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Team Productivity

4 Communication Styles You May Find on Your Team (and How to Speak Their Language)

Brett Harned
September 17, 2019
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Do you ever get the feeling that your communications aren’t landing as well as they could? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us—especially if your message is going out to a wide audience. 

Projects are made up of people with a variety of personalities. As a project leader, it’s your job to make sure your message lands with all of them. To do that well, you need to know who you’re working with so you can cater to their communication style.

Understanding the different types of communicators and how to communicate with them effectively can help you: 

  • Take a personal communication approach that helps you build trust 
  • Find ways to make your message land with any individual or group 
  • Work with your team to establish communication methods that work for everyone 
  • Identify communication issues and find alternative modes or methods 
  • Relax knowing you’re doing everything you can to communicate well 

So let’s take a look at 4 communication styles you may find on your team. These were created by the New York Times bestselling author and leadership guru Mark Murphy. He spent decades researching interpersonal communication and developed this construct so you can understand your own communication style and how it coincides with those of others.

Communication style #1: Analytical

Analytical communicators lead with facts, not emotion. They prefer concrete data and numbers and typically dislike when things are unclear. They trust those who are in command of facts and aren’t concerned about the process that got you to your data as long as it’s correct. 

Where the analytical communication style shines 

Analytical communicators are all business, which means they typically hold a relatively unemotional view of things. This allows them to use logic and data to make decisions and work out problems. 

Colleagues often look to analytical communicators for informational expertise and objectivity, as their focus on facts enables them to stay neutral in most situations.

What to be aware of with analytical communicators

Emotional words don’t hold sway with analytical communicators. They rely so heavily on data that you’ll lose their trust quickly if you don’t have a firm grasp on the facts. 

This communication style might come across as rude or indifferent in situations that would otherwise require some emotional intelligence. It’s not that analytical communicators don’t care or are incapable of emotion. They’re simply more focused on reaching a goal and prefer to keep interpersonal issues or communications separate. 

How to speak an analytical communicator’s language

  • Focus on facts and data to support the points you’re making. 
  • Be clear, concise, and logical in the language you use. 
  • Make sure you’re prepared with facts to back up any proposal, argument, or idea you bring to them. Cite sources or quote others when communicating in writing. 
  • Don’t push for immediate decisions. Present your data, and give them time to think through things rationally. 
  • When possible, present your ideas or arguments with options for possible outcomes. 
  • Be prepared to answer questions—and maybe even anticipate them—so you can come to the table with well-thought-out responses. 
  • If you want to build relationships with these folks, know they typically put work first. 

Communication style #2: Intuitive

Intuitive communicators never get lost in the details. In fact, they prefer seeing the big picture so they can get right to the point. They make decisions quickly because they don’t overanalyze the situation or get overwhelmed easily. 

Where the intuitive communication style shines 

Intuitive communicators are able to look at the overarching situation to understand challenges and opportunities and will quickly act on that. Their knack for big-picture thinking means they’re not afraid to challenge the status quo, and that often makes them great innovators. 

What to be aware of with intuitive communicators

Because intuitive communicators lack the patience to dig into details, they run the risk of missing important points or skipping steps that could negatively impact their work. You’ll have to check in on their progress and make sure you’ve got a process in place to check their final work product for errors. 

How to speak an intuitive communicator’s language

  • Share big-picture situations, and avoid nitty-gritty discussions about process. (Many times, a gantt-only view of the project will show the big picture of a process and inspire further questions or discussion.) 
  • Focus on the end product, and only zoom in on critical details when you need to. 
  • Remember that getting in the weeds will only frustrate them. 
  • When discussing ideas, provide a variety to think on. 
  • Use existing visuals or sketch out ideas to ensure your points are sticking.

Communication style #3: Functional

The functional communicator loves being in command of details, as they value specs, timelines, strategies, and plans. Their attention to detail means they work hard to make sure no stone goes unturned. They focus on process, communicate end goals, and prefer seeing things presented in a stepped-out, logical fashion. 

Where the functional communication style shines 

Functional communicators are great at breaking down situations to consider every aspect. Because they thrive on process and mind the details, that often earns them trust on teams. 

Team members often look to functional communicators to implement new strategies or play devil’s advocate where necessary. You may have guessed it by now, but you’ll often find functional communicators in project management roles. 

What to be aware of with functional communicators

We all know that there’s a lot more to communication than process. Functional communicators can get so caught up in the details they run the risk of annoying or even losing the attention of their audience 

How to speak a functional communicator’s language

  • Connect conversations and points to a process or a plan. (The discussion feature in TeamGantt helps you connect communications to project tasks.) 
  • Always provide clear context and structure with your communications, making sure any arguments, points, tasks, or to-dos outlined in your discussion have a distinct start and end. (Bullet points often work well.) 
  • Be specific in pointing out how a certain action (or inaction) could impact current or future tasks, affecting the overall project outcome. Baselines are a great way to do this in TeamGantt. 
VIDEO - Create a Baseline TeamGantt

Communication style #4: Personal

Personal communicators are the people on your team who easily make meaningful connections with others. They’re natural communicators who embrace emotional language, listen well, and truly value building and maintaining personal relationships. 

Where the personal communication style shines 

Their ability to connect with others and form relationships often makes the personal communicator a strong team lead. They want things to go well—not only with communications but also productivity—and can sense when things are getting off track. 

They’re often able to gauge team morale and even smooth over conflict because of the value they place on maintaining healthy relationships. For that reason, personal communicators are often seen as the “glue” that holds teams together. 

What to be aware of with personal communicators

While building strong connections at work is great, relationships can sometimes get in the way of work. This is where analytical communicators may call out, or even lose patience with, a personal communicator. 

That’s why it’s important for personal communicators to be aware of their surroundings, in command of facts, or at least take full responsibility for their tasks or roles. 

How to speak a personal communicator’s language

  • Use emotive language with details to help connect your point to their emotional way of thinking and communicating. 
  • Be authentically yourself to help establish a personal connection. 
  • Listen and show genuine interest in what they have to say. 
  • Talk through situations and outcomes, relaying points about how the outcomes will personally affect those involved. 
  • Understand that personal communicators take everyone’s perspective into consideration, and that can take time. Be patient—and open to—various viewpoints, but know when to narrow your conversation down to guide it to outcomes. 
  • Try to get one-on-one time so you can deepen your connection and understand what motivates them beyond your relationship.

Dive deeper and communicate better

Want even more tips and tools for improving project communication? Check out Class 08 - Winning Trust with Communication in our free online video course The Art & Science of Leading Projects.

Master the ins and outs of project communication on your own time, at your own pace. Plus, download helpful resources like a communication plan template and a printable guide to these 4 communication types. 

It’s all on-demand and totally free!

Start learning today!

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