Why Can’t You Hear What I Mean?


Why Can’t You Hear What I Mean?

Have you ever walked into a staff meeting, convincing yourself that your team is going to follow what you’ve requested to the letter, only to leave that same meeting wondering what level of compliance you’re going to actually see?

During this year’s PIE Exhibition and Conference, I’ll present a topic called Why Can’t You Hear What I Mean? We’ll examine the two important parts of an equation that drives results: data (what you know) + emotion (how you feel), to then discuss the ability to ensure your team is doing what you’ve asked, the effectiveness of the way you’ve asked, and if being on time and with quality and customer service is always in the center.

“Easy” enough when mapped out on a piece of paper, but when the team shifts from talking to doing, lots of interesting things happen and the outcome sometimes hits the mark and other times doesn’t, leaving us wondering, why the inconsistency?

While there are lots of paths to go down to solve this communications puzzle, one great, first step is to consider how to adjust your style of dialogue with the various behavioral profiles under your leadership. 

Some folks need lots of information to align with your message, while others only want the short strokes; still others like a multitude of options on the table, whereas their counterparts may feel overwhelmed with that same set of choices. How to craft your message to better ensure your diverse team of listeners engage sooner rather than later.


Some folks need lots of information to align with your message, while others only want the short strokes.


We use the DISC Behavioral Assessment model (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance) to help both leaders and team members work better together through verbal and written communications. DISC opens the door to cues you can pick up in the moment to adjust your part of any given discussion to greatly improve the odds that your team is on the same page as you and commit to their intended role. And while we all have traits that fall within each of the four categories, typically one is more prevalent than the others, especially in the workplace.

• Dominance: these folks are typically very direct and succinct in their communications. We like to say they just want to know when the house is built, and aren’t interested in hearing how, step by step, it’s being constructed. A great way to keep this profile engaged is to let them figure out bits and pieces to any given work product for themselves. They’re not big fans of being told what to do (because they see themselves in that job), so providing them projects that they can run with autonomously will improve their overall ownership.

• Influence: this behavioral profile likes non-linear conversations, and is absolutely okay with talking about the process as much as the results. They’re great day dreamers and sometimes can get lost in the innovation and lose sight on who’s doing what. One way to keep them on task is to summarize what’s been decided, highlighting, very specifically, what they’re to do (and not to do – enthusiasm can get the better of a “High I”) and use those commitments going forward to make sure they remain focused.

• Steadiness: commonly known as incredible listeners, those who possess High S attributes are really good at taking in lots of disparate bits of information to then quickly formulate a clear composite of what needs to be done. They’re the ones who articulate well the really astute observation that makes others wonder why they didn’t come up with the same thought sooner. These profiles like predictability so if there’s a sharp turn to what they’ve been asked to do, their leader will likely have to spend a good bit of time explaining the logic behind the change before this profile aligns with the new direction.

• Compliance: these folks are top notch writers. They capture, analyze and share lots of information at a really good clip. Like the High S, they too are strong listeners and will likely see “the devil in the details” before their counterparts. This profile appreciates written agendas, minutes, any type of documentation that tracks well who is doing what and expectations for each. They like making decisions based on fact (as opposed to “the gut”) so to best keep them at the table share data driven validation as part of any decision, project, etc.

Once these cues are observed, a leader can then adjust her style of both talking and listening to ensure each team member is hearing what’s expected and how to best achieve that next result. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my presentation at PIE on Wednesday, March 13th and I hope we’ll have a worthwhile about leadership challenges and solutions!

Colleen M. Niese, is one of two Principals at Marlyn Group LLC and can be reached at cniese@marlyngroupllc.com. 

Article contributed by:
Colleen Niese
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