Leverage individual communication styles to enhance team operations

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“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly”.

(Mark Sanborn)

There are no two teams that are exactly alike.  Not the most prophetic thing I’ve ever written in this blog space but worth stating.

Teams have different dynamics and function based on these things and the people who make up the team.  The most successful teams can leverage the talents of each team member into the overall organizational dynamic to ensure successful outcomes.

We’ve discussed team communication strategies in previous posts with an angle to strengthen your team.  Individual communication styles and preferences should be reviewed and discussed when you add someone new to your team.  I’m sure everyone strives to hire the best candidate to fill an opening on their team.  How much thought do you put into understanding how to integrate the new team member’s communication style in with others?

I’m a firm believer that leaders should know direct reports’ communication style and preferred way they want to receive information.  This knowledge allows leaders to seek ways to ensure they communicate in a way to maximize operational needs.  This knowledge has helped me when assigning tasks to team members.

Example #1:  When faced with a project that has an extremely quick turnaround time, I normally assign this project to my ENFJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project excites the staff member and I know they will get things done quickly with enough time for review before the deadline.

Example #2:  When faced with a project due four months from today, I normally assign this project to my ISTJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project allows the staff member time to plan, strategize and ask all the questions they need to for a successful outcome.

The examples listed above are two actual scenarios I’ve tackled in the past.  Both had successful outcomes because I knew and understood how to engage staff to maximize their talents.  This in turn produced successful outcomes for the organization.

Knowledge of individual communication styles also provides a blueprint to help build training plans to help staff members grow.  Introverted staff are not exempt from ever getting a task with a quick turnaround.  The leader needs to provide a more detailed set of instructions and understand they may have to follow-up with the staff member.  This process begins to stretch the staff member and helps their professional growth.  This also provides the leader with another staff member who can handle future quick turnaround projects and not wear out the extroverts.  Also, extroverted staff are not exempt from being assigned long term projects—training applies to all staff members.

There are multiple ways to engage staff to understand their individual communication style.  MBTI and CliftonStrengths are two tools used in my work environments.  These tools allowed me to get a better understanding of everyone on my team and integrate this knowledge to help teammates understand each other as well.

What’s the most successful way for me to understand how to communicate with my team?  I sit down with them and ask everyone how they like to receive information.  Simple, huh?  Then I make sure to communicate with everyone in a manner they identify (as much as possible).  Things pop up but I try to remain consistent with the communication process.  Direct reports seem to appreciate this fact and respond in a positive manner.

A final note, leaders need to ensure their team knows how they like to communicate as well.  The team shouldn’t have to guess how to approach a leader.  This creates undo stress and is not productive.

How do you account for individual communication styles in the work environment?  Can this knowledge impact your current organization?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”.

(Plato)

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Team communication strategies to build a strong organization

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‘Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture, creating the building blocks for success.’

(Ted Sundquist)

The 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team was nicknamed the Dream Team because of the collection of NBA superstars who made up the team’s roster.  The roster included Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley to name a few players.  Every member of the Dream Team was considered the top player(s) on their respective NBA team—the best of the best.

So, with a collection of overwhelming talent available on the Dream Team, this roster is considered the greatest basketball talent ever assembled on one team.  With that in mind, do you know what their ‘overall’ record was?  Most people will say the Dream Team was undefeated in their run towards Olympic gold in 1992.  The Dream Team’s overall record was:  8 – 1.  That’s right, the greatest collection of individual basketball talent lost a game in their quest for Olympic gold.

Head coach Chuck Daly assembled a collection of college basketball stars to scrimmage the Dream Team to help prepare for the style of play they would encounter in the Olympics.  College stars Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber and others were invited to training camp to match up with their basketball idols.  The Dream Team lost to their understudies on June 24, 1992, 62-54 because they assumed, they would roll through the college kids.

The Dream Team hadn’t completely bought into the ‘team’ concept because they were all great individual players and thought they would overwhelm any team put in front of them.  To be fair, coach Chuck Daly limited Michael Jordan’s minutes and didn’t utilize his players to optimize their playing time.  This strategy was taken to get the pros to focus and understand they could be beaten without ideal situations.  The next time the Dream Team played the same collection of college players, they beat them soundly.

The Dream Team provides an excellent example of how team building enhances organizational success.  Simply hiring people and then telling them they are a team does not work.  Understanding team members’ strength, weaknesses and communication styles are a few things needed to build and enhance team dynamics.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI is a self-report tool that provides and makes psychological types as described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful (MBTI).  Organizations use the MBTI for various in-house needs.  One area I have found useful for the MBTI is for team communication.  I have direct reports complete the MBTI and then create an organizational chart we share with the team, so everyone knows the MBTI for their teammates.  We create desktop placards or MBTI heads to display in individual offices as a quick reminder of everyone’s MBTI.

Examples of MBTI heads:  https://eu.themyersbriggs.com/en/Using%20Type/Head%20Type%20table

I leverage this knowledge when assigning tasks to team members.  There are MBTIs who crave fast-paced and deadline filled assignments and others who view these type things as torture.  The key is balancing assignments to maximize the team and help individuals grow.  So, I’m not saying an introvert never has to do presentations but understanding team members helps with the overall health of an organization.

Understanding MBTIs within a team construct has led team members to appreciate each other more.  My MBTI is ISTJ and if you view the MBTI head associated with me you discover things like analytical, organized, and calm.  This knowledge helps everyone on my team understand why a perceived crisis does not impact me the same way it would someone who is an ENFP.  No MBTI is perfect but understanding other indicators provides a team with a foundation to grow.  This growth is a starting point for open communication and a successful team.

CliftonStrengths

I was introduced to CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthFinders) during my time at the University of Central Florida Career Center.  We were looking for ways to maximize our team and contracted to have someone come in to facilitate a workshop for the organization.  This was an eye-opening experience for staff.  I discovered my Talents were:   Analytical, Relator, Learner, Deliberative and Strategic. 

Domain examples here:  https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us/cliftonstrengths-themes-domains

This knowledge will allow leaders and teams to build on current talents in the organization.  I can leverage my identified talents with someone who has more talent in another area to ensure the team can complete a task.  This can only be done ‘if’ talents are identified in advance.

There are other tools available to help leaders build teamwork and communication strategies for an organization.  The MBTI and CliftonStrengths are two I have used and provided multiple organizations with outstanding results.

6 steps to build a strong team:

  • Focus on roles
  • Value each role
  • Communicate
  • Set goals
  • Celebrate successes and failures
  • Know each other
    • (Entrepreneur.com, 2016)
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What strategies do you use to enhance team communication?  What tools have been most effective?  Thanks!

‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.’

(Henry Ford)

References

Johnson, C. (2016, May 23). 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team. Entrepreneur.

The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.) Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1