Attuning your communication through a crisis
The Covid-19 crisis is creating a wave of change and, for many people, it is difficult to navigate and comprehend. At this point in time leaders and managers need to ‘Communicate. Communicate. Communicate’ in a way that is effective, transparent and lands with people. Research has shown time and again that leaders and managers have a special role to play in reducing employee anxiety at a time of crisis. Great leaders step to the plate, they demystify the situation, provide clarity, demonstrate care and concern for employees and provide hope for the future through their communication.
With the sudden overnight switch to remote working, there has never been a greater time for effective leadership communication
Many leaders and managers face questions they may not even have answers to, we’re in unchartered waters and the need for prompt and clear communication is vital. Even if you’re still trying to understand the extent of the issues for your people or your business, it’s critical you’re honest, open and approaching the situation with empathy. Put yourself in your people’s shoes to understand their anxiety and fears. Think about how different people want to receive information and how they might respond. Sometimes you’ll get it right, but you will often get it wrong.
Overcoming the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing
Understanding things from the other person’s perspective is the first step. In our hyper connected workplace, employees have direct access to many sources of information and leaders might reasonably conclude that people already know what they need to know. But this assumption can lead to ambiguity, hurt and frustration because without clarity, we all filter information and fill the gaps based on what we know or don’t know. As leaders, we need to provide information and clarify what it means but most importantly, we should make sure we are attuned to how people understand and relate to those messages to reduce anxiety, and build trust and credibility.
You should always ‘treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’, right?
Wrong! Not if you want to create amazing communication and have effective conversations with your people. It’s only when you treat others as they would like to be treated that they can do their best work and feel comfortable navigating the Tsunami of change we are currently facing. The thing is, human beings are not blank slates; we come to each encounter pre-loaded with a cluster of historic preferences that determine how we behave. When these preferences meet with someone else’s communication style, sometimes they blend – and sometimes they collide.
We all meet on a behavioural level. It is how people experience each other. If we asked you to describe someone’s personality, you may say something like: ‘they are kind, chatty, a bit scatty and disorganised’. The only reason you would be able to say this is because of the things you have either heard or seen the person do, i.e. their behaviour. The way we know anyone, i.e. the judgements we make of people, are all down to their behaviour.
We don’t directly experience their values or their beliefs, but we make assumptions about them based on the behaviour we see. If John is consistently bullied by David at school, it would be fair for John to think David is a mean person. It’s irrelevant that David’s mum swears that he is just ‘a darling when you get to know him’. The fact is, it is through behaviour that we make judgements of others and they of us. It is our behaviour that elicits a reaction.
Behave one way and you will get one reaction; behave a different way and you will get a different reaction. Behave one way and people will like and respect you; behave differently and they won’t.
Once we understand this fundamental truth of how people relate to each other, we can begin to understand how to change the results we get in any human interaction. If I want a different result, I need to choose a different behaviour. If I want to connect to another person and communicate effectively, I need to adapt to the other persons behavioural and communication preferences.
It’s so important to be able to communicate with employees in a way that suits them. If a team member says: ‘I have no idea what this new Covid-19 policy is about, I have read it three times and I have written down a number of questions’, it’s very likely they’re a detailed person, who’ll want lots of specifics. But if the manager is a big picture person, who skims over the minutiae to get to a quick resolution, their communication is doomed to fail.
That’s where ATTUNE™ comes in, our Blue Sky Behavioural Adaptability tool
Attuning to other people allows us to adapt our language and behaviour to best fit the individual we’re talking to. ATTUNE asks that we first understand what our own default behaviours are; then, once we understand ourselves, we can identify how we need to adapt our own behaviours to chime with those of the people we are communicating with, for optimal results.
It’s important to hit the right note with team members, so any communication lands effectively. For this reason, we’ve developed four simple behaviour types, so we can quickly identify someone’s behavioural and communication preferences.
Now, sometimes people get anxious when they hear about these types. They’ve come across elaborate profiling tools before and they worry that they won’t be able to ‘get it right’. Fortunately, in this case, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be a psychologist or a behavioural scientist to ATTUNE.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the types, and I can guarantee you’ll have friends, family or colleagues who fit into each one, just start picking up on the conversational cues of the person you’re talking to. With a little practice, it very quickly becomes obvious which behaviours they prefer.
The four types are:
- The Loyal Connector: an empathic, caring ‘people person’
- The Competitive Driver: a quick, targeted decision-maker
- The Logical Analyser: an organised, lover of detail
- The Creative Enthusiast: a positive, energised brainstormer
The best way to understand these types is to imagine them in real life scenarios. So, picture this: you’re out for the night at a crowded bar with your friends (a distant dream right now I know!) If you’re a Loyal Connector, you’ll give way to the people around you, murmuring “excuse me, you go first”. If you’re a Competitive Driver, you’ll barge past the Loyal Connector and slam your tenner down on the bar. If you’re a Logical Analyser, you’ll stand back and figure out which part of the bar is moving quickest, and which bartender is most efficient, then target them. Or, if you’re a Creative Enthusiast, you’ll chat to everyone around you, then when you finally get to the bar you’ll dither for ages before crying “Sod it – I’m on a night out – I’ll have a bottle of champagne!” (And then when you get back home, your Logical Analyser partner will ask: “And how much did you spend on that?!”).
Or imagine the same people packing a suitcase for a two-week summer holiday. A Loyal Connector will pack weeks in advance and ensure they have covered all eventualities for every member of the family, from diarrhoea tablets to kids’ colouring books, leaving hardly any space for their own clothes. A Competitive Driver will either delegate the whole exercise or pack in one quick, efficient burst, following a short bullet-point list. The Logical Analyser will painstakingly pack the most perfect suitcase akin to a game of Tetris, with bags for dirty clothes and allocated room for in-trip purchases. The Creative Enthusiast, on the other hand, will shove a last-minute armful of random clothes into a bag, and celebrate the chance to go shopping for everything they inevitably forgot (ahem).
Which one do you feel closest to? Which ‘type’ has the greatest chance of getting your back up? Which one describes your boss, your colleague, your partner, your best mate?
In an ideal world, we should all be flexing our behaviour and communication style, all of the time. It’s an amazing skill to master in your personal life; it really does allow you to make friends and influence people. For communicating with your team through a crisis, it’s absolutely essential. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
People are not great communicators by chance; it takes great skill, a level of presence and ATTUNEMENT.
Create immediate impact with ATTUNE™
Unlock the secret for driving great conversations by paying attention to how other people like to communicate and adjusting your conversation style and tone to suit them.
The ATTUNE tool helps people to:
- Gain an understanding of self (your own ATTUNE preferences)
- Identify preferences in others and appreciate those differences
- Learn how to flex and attune your preferences to better communicate with others
- Make the conscious choice to take action
- Boost your workplace conversations and communication
To find out more about our ATTUNE™ – Blue Sky Behavioural Adaptability tool and our award-winning programmes, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.