Several years ago I had a boss (we’ll call him Eddie), who described himself as ‘a do-er not a say-er’. On my first day in the job he invited me to accompany him round the building whilst he carried out some errands (he liked using his time efficiently, did Eddie, always on the go).
While we walked he got me up to speed with the projects I’d be involved with and some other induction stuff. Personally, I’d have rather done this sitting down with a notepad, but that isn’t how Eddie works.
Finally, when we got back, he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said: ”You’ll find I don’t take the time out to do a lot of office chit chat, Rebecca, and I’ll probably never remember to compliment you on the work you’re doing. So I’ll say thank you now. It doesn’t mean I’m not pleased, but I’m a do-er not a say-er. And because I’ve read your (psychometric) profile, I know you’d like me to compliment you from time to time, so please, just take that as read.”
Pardon? Did Eddie mean that I came across as needy and egoistical? Was he going to be some sort of a monster to work for? This wasn’t sounding too good…
Eddie turned out to be one of the best bosses I ever had. The fact that his instinctive way of communicating was the polar opposite of mine was never an issue, because we respected each other’s preferences.
So, for example, I re-thought my emails. I cut out all the “Hi, Eddie, hope you had a great weekend…yada yada yada…” and reduced my messages to the baldest of factual information. It felt incredibly rude to me – but he appreciated the clarity and directness. I know he did, because Eddie would step out of his own comfort zone to send me a cursory (but genuine) ‘thank you’ in response. Once he even signed off: “P.S. Have a good weekend. Yuk!” – so I know he was making the effort.
Eddie and I stepped into each other’s communication style in a conscious effort to make our working relationship flourish. And it did.
How well do you understand the communication styles of your customers and colleagues? Can you pick up the signals that say “more information please” or “cut the waffle” or “I really need you to listen to me now”? Understanding them begins with understanding yourself. And if that sounds too new-age-y for you, just remember how clued-up Eddie was about me and how I tick. If this knowledge makes good business sense to someone as hard-headed as Eddie, then it has to be great use of your time too.