I was coaching an outstanding sales manager. She’s committed to her team and improving the performance of each person on the team. She cares deeply for each of them and their success. She coaches each person, having a very disciplined approach in leveraging data and how they worked.
She reached out to me saying, “Dave, I think I’m doing the right things in working with my people, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Somehow, I’m not connecting.”
Her situation is not unusual. I see managers at all levels who are trying to do the right things with their people and their organizations, but somehow they aren’t connecting.
Their assessments of the people and situations are correct. They invest the time in coaching (at least trying to) coach their people. They seem to be doing all the right things, but it still isn’t working.
The challenge is, too often, we focus on what needs to be done. We look at where there are opportunities for our people to improve and grow. But what we miss is how we communicate and engage the person in these coaching discussions. As a result, we may be doing the right things, but we are not doing them in the right way–that is in a manner that enables us to connect effectively with our people.
Each of us has differing behavioral or communications styles. While what we may be saying is right, the way we are saying it, or the way others are hearing it, gets in the way of the abilities to communicate and connect. Regardless of the channel we use–a F2F or virtual conversation, email, text, if we aren’t communicating in a manner that the person we are trying to reach can “hear,” we won’t achieve the results.
Likewise, our own communication/behavioral style gets in the way of our ability to really understand what others may be trying to say.
For example, I’m a very impatient listener. I tend to be very direct (perhaps too much so), I like people to get to the point. I get impatient with a lot of the “social” part of the conversations I have. I tend to be fact driven. Sometimes, I think I might be the embodiment of “Joe Friday,” in the old TV series, “Dragnet.” “Just the facts…..”
Some years ago, the VP of Sales Ops on my team sat down to meet with me. She said, “Dave, I’ve finally learned how to talk to you. I just have to give you the bullet points…..” She had been struggling to get me to understand certain issues. As much as she tried to tried to get me to understand them and to help her resolve them, until she had that insight, we weren’t connecting very effectively.
In some sense, we might think of this “connection” problem as if we each are speaking a different language that the other doesn’t understand. If each of us can’t find a way to communicate in ways we each understand, we fail to connect and drive change.
Our communications/behavioral styles impact how we connect with others. It impacts how we are heard and how we hear. If we want to connect–to be heard, and to listen deeply, we have to be conscious of the communications styles of each person involved in the conversation.
Every once in a while we encounter people who are “great communicators.” They have this ability to “connect” with people, to effectively communicate in ways the people they are talking to understand, and to hear what is really intended by those people. These people are very agile in their ability to understand the impact of communications and behavioral styles.
If we want to connect effectively, whether with our people, our peers, our own managers, or our customers, we do so when we understand both our own communication style and that of those we are trying to connect with. Regardless of how “right” what we are trying to communicate might be, unless we connect in a way that can be understood and internalized by others, we are not connecting and communicating.
Afterword: The VP of Sales Ops was Betsy. Betsy’s revelation was one of the most important pieces of feedback I’ve received in my career. It forced me, in a very casual way, to recognize how much I was missing in my own communications. Thanks Betsy!