Julia has been a networker for more than five years. She is known as very capable and accomplishes the goals she sets for herself. The only problem for Julia is her inability to effectively manage the people on her team. Turnover rate in her organization is high and some people in her downline have complained that working with Julia creates tension and conflict.

The challenge Julia faces is one that many leaders deal with. Much of a network’s success is contingent on the ability of its members to effectively communicate with each other. People will leave a network if the environment is strained. Great organizations have strong leaders who are able to manage, motivate and communicate effectively with everyone on the team.

The ability to adapt one’s communication style to others maximizes our effectiveness in all aspects of life. Without these skills, personal and professional relationships may become conflict-prone because each person communicates differently.

Although there are many different personalities, communication style can be narrowed down to four major behavioral approaches, which were identified two thousand years ago by Hippocrates. Here are some tips on how we can utilize the strengths and weaknesses of each style to increase cooperation and productivity.

The Dominance Style* (D)

Born leader Bossy
Excels in emergencies Intolerant
Goal-oriented Overly demanding
Motivational Workaholic
Logical thinker Impatient
Confident Rude, tactless

The “D” communication style is direct, opinionated, seeks immediate results and enjoys challenges. Communicators who use this style like to win, take risks and work hard to get desired results. “D” communicators prefer a fast pace, new activities, change and variety and use a direct approach to solve problems. They are confident leaders and believe in pragmatic principles: if it doesn’t work, get rid of it.

To be effective with these people, show them the simplest and quickest way to be productive. Be firm and direct, and clearly define the limits of their authority. They like public recognition for creating results that make a difference in the world.

When faced with conflict, “D” communicators will confront the opposition and defend their position. Often they will win a disagreement by using intimidation tactics. However, when they feel the conflict is a no-win situation, they will mentally leave the conversation and sometimes physically exit as well.

The Influence Style* (I)

Magnetic personality Exaggerates
Storyteller Compulsive talker
Entertaining Undisciplined
Friendly Immature
Creative and colorful Interrupts
Enthusiastic Disorganized

“I” communicators like to interact with people; they are fast-paced, animated and enthusiastic and like to express their thoughts and feelings. These outgoing people desire results; however, they are very sociable in their interactions. They are excellent communicators and are viewed as friendly, creative and persuasive.

To be effective, avoid overwhelming details and request specific feedback to check on their understanding of how to complete a project. Use public praise and provide opportunities for them to interact with others.

With an “I” communicator, use fast-paced, enthusiastic descriptions. In conflict, they are very persuasive and vocal. They will talk at length on a variety of topics, quickly moving from one topic to the next.

The Steadiness Style* (S)

Cooperative Indecisive
Patience Procrastinating
Well-balanced Passive
Team-oriented Sarcastic
Steady, easygoing Overly accommodating
Mediator, a good listener Fearful, worried

The “S” communicator is very accepting of others. These people like cooperation and harmony and are good at calming others. “S” communicators also like security, being part of a team, and stability. These people are not risk-takers and they dislike change—especially abrupt change. “S” communicators are patient, loyal and wonderful listeners. They prefer to work with others and like to take time establishing group cohesiveness. They have a predictable manner and are known as peacemakers.

With this communicator, use a step-by-step plan for development. Provide one-on-one, hands-on instruction and regular informal feedback on improvements. Use warm and sincere statements complimenting his or her efforts.

When managing an “S” communicator, be patient and sincere. These are loyal team members who respond positively to group achievements. In times of conflict, they will seek win-win solutions. During intense disagreements, they can become stubborn and uncommunicative.

The Conscientious Style* (C)

Artistic, musical Perfectionist
Schedule-oriented Moody
Keeps emotions in check Suspicious
Long-range goals Inflexible
Serious and analytical Pessimistic
Likes charts and graphs Slow to action

The “C” communicator is cautious and detailed and demands quality. These people like to work under known conditions and prefer to follow written standards and procedures. They are neat and orderly; they value accuracy and are tactful and diplomatic. They have a perfectionist nature and an analytical view of the world.

To be effective with this communicator, provide precise, factual information and specific performance expectations. Use accurate, detailed statements and check for understanding and acceptance of expectations.

When managing a “C” communicator, be specific and detailed. Before a meeting, prepare information to be discussed prior to the conversation. This style asks many questions, so allow extra time for your meeting. In times of conflict, they will stand behind the facts rather than opinions.

For a Strong Team, Mix Them Up

Having all four styles on your team can be very effective, as each style brings different strengths. However, it is important for the leader to set a positive tone by demonstrating mutual respect, trust and acceptance. Interpersonal conflicts will naturally arise within the group, but if the leader can create the right environment, this team can achieve outstanding results.

* The research of William Marston was used as the foundation of this article as well
as the terms Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness from his “DiSC” research.

DEANNE DeMARCO is a business coach and author
of several books including
Pocket Resource: Coaching Tips
and Speaking of Success. She partners with business leaders
to create enthusiastic work environments where
people achieve more and love to work.