Why Can’t You Think Like Me?
Trying to quickly fix an urgent customer mistake, a CEO was frustrated by his purchasing agent’s insistence on getting a corrected purchase order first.
“Why doesn’t he understand our priorities?!” he fumed.
The purchasing agent did understand his priorities. They just weren’t the same as the CEO’s. He was doing his job- from his point of view.
One of the biggest challenges in business is to get everyone working collaboratively towards the same goals. That requires a shared company vision- in this case, customer service, with a clear understanding of how each employee’s role contributes to and supports that vision. When people focus more on what they do that why they do it, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall goals.
Collaboration requires clear communication. But people are individuals with different perspectives, values, priorities, talents, and experiences. People are typically drawn to jobs that fit their style. Customer service and sales people are usually outgoing and social, while others may prefer jobs that are more focused and detail-oriented. Some people can’t work without people interaction while others prefer to work alone.
These differences play a key role in how people communicate. A conversational, outgoing person may well unintentionally irritate a “just the facts, ma’am” type of person. Neither is wrong; they’re just different, but their different communication styles may negatively interfere with their messages.
Understanding personality styles helps people communicate more effectively. It’s not the warm fuzzies, and doesn’t require a psychology course. Several resources help people identify their own styles, the styles of others, and provide tools to help adjust their communication to achieve mutual understanding. I use Wiley’s DiSC with my clients to help people understand why we act the way we do and how to more effectively interact with others.
DiSC helps people understand that people with different styles aren’t being deliberately difficult; they’re just being themselves. People are who they are, not who we want them to be.
A participant with a “just the facts” style strongly objected to what she called silly small talk with a more conversational colleague. She insisted that people should just do their jobs. I picked up a pile of paper and held out one page.
“This is your request,” I explained. “And here’s where it’s going.” I put the page on the bottom of the pile.
“Yes, she’s going to do her job. You’re just going to be last. Adjusting your communication style will benefit YOU.”
People with different styles tend to be drawn to jobs that fit their talents and preferences. A business needs people with a variety of skills to work towards common goals. It’s not good to surround yourself with more of yourself. Creative people need people who dot the i’s and CFOs need salespeople to grow the businesses whose books they manage. One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is having to wear so many different hats, not all of which fit comfortably. I still tip mine to all those who have supported me.
Do your employees share a common vision? Do they work collaboratively to achieve that vision? How can you help remove barriers to effective communication?