet, have you ever paused for a moment to understand your communication style and how people respond to you?  Do you like communicating with lots of data and analytics or do you prefer to focus on stories and feelings? Do you like conversations that have a sense of chronology or do you prefer to jump straight to the end?

Following two decades of research, leadership guru, Mark Murphy, identified four fundamental communication styles: Analytical, Intuitive, Functional and Personal.  The four different styles are based on two distinguishable factors: 1) the level of emotion versus logic and 2) the sense of linearity versus freeform.

From the outset, it is crucial to point out that no single communication style is characteristically better than another.  Nevertheless, picking the wrong style for a particular audience, whether it is a one-to-one conversation, a team briefing or a key stakeholders meeting, can have adverse consequences.  When as leaders we fail to adapt our communication style, we risk having our audience disconnecting from us. On the other hand, when we build flexibility around our preferred style, we allow others to listen more attentively to the message we wish to share.

Let us take a brief look at these four main styles of communication, and evaluate where our tendencies lie:

Communication style #1: Analytical

Analytical communicators, speak in terms of facts, concrete data and numbers. They typically like very specific and concise language and dislike vague vocabulary.  Instructions are very important to them and they tend to have lots of supporting evidence in reserve.  They are typically the source of information and technical expertise.  Analytical communicators are all business, which means they typically hold a relatively unemotional view of things. This allows them to use logic and data to make decisions and work out problems.

Colleagues often look to analytical communicators for informational expertise and objectivity, as their focus on facts enables them to stay neutral in most situations. They are logical and are perceived as deep thinkers.  Emotional words don’t hold sway with analytical communicators. Leaders who naturally prefer an analytical communication style often have little patience for communication that includes lots of feeling and emotional words. This leads them to coming across as cold, distant or forceful in their communication style.   If you are an analytical communicator, to avoid being seen hostile by your team members, consider opting for more pleasantly assertive communication and allow yourself to engage in warm conversations with people too.

The Communication style #2: Intuitive

Intuitive communicators like the big picture.  They avoid getting bogged down in details, and cut right to the chase. They make decisions quickly because they don’t overanalyse the situation or get overwhelmed easily. They don’t need to hear things in perfect linear order but prefer instead a broad overview that allows them to skip right to the end point. Intuitive communicators are able to look at the overarching situation to understand challenges and opportunities and will quickly act on that. Their knack for big-picture thinking means they are not afraid to challenge the status quo.  They don’t get stalled with the need of too many details.  Instead, they enjoy more big ideas, challenging convention and out-of-the-box thinking. They tend to be perceived as having an assertive (or even aggressive) communication style.  Intuitive communicators lack the patience for situations that require lots of minute detail.   Because they seek to avoid nitty-gritties, they may run the risk of missing important points or skipping steps that could negatively impact their work. 

Communication style #3: Functional

Functional communicators value detail, timelines and well-thought-out plans. They cannot live without an agenda.  Their key words are goals and motivation.  They focus on process, communicate end goals, and prefer seeing things presented in a stepped-out, logical fashion. They prefer to communicate in a systematic manner so nothing gets missed. Because they thrive on process and details, they habitually earn their team’s trust.  Leaders who are functional communicators often have people turning to them for projects implementation or to play devil’s advocate where necessary. Functional communicators need to watch out to avoid getting bogged down into too many details as they may run the risk of annoying or even losing the attention of their audience.

Communication style #4: Personal

Personal communicators value connections and emotional language, and use that as their mode of discovering how others feel.  They tend to be good listeners and diplomats, can smooth over conflicts, and are typically concerned with the health of numerous relationships.  They are typically able to pick-up vibes that others may miss because they are so attuned to the emotional aspect of communication.  Leaders who embrace the personal communication style are able to build deep personal relationships with others. People will often turn to them as the ‘glue’ that holds groups together. As the personal communication style falls heavily on the emotional spectrum of the grid, the potential downside of having a Personal communication style is being mocked as ‘touchy-feely.’

Which communication styles resonates with you the most?  Whilst it is beneficial to know your dominant communication style, it is valuable to recognise that building communication flexibility allows you to choose a different style to customize your message to the preferred communication styles of your audience.  As you recognise your own communication style, as a leader it is crucial to be aware of your team’s styles as well.  On your team, you are bound to have people with different personalities and varied communication styles.  As leaders, it is our job to ensure that our message lands with everyone.  To accomplish this well, we need to know who we are working with so that we can speak their language by tailoring our message to their communication style too.

Having great communication skill requires flexing across the four communication styles. Whether we are communicating one-to-one or with a group, it is beneficial to determine which of the four styles of communication we are dealing with. That way our conversations and presentations can be adapted accordingly. When we recognize that people have different communication styles and tailor our message to suit our audience, we express a higher level of emotional intelligence. As leaders, it is vital to recognize that we not only significantly influence the communication styles of our teams, but we also set the tone and culture for our workplace, which also includes the ways in which people communicate. 

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