Running Your Business

Different Communication Styles at Work and How to Manage Them

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Posted by January 3, 2017

Different communication styles at work are common. An accountant is good with numbers and likes to think logically. A marketing director is creative and has insight into how people think. An HR manager is good with people. A CEO is good with strategy and leadership. How on earth do you get all these people to communicate together effectively? Meshing the touchy-feely with the hard-line numbers, although difficult, is possible if you approach the challenge with a strategy and a plan. Here’s what you need to think about.

Recognize the Need for Different Viewpoints

In a senior leadership meeting, you often run into conflicts between communication styles. Why? Because each area of your business has a different function and the people leading those areas are best suited to them. It can be tempting for a numbers-focused CEO to disregard a people-oriented HR VP because the latter focuses on the “soft” things while the CEO is focused on the “hard,” tangible aspects of the business. But keep in mind that different viewpoints provide balance. You need a finance person who can make sure the numbers line up properly and you need an HR person to ensure staff are motivated. If you focus too much on one side of things, you’ll lose balance.

Ask Simple Questions

To facilitate communication among different types of thinkers, make sure you ask everyone not only how their department can contribute to a proposal but what the effects of the proposal would be. If the CEO asked these two things of everyone at the executive team meeting, think how much valuable information could be obtained. For instance, if the goal is to increase sales by 10 percent, it’s tempting to focus only on sales. But try going around the circle and asking “How can your department contribute and what will the impact of the proposals be?”

Finance may reply, “More sales are always good for us! We’re happy to provide any numbers or projections needed.” Marketing may respond, “We would need a new ad campaign. That will cost $X, which will offset any increase in sales.” HR might say, “Our last survey indicated that employees are already feeling overworked. Increasing their sales targets may lead to higher turnover and decreased sales. To achieve 10 percent, we need to make sure our employees are happy.”

See how different things come out? Now you have more information to judge the merits of the plan. When you look at the different areas of the business and understand that the underlying goal is the same—success—you’ll see that the communication part is quite easy. Take the time to listen to different points of view and you’ll help your business and learn a few things.

Remember, We’re All in This Together

Instead of seeing the leadership team as an obstacle, remember that teams focus on a common goal: winning. You would never ignore the offensive line in a football team just because the quarterback is awesome. No matter how awesome your quarterback is, he needs those linemen. Everyone has a different task, but all of them are important for the health of the business. Take the time to listen to everyone’s point of view—whether it is people-focused or numbers-focused. Listening to your whole team will increase your business’s success. That’s why you hired them.

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