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Using Social Styles for Effective Leadership

By Tim Deuitch

Using Social Styles for Effective Leadership

Tim Deuitch and Susan Hall  discuss improving your leadership effectiveness through increasing your versatility. How do you solve the problem when people are leaving because of their manager?

Do you have difficulty relating to team members? Do you only connect with employees who are like you? In this episode, we discuss simple strategies to connect with the other 75% of your coworkers through understanding a person's Social Style.

Tim Deuitch: 00:01  Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of the Strategic Insights Podcast. I'm Tim Deuitch, Senior Performance Consultant at Strategic Enhancement Group and today I'm joined by Susan Hall, Vice President Business Development and Performance Improvement. Welcome, Susan.

Susan Hall: 00:18  Hi Tim, it's great to be here.

Tim Deuitch: 00:20  Well thanks for being here. Today's topic and title say a lot and I hope that the content is as interesting to our listeners as it is to both Susan and me.

The title is "Using Social Styles for Effective Leadership". We're always on a quest for effective leadership, so let me set the stage for you. So Susan, it's generally accepted that employees don't leave companies, they leave managers, right?

Susan Hall: 00:36  Yes and they also follow managers.

Tim Deuitch: 00:57  They do follow managers. That's correct. While it's easy to make this assessment, in conclusion, it's not always clear how to solve the problem when people are leaving because of their manager. So, today we're going to touch on one element that is an absolutely critical need for managers to be good communicators. Now while some people are born communicators, they're able to put almost anyone at ease. These are amazing people to us but most people are not born communicators, at least not with everybody, right? Would you agree Susan?<

Susan Hall: 01:35  Definitely, and I think that last point is especially critical. I think back to when I was a new manager and I'd have an employee that I seemed to communicate really well with, so I figured that I'm just going to use that approach for all my employees and direct reports and guess how successful that was? Not so much.

Tim Deuitch: 01:58  The same is true for any of us who've had children. No matter if we think we are going to parent all of our kids the same way or watch others parent their kids, we know pretty quickly we've got to take different approaches for different kids so it is not unrelated. Today I want to talk about three fundamental ways that most managers can ensure better communication with their staff and foster the type of relationships that make staff want to stay.

The first is the importance of knowing your own communication style by understanding who you are and the effect it has on other people.

Two is to know how your team members communicate, who they are and how they prefer to receive communication. What are the most comfortable means through which they receive communication and move through their day?

The third then is adjusting your communication style. It's what we call Versatility. Adjusting your communication style to ensure effective and productive relationships and communication based on the person across from you. Does that make sense Susan?

Susan Hall: 03:26  I think that makes total sense.

Tim Deuitch: 03:28  We know there are four kinds of styles. So what I want us to do is to chat back and forth about these different styles of communication with each other.  But let's do it through that first medium which is to know your communication style and its impact on others. So here's my question for you.

What's a typical example of a manager that might have a blind spot about their own style? It's the kind of person where the employees look at this person and say, "Does he even know what's happening when he talks that way or communicates that way?"

Susan Hall: 04:15   I think a classic example and I'm thinking back to a client that I had several years ago. She was what we would call a Driver and her style is very bottom line, bullet points, and task first. Let's get to the task at hand before we kind of relax and kick back and talk about personal issues. Her leadership style was what I would call Initiate and Monitor. In other words, set the goal, here's what we're trying to accomplish, almost a laissez-faire approach. You go make it happen and just let me know if you need any help, so very hands-off and bottom line.

Her employee, however, is what we would call an Amiable style, which is people first. Amiable individuals like to involve others in making decisions, even sometimes to the point of consensus to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the decision so that it gets adopted more effectively. They tend to be more deliberate in their pace.

These two were oil and water. So you can imagine an employee who wants to bring people together for meetings, do lots of discovery with multiple people and take the time to make sure that they're making the right decisions that everybody is comfortable with who has a manager who's very hard-charging, bottom line, under budget, on time and does not want to be involved in the process. So the blind spot there was that the Driver didn't realize that her communication style and the way that she communicated with that Amiable was really creating a lot of tension and a lot of friction to the point where that employee was almost a deer in headlights on that particular project.

Tim Deuitch: 06:29  Yes. Let's take that example and take it back to that beginning premise of people leave managers, not companies. How many of us have heard this comment that might come from somebody who's like an Amiable who says, "Well yes on the day I gave my notice, my boss's boss came to me and said that he or she was sorry I was leaving.  I've been here for 18 months and I had no idea that they cared that I was here." That's that gap that takes place between a person who's very bottom line maybe has their face in Excel spreadsheets all the time and doesn't take the time to necessarily check in on people that want to be checked in on. So I'll give you another example which is in the two other styles.

So 25% of the population is Expressive and I'll candidly say that's what I am. People who are Expressive talk out loud and they're idea people. They think out loud is what I mean. And they tend to be highly verbal and they're also very declarative. They'll tell you what they're thinking. You don't necessarily always ask for opinions but they'll tell you what they're thinking. Now the style that's opposite them is called Analytical and that's a person whose style is to be very, very thoughtful. They process information that you give them and they genuinely think about and plan for how they will respond in certain situations. They are the type that reads the full agenda before a meeting and wants to fully understand what it is they're there to accomplish and what they should bring.

So the way these styles are at odds with each other or the blind spot of an Expressive is they might toss three ideas at an Analytical and then immediately say, "So what do you think? Which one do you think would be great? What do you think?" And the Analytical needs to think through it, they are not wired to give you an immediate answer. They will probably nod and say they'll get back to you.

So the blindspot for the Expressive is if they jumped to a conclusion that says "Well all right this person obviously didn't think my idea made sense. I mean look, they just got quiet."

Susan Hall: 09:12  The Expressive is thinking what do you mean you'll get back to me. You know I think I need an answer now, is this not important to you? Do you have other things that are higher on your priority list? So you can see where all of these  mis-judgments occur to create the tension points between social styles.

I worked with a client a couple of weeks ago and they had this wonderful example of the tension between an Expressive and an Analytical. The Expressive wanted to create a survey for their sales organization on some key project that was going on in the organization, so they asked their Analytical employee to create the survey and they explained why. But what happened was the Analytical came back but the Expressive manager had to go and say "Hey you know what's going on with this? How are we doing? Still working on it? Still working on it? Still working on it?"

When they got the result it was a phenomenally, wonderfully well done and complicated spreadsheet with 132 questions that would take 45 minutes for the salespeople to complete, incredibly thorough. It gave wonderfully complex insight and data. And of course, the Expressive manager said: "Well I just wanted a 10 question survey that would take our people three minutes." The tension point and the blind spot for the Expressive was they needed to be much more clear about the scope of the project, how much time it would take, as well as the results and the Analytical should have clarified the scope and time, so that there wasn't so much tension.

Tim Deuitch: 11:08  So from this first one again which is to know who you are and the impact you have on others, I want to sort of put this in a bow. What's the upshot? There are four styles of people. We've just described them, the Driver, the Amiable, the Analytical, and the Expressive and the population is roughly split by 25% in each area.

So what does this mean if you're a manager leader? What this means is that you're only going to be one of those or predominantly you will be one of those but you are very likely going to have all four with your employees.

So you'll have people just like you and then you'll have the three others.  Three of the other styles are at play on your team. So recognizing that helps us to begin to move to the second piece. Which is as I mentioned before, the second fundamental is to know how your team members communicate and prefer to receive communication.  So for me Susan, this is often a big aha moment when managers go through our styles training. When a manager says "Oh now I finally understand why she does that." Has that been your experience?

Susan Hall: 12:35  Definitely. It is because I think until then we just notice those moments of frustration and now we realize that it's not that this person is intentionally trying to frustrate me. It's that we're speaking slightly different languages so we can communicate a lot more effectively.

Tim Deuitch: 12:59   I remember when the first time I took this training I was there with a number of other people from other industries and there was a gentleman who was a Driver. He was in this class for a big reason and that was because there were other styles that he encountered that he didn't get along or there was friction.

He had such an aha moment when he realized that what the needs are of an Amiable are. When an Amiable style person asks him to care about what's happening in their day, to now and then just come by and say, "How is your day? How's everything going?" And maybe it's not even the day it's just, "How's the project going?" Ask a question from 10 feet off the ground. Not some ultra super detailed question time and time again. Can you do that? He literally said out loud, "I've always thought that they were just being frivolous. They were wasting my time and it's a time waster to ask comfy questions."  It was a big moment for him.

Susan Hall: 14:25  I think it's important to remember that in every moment of interaction or communication there are two components. There's that task component. There's information that needs to be conveyed and there's the relationship component, there's the how it's conveyed. And that always helps me realize that all of us in every interaction have opportunities for those two components. It's just that the certain styles that the people-people styles, Expressives and Amiables, are a little more comfortable dealing with the people component first, the relationship before getting to task. The task-oriented styles, the Drivers and Analyticals, are a little more comfortable dealing with tasks first and then once that tension gets reduced, they can talk about people or relationships.

Tim Deuitch: 15:16  That's right. Absolutely. So I think an upshot in this moment is that it's easy to click with those most like us. In fact we might see this in the hiring practices at some companies. You walk into a company and everybody seems like they're one style, right? They're all Analytical or they're all Drivers and sometimes the company sort of evolves in that direction. It's their culture.

The culture is to hire people just like me, who feel like me, who make me comfortable. But the reality is, in most workplaces, it's spread across. So, it's easy to click with people who are most like us but taking the time to understand others keeps us from drawing the wrong conclusions and helps us find better ways to connect. We have found when people come in and really examine their own style and understand other styles, what gets dropped then, and I mean in a good way, is false conclusions they've made that the other person doesn't care or that the other person is aloof.

Susan Hall: 16:34  I think it gives you a language to take the judgment out of it. You walk into your office on a Monday morning and somebody walks by and says "Hey did you get a chance to read that report and I sent over the weekend?" Versus a, "Hey good morning! How was your weekend? By the way, did you get a chance to read that report I sent you?" That's all it is. It's not about becoming somebody completely different than who you are. It's just acknowledging what's going to make that person a little more comfortable and therefore, you will get a better result.

Tim Deuitch: 17:16  It's true. So that moves us to that third fundamental, which is the requirement as a manager for adjusting your style to ensure the best possible result, ensure comfort, effectiveness, productivity and we call that adjustment Versatility. Behaviorally, being versatile differentiates the best managers from those that can frustrate team members, sometimes completely unconsciously frustrate team members. So versatility is the key. To me being versatile by adjusting to the styles of your employees just seems like common sense. So why is it hard for managers to be versatile? To sort of grasp this and just do it?

Susan Hall: 19:11  I can't tell you how many times I've seen leaders who were very good at what they do or say, "That's just who I am, that's who they hired, and that's who they put in this role." Where is if they could only do a few small things to make their team members more comfortable they would be that much more successful. So for a Driver Expressive, it might just stop telling but invite people into the conversation. "Bob what do you think about that?" or "Amy what are your thoughts?", and then really taking the time to listen and follow through on that, not just hear it, check the box and move on.

Tim Deuitch: 19:52  I think one of the things I really like about our coursework on styles is that we recognize versatility is a skill. There is a mindset. You're right. You have to want to be versatile. But then the good news is that these are very accessible skills. It's not rocket science to understand that an Analytical would like some time to think through what you've just presented to them. So the only skill we're asking you to have if you're not Analytical is to remember to give this person time and to understand that effectiveness is in the balance. We're not just trying to be comfy as my Driver example said. We're wanting to ensure the most effective outcome and that means, for my example here, for an analytical that means you give them time to really think through what you present to them.

Susan Hall: 21:01  If I could add another point too, Tim on versatility and success because all of the businesses that we work with are looking for ways to grow and stay ahead of the market and differentiate and that demands a level of innovation and talent that maybe hasn't been required so much in the past. So organizations that know how to leverage the different styles and natural talents of their employees are finding that they get much more creative and innovative results then they've had before. If you can tap into and harvest those natural inclinations and get that diverse thinking that comes with each of the different styles, you get really phenomenal results.

Tim Deuitch: 22:00  Very true Susan and I want to mention I have a client who trains all employees on styles, all employees. I know our context here has been about how to be a more effective leader but they train all employees because they believe it's so culturally relevant and essential for all of them to work it together.

So, the key upshot in this third piece of versatility is that when you adjust your style to help others feel comfortable, It results in a more productive working relationship, hands down. So we've gone through the three fundamentals,  I want to see if I can begin to bring us to a close. that's looking for the overall upshots and conclusions of this conversation. One is being versatile is an intentional effort. It's an intentional effort until it becomes natural to somebody And this is why at Strategic Enhancement Group we make social styles training a Management 101 course because we believe versatility is a fundamental requirement of being a good manager.

Susan Hall: 23:15  And whether you're coaching an employee or hiring an employee,  or you're having a performance conversation with an employee,  how you interact with them is going to depend upon their style.

Tim Deuitch: 23:28  Absolutely. The other larger, the overarching upshot here is that we all click with some people, right? We all have challenges clicking with others, right? So taking the time to understand how people process and convey information goes a long way to working effectively with them.

Susan Hall: 23:28  Absolutely.

Tim Deuitch: 23:28  OK, very good. Strategic Enhancement Group has offered social styles training for decades, and of all that we offer, this is my favorite course, I want to make sure we said that.

Susan Hall: 23:28  I have to say, I think it's mine too.

Tim Deuitch: 24:07   It's both a professional and a life skill. It's common for us to come across people who took this course 20 years ago and describe it as the most memorable and usable course of their lives. Susan, have you had that experience?

Susan Hall: 24:26  Definitely. You can use the skills as much for your employees and your colleagues as you can for your spouse, your kids, your friends, for not only better results but better relationships.

Tim Deuitch: 24:39  Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks very much for listening today and we encourage you, if you would like to bring these skills or others into your organization don't hesitate to contact us at Thanks for listening.

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Published: December 11, 2017


Tim Deuitch

Senior Performance Consultant

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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