Three steps to understanding different communication styles and having more impact at work​

Three steps to understanding different communication styles and having more impact at work

Blog post by Madeleine Babiolakis

22nd May, 2023

There’s a lot being said around skills shortages at the moment.

Whether it’s been devising strategy, leading change or building teams, challenges around communication have come up in every piece of work over the last year.

As I drilled down into this, it became apparent it wasn’t just the regularity or volume of comms – but rather the way the message was communicated and how it was, in turn, received. 

Unlike the intro to this article, there’s no shortage of info around impactful leadership – be human, authentic, lead with your heart. 

Like me, you might have moved into leadership when showing emotion was not always seen as a strength.

As well as the welcome dynamics of modern leadership (phew!), building the skills to read a situation, adapt quickly and have impact can also come down to understanding different communication styles. 

I like to think of it as a simple framework with three steps:

1. Understanding yourself 

What are your preferred ways of working and leading? You might love working on a number of things at once, be ok with being contacted across multiple channels and receiving less feedback day-to-day.

On the other hand, you might struggle without clear direction and become overwhelmed by changing pressures and a million Teams notifications.

In less than ideal working situations, you can react in a way you otherwise wouldn’t. So first of all, know how you like to work and lead to be able to communicate that to others. 

2. Understanding others

If you don’t have a direct team you’re leading, this next step can apply to your peers and colleagues. Do you know how Tom or Sally prefer to work?

What are the things you can do (or do together) to create an environment that’s most effective for the project you’re working on?

It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting to bring these up. It can be a question around channels to start – do you mind if I email you the draft or would you prefer to talk it over?

I’ve come to realise not everyone loves chatting on the phone as much as I do!

3. Understanding the situation

This is third but by no means the least important. Think of it in the context of the strategic impact, or outcome, you want to achieve. For example, a change process when there’s been lots of delays and information isn’t able to be shared.

With the desired outcome likely being a change that teams understand and benefit from, communicating that there isn’t much to share, but this is what we’re working towards, will be much more impactful than saying nothing at all.

When trying to align diverse stakeholders on a project (this can be more difficult than your immediate team) – make the shared goal clear, and then ask questions around the different ways that progress can collectively be made.

While challenges within teams and across change efforts shouldn’t be generalised, quite often the disconnect stems from a lack of clarity and understanding.

What other tips do you have when it comes to communication skills and styles? 

About the Author

Madeleine Babiolakis is the founder of Shape & Impact, a consulting and advising practice helping purpose-led organisations and leaderships achieve strategic impact. It is centred around the belief that authentic engagement can transform workplaces, careers and leadership.

Madeleine has advised Ministers, CEOs, and heads of large organisations. For more than a decade, she has dedicated her work to exploring the power of authentic leadership through communication, and its ability to inspire and impact people’s lives.

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