I’ve had the opportunity to coach many teams and leaders over the past several years, and one coaching conversation that I’ve found to be the most relevant and beneficial is the importance of flexing our communication style using the head and the heart.
One common mistake we make when working with others is that we try to connect with them using the style we prefer. Head leaders usually communicate by talking about processes, structure and strategy, and ROI because that’s what appeals to them. Heart leaders talk about care, inspiration, and compassion because that’s what motivates them.
Neither head nor heart communication is wrong; both are beneficial and needed to lead a team. The problem is we cannot successfully connect with others if we only honor our preferred style of communication. The key to really communicating and connecting with the people we lead lies in finding out the other person’s style and using that style when we communicate with them.
For example, a CFO I work closely with has a style of being more of a head leader. So when I meet with him I make sure I am prepared with my thoughts, have data to back up my reasoning, and do my best not to wing it. In contrast, I also work closely with a CEO whose style is more heart and relationship-driven. The details are less important to him. He’s more concerned about me positively affecting the culture of the company and the employees’ quality of work life by getting the team focused on working toward the company’s vision. If you want to better connect with your leader or a member of your team, you need to adapt your style to theirs.
Here are some things to think about the next time you communicate with a head leader:
- Be prepared. Head leaders appreciate punctuality and organization.
- Stay on point. Head leaders are focused on the task at hand.
- Share your strategy. Share the logical facts behind your reasoning.
- Look toward results. Head leaders want to know the anticipated outcome. What’s the ROI?
On the other hand, heart leaders are often driven more by relationships than details. When you communicate with a heart leader, try the following:
- Show you care. Heart leaders need to know that you care about the people.
- Establish the relationship and make a connection. Find something the two of you have in common and use that as a basis for making an authentic connection.
- Inspire and motivate toward the vision. Heart leaders aren’t excited by spreadsheets, but they are motivated by the impact their work can make for the company or in others’ lives.
Of couse, all head leaders and heart leaders are not the same, so it’s important that you get to know your people and understand which communication style connects most with them. Then you can flex your communication to meet the needs of the people you lead.