This week we will be focusing on board communications, the different communication styles people have, the importance of internal and external communications plans, and creating talking points for board members to use when out in the community.
Communication is a pillar of our lives. We communicate with family and friends, employees, and other board members and how we communicate is vital to successful outcomes and consensus building across groups. Every person has their own, unique, way of communicating. Sometimes this can be a benefit and sometimes it can cause division. It is important to understand the different styles of communication and have everyone on your board aware of, and open to, these forms in order to truly listen and understand their fellow board members and reduce the possibility of conflict and confusion.
There are four basic (depending on your source) communication styles and each style is really based on a person’s personality and behavioral traits. These are Dominant, Influencer, Conscientious, and Steady. Dominant and Conscientious communicators are task oriented while Influencer and Steady communicators are more people oriented. Dominant and Influencers are energetic and excitable while Conscientious and Steady people are more even-keeled. Recognizing our own communications style can be uncomfortable, but it is important to know so that we can be aware of our possible shortcomings and also open to understanding the perspectives and motivations of others who have different styles.
Dominant communicators are keenly focused on results and taking action now to accomplish their goals. These communicators can be blunt and direct. They have pointed follow-up questions and may expect detailed answers on the spot. Often, Dominant communicators focus on the bigger picture details and leave the more intricate pieces to someone else. They will say things like “we should do this or take this action” but not actually be involved in the execution of their suggestion.
Their communications style can often be interpreted as brusk and aggressive though it is rarely intended to be taken personally.
Influencer communicators are natural socializers, able to connect networks of people and are great with collaboration. They may have issues with long-term focus as they move from one interesting project to another. Influencers will say things like “I know this great guy who can help out,” but you need to follow-up with the Influencer to get the contact details or to make the connection.
Influencers are open and honest, their language is often casual, their stated outcomes can often be optimistic and not necessarily fully achievable that is why it is important to put information with expectations in writing for them to refer back to.
Conscientious communicators are detail oriented and keen to prove their competency in achieving the stated goals. They aren’t particularly chatty and that can be interpreted as standoffish or high-minded. Conscientious communicators will say “I’m happy to handle that,” but will need clearly defined actions to complete the task.
The best way to communicate with this style is to have clear expectations, be aware that you will field questions on process from them, and provide feedback in a positive manner that will not be construed as criticism.
Steady communicators like to build consensus and hate confrontation, valuing stability and loyalty in relationships. They are not quick to make decisions and may need more details before taking action. Steady communicators will say things like “I agree with your point, maybe we can have a follow-up discussion on the committee level and present a proposal for next month’s meeting.”
It is important to not rush Steady communicators in the decision making process. If your organization is in turmoil, this type of communicator may not participate in the conversation to resolve issues, but they will be a great supporter of the person or people who do.
As a board, you will have a mixture of all these styles and variations there of. It is important to be aware of how your fellow board members feel most comfortable communicating. Avoiding conflict isn’t always easy when you have a mix of styles at work trying to address a common issue therefore it is important to keep to some basics of communication.
Seven C’s of Communication
Be clear on the purpose of your statement/action. Keep it simple and focus on the SMART goals, laying everything out.
Be sure to keep to the point. Don’t fill in your discussion with too much background or trains of thought that do not directly relate to the statement/action you are proposing.
Have a definitive outcome or underlying question you want answered. Again, being as clear and to the point as possible.
Be sure that what you are saying is 100% factual and that the action you are requesting to take is appropriate.
Keep to the SMART goals model, being sure that all the supporting statements you make apply to your statement/action and don’t deviate from the point.
Be sure to have included all relevant information needed for the board to make a decision. If you are asking for help in gathering information or completing a task, be sure that your request is made in a way that everyone understands exactly what you are asking for, interested parties are recorded and you follow-up with them at the soonest possible date.
Use tones that are friendly, open and honest. Do not bring personal interests or past conflicts into the discussion. State your thanks for assistance and/or decision making.