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Learn to adapt to different communication styles.

Jack is a superb salesman who has developed long-term relationships with his customers over the years. One customer, Janet, recently requested a DSL installation in her home to accommodate her growing home based business. She asked Jack if the installation could be done in a day or two


Although Jack's manager, Tom, was pleased with the new order, he criticized the way Jack rushed it through, especially since the schedule for installing equipment is set at least one week in advance. He told Jack that it's inappropriate for him to "Cut corners with friends."

Who Is Right?

Both Jack and Tom have reasonable points of view, and from their individual perspectives, each is correct. Employees want to do their best, and managers expect them to follow protocol and procedures.

Jack is well known in his community, and through his relationships has created a very positive image for his telco. By being responsive to Janet's need for a rapid turnaround, he feels he is doing the right thing for the customer, while enhancing his company's reputation in the community. He knows that Tom understands his customer focus, but struggles with how to express his viewpoint more clearly.

Managing Up, Down and Sideways

There is no "right way" for communication to flow within an organization. Although some communication will always flow from top down, everyone is responsible for communicating well.

Let's look at another way Jack could have approached Tom.

Jack knows that Tom focuses on rules and procedures, and also knows that he is ultimately accountable for revenue generated by his salespeople. Jack could have told Tom about the new business while committing to work personally with the field team to arrange for installation. This may have mitigated Tom's concerns about Jack cutting corners.

Understanding Stylistic Differences

Many communication Challenges occur because people aren't tuned in to the way in which people express themselves. Understanding your own communication style helps you to understand others better. Which of these examples seems most like you?

* Susan is direct, fast-paced and sometimes argumentative.

* Bob is outgoing and enthusiastic, and gets chatty with customers, co-workers and friends alike.

* Julie is patient, a great listener and always ready to pitch in for the team.

* Mark is precise and thorough; he organizes and analyzes.

Let's compare these profiles to Jack and Tom. Jack reflects the characteristics of Bob, while Tom is more like Mark. When Jack speaks with Tom, he needs to be organized, thorogh, detail-oriented and specific. Tom probably isn't one for much small talk, so Jack should go straight to the point.

That's not to suggest that the burden of communication falls on the employee (Jack) rather than the manager (Tom). If employees want to accomplish something that is out of the ordinary, however, it's up to them to effectively communicate such requests to their managers.

Learn Your Unique Style

We all have a core style, even though we reflect elements of each style depending on the circumstances. Read through these examples to see how you might be able to adapt your style for more effective communication.

If you are a methodical decision maker, approaching problems in a well organized, systematic way, but you report to manager who seems to make decisions in a second, then you should:

* Always be prepared when you meet with your manager.

* Go into a meeting ready to make a recommendation.

* Use direct eye contact and a strong tone of voice.

If you are an outgoing, Sociable, verbally persuasive person who reports to someone who tends to cite facts and figures to convince others, then you should:

* Skip the small talk.

* Have facts in your back pocket.

* Communicate in a more reserved fashion.

If you function best in a predictable, structured environment, while your manager seems to thrive in chaos, then you Should:

* Not be put off by the chaos; it's not your issue.

* Speak up and say that you need to process information whenever you feel overwhelmed keeping up with your manager.

* Prioritize your daily tasks and complete them in order.

If you make your own rules while your manager is a stickler for going by the book, then you should:

* Slow down when you speak.

* Not use excessive gestures.

* Pay meticulous attention to details.

You don't need to be an expert to develop good communication techniques. Pay attention to how other people speak, and you'll find the clues that will help you modify your words to more effectively deliver your message. If someone is direct, be more direct. If your customer is indecisive, try to bring closure by asking more questions. If your employees are outgoing and eager, bring in pizza and have an informal staff meeting over lunch.

Savvy communications builds better understanding. Different stakeholders reflect diverse viewpoints, and knowing how to adapt your communication style goes a long way toward more tolerant interactions. Jack and Tom can have their own perspectives, but they don't have to be at odds.

Lisa Aldisert is author of "Valuing People--How Human Capital Can Be Your Strongest Asset. " She can he
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Title Annotation:WORK FORCE
Author:Aldisert, Lisa
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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