Versatility.. The Secret to Improving Communication

As a leadership coach, I have the honour of speaking with many people in leadership roles, across a diverse range of organizations — from professional sports teams to the resource sector. I have found that the one overriding challenge these leaders have in common is communication. Over and over again I hear that communicating — being heard, being understood, missing what is being said, being ignored, and the misunderstanding that results from all of these — is right at the top. That is why with every one of my engagements I start by making sure the client understands how they tend to communicate and behave. Once we have done that, we can move on to how to get our message across to others, and how can we get into a better position to have our message heard and understood.

There are several tools and models on the market that organizations use to improve interpersonal communications. Most people are familiar with DiSC and Insights. I prefer to use a model called SOCIAL STYLEs mostly because I find it to be very accessible and easy to grasp. It doesn’t, as I often say, get into the psychological “weeds.” I have often found that after using this model in my work with a client, they invite me in to present it to others in their organization. An interesting outcome happens as the model becomes a language for the whole organization and in some cases becomes part of its culture. In one instance the organization used the symbols for each style as icons and posted them on each person’s office door or cubicle as a quick way to identify the Style of the person with whom they were interacting. You will also notice and hear people referring to each other’s Style in interactions. What is occurring here is an understanding that a person is communicating and behaving based on their “STYLE” and if understood that way, misunderstandings and thereby conflicts can be reduced. Research shows that by using this specific tool, conflict in the workplace is reduced by 67%.

The real secret behind learning about your own behaviour and communication style is then to learn how to be versatile. This is the ability, while understanding your own style of communication, to recognize others’ Style and meet their needs by “speaking their language”. If you think of the four “Styles” in these models as neighbourhoods — your neighbourhood, the one you live in — is “home.” It is where you feel the most comfortable, it’s where you return at the end of the day and can relax. It is your space. However, you can’t stay in your own neighbourhood all the time; there are times you have to leave it to do other things. Versatility is your ability to do those other things effectively in other neighbourhoods. 

Another way to look at this is to use the Platinum Rule. Most of us are very familiar with the Golden Rule, that we are to treat others as we want to be treated. We are taught this “rule” from an early age. What child has not been scolded, “Timmy why are your treating Jenny like that? Is that how you want to be treated?” 

The Platinum Rule, however, decrees that we should treat others how they want to be treated. If someone needs more detail to do a job, be prepared to give them more detail, even if you don’t need it. Just because you don’t need details, someone else might. If someone just needs to know the end results of a project, simply give them that information and don’t go into all the reasons why, unless they ask for that information. 

Getting to know how you tend to behave and communicate is the first step to increasing the effectiveness of interpersonal communications. However, to be the most effective is to understand the behaviour and communications preferences of others, and then to meet their needs. 

John Whitehead

John’s “WHY” comes from his personal experience and exploration of leadership issues. It is, simply put, that “Increased self-awareness leads to transformational change”. John has seen clients make significant shifts in behaviour as they explore and deepen their self-understanding. Raising self-awareness makes them better leaders and allows them to lead exceptional organizations. Clients consistently tell John that learning about themselves, understanding their behaviour in various situations and then learning to modify those behaviours — either to enhance positive outcomes or minimize negative ones — is the most significant thing they have learned. As one client stated, “…adept at working through both professional and personal challenges, [John] was able to guide me through many personal 'stuck' points, creating clarity and 'aha' moments.” Professional Experience John Whitehead is an experienced leader, facilitator and certified coach with over 40 years of senior leadership and management experience. John started his sales career at 16 years of age selling Fuller Brush door-to-door. At 18, John became the youngest store manager Kinney Shoes of Canada had ever appointed. Over the years John has experienced various sales management experiences from retail to direct sales, selling both tangible and intangibles. John has held senior operational positions with national organizations achieving significant recognition for his results. Along with his coaching practice John is currently a Corporate Trainer at Okanagan College, British Columbia, Canada previously an Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Management, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and travels internationally including Europe and the Middle East facilitating leadership workshops. John describes himself as a continuous learner, motivated to learn more so that he can better help others achieve their goals. John’s clients have included senior and emerging leaders in various industries including major utilities, mining, sports, Hi-Tech, entertainment, fitness, construction, retail and direct sales along with coaching other coaches and training professionals. Qualifications & Accreditations John holds a master’s degree in Leadership from Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada and along with various certifications in management and leadership is a: Certified Coach by Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Professional Certified Coach, credentialed by the International Coaching Federation Certified Executive Coach, certification from Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada Certified LPI360 & Leadership Challenge Coach (Kouzes & Posner, Wiley) Certified Global Leader of the Future 360 Assessment (Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching) Certified Instructor and trainer in SOCIAL STYLES & Versatility, interpersonal communications model Certified Instructor and trainer in Adaptive Mindset for Resilience “John has been an incredible asset in helping us align our core values. His direction on effective communication within our team has given all of us a fresh perspective when working with each other and dealing with potential clients. He is an active listener with keen insight into the inner dynamics of company relations. His approach goes above and beyond the norm. Always there when you need him. HIs summary of a session was very helpful in identifying areas that myself and the company could improve upon and at the same time, see our strengths for future success. On a personal note – It was great to have John actually stop me sometimes during a conversation and point out a key point that I might have otherwise missed. We will continue to work with John as our company grows in the years to come.” Derek Hodgins, CEO, High Roller Games

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