By Brian R Moree, City Manager, City of Atlantis
We’ve all been there. Carefully crafted an email only to have it misinterpreted. A report our team spent hours preparing is relegated to the “Let me read this and get back to you” pile. Realized barely into a 25-slide presentation that the individuals you were most interested in reaching – are already checking email or playing Candy Crush. What do these scenarios have in common? A breakdown in communication!
Communication is the art of exchanging our ideas, opinions and emotions with others through words or body movements. The human evolution of communication has been occurring for thousands of years, but in some moments it seems primitive.
Google the phrase ‘Improving Communication’ and you’ll be inundated with scholarly articles, soft skill guides, non-verbal signals, Top 10 Ways, and the list goes on. Most of it centers on how you can improve your message. What if there is nothing wrong with the message, but rather the deliver? A mailed letter and a text can both convey the same message, but the how and when vary dramatically. Are you using the best delivery method for your message? Spoiler alert – one method does not fit all.
Playing to the Audience
I had the opportunity to take a behavior-related assessment that not only provided an understanding of my communication traits, but also focused on how others received my message. The DISC assessment is not new and I’m certain some of you have taken it. It is most frequently used in business and government organizations to help teams effectively work together. Respondents rate a series of behavior-related statements based on how strongly they agree or disagree (Business News Daily December 30, 2015).
A DISC assessment categorizes individuals in four styles, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. A Dominance (D) style wants to shape their environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results. They are blunt/direct, forceful, strong-willed, fast-paced, and self-confident. Someone with an Influence (I) style aims to shape their environment by influencing or persuading others. They value openness, friendship and building relationships. A Steadiness (S) style wants to work with others within existing circumstances to carry out tasks. They value cooperation, sincerity and dependability. They are humble, patient, deliberate, consistent, and accommodating. Someone with a Conscientiousness (C) style wants to work to ensure quality and accuracy. This person values expertise, competency and objective reasoning. They are independent, analytical, cautious, systematic, and tactful (Business News Daily December 30, 2015)
The Take Away
The experience was transformative. Immediately, I started reassessing previous communication failures with clarity for what went wrong. Concentrating on a recipient’s traits and how to deliver a message led to an organizational discussion on how those traits may be harnessed to build winning teams.
As an organization, the DISC assessment process led to common sense revelations of how best to communicate and how to form the most effective teams. Conversations emerged regarding each style. If you are sending an email to a Dominance style, make it short and direct. The same message may be best delivered in person to someone of a Steadiness style. When building a team, loading it with all of the top performers may not be the best fit if they are too similar in styles.
Covering the nuances of the entire experience would take a couple more pages. If you are interested in more information, please feel free to email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.