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S2 Ep8: Communication for Effective Leadership and Lasting Relationships

In this engaging episode, host Victoria Mills welcomes Coach Brian to discuss boosting confidence in leadership and communication skills. They delve into the four primary communication styles: action-based captains, fact-based analysts, people-based friends, and ideas-based entertainers. With 45 years of international business and coaching experience, Coach Brian shares his expert insights and strategies to better understand your own communication style and to communicate more effectively. Tune in to discover how to read the room, adapt your communication style, and build lasting relationships as an influential leader and communicator.

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Victoria: Hello and welcome to season two of Hello CoachCast. I’m Victoria Mills, and today we’ll be discussing how to feel more confident in your leadership and communication skills, diving into the many communication styles that we have, breaking down into ‘the how-tos’ of appreciative communication and sharing insights and strategies to help you build lasting relationships as an influential leader and communicator.

My guest today, is Coach Brian. Brian is a leadership and communications coach with 13 years of experience as a certified coach and 45 years in international business. Brian works with people who are new leaders, helping them to develop their leadership and communication skills to really achieve their next-level goals in their professional as well as their personal life. So, welcome Brian this morning!

Brian: Yeah. Thank you, Victoria. It’s wonderful to be with you today.

Victoria: I always like to start with what is the number one problem and challenge that you have found in your years as a coach and your years as a business entrepreneur? Because 45 years is nothing to be sneezed at. What is the number one thing that you find that clients have come to you, that you have helped them find some solutions around with some of the challenges or blockers that they have that’s preventing them from being really, really strong communicators?

Brian: That’s a really good question and it covers all aspects, of everything we do, whether it’s leadership, being leader, being a team member. Being an entrepreneur… all aspects of the work that we do, personal as well as professional in our life is geared around communications. And from all the coaching that I’ve done over the years, whether they’re leaders or CEOs, it always comes down to how do we communicate our message?

How do we connect with the people that we need to build those relationships with? And it always seems to come down to. That foundation of communication, which to me is communication styles. So, we have communication, the foundation of everything that we do, including communicating with ourself, but also the foundation of communication being communication styles.

How do we do that message? How do we get that across? How do we communicate with this particular person or a different type of person? And how do we tailor that message? So, it’s understandable for everybody.

Victoria: Thank you for that. I’m just curious, what’s, if you could choose one question, and I know that’s a very big ask here, but if you could choose one question that you get asked frequently by your clients, what is that in relation to helping them unravel any blockers that they have as a leader? What is the number one question that they come to you with or the number one challenge?

I know that’s hard because you’re summing up many, many years in the business field.

Brian: Yeah. I’m trying to think of a short version of that very long answer. I guess the crux of it comes down to, “How do I communicate with the people?” And the reason I say that is a lot of the people that I coach, being emerging leaders, they are used to speaking with their team, their colleagues, their peers in, let’s say it for instance, and they all speak the same language. But when they move into that leadership role and they start having to communicate with people they don’t know, this is where they stumble.

This is where they really have those challenges, whereas communicating upwards, sideways, downwards as a leader, it’s a different conversation. It’s a different language that they’re using. And so the number one question I really get is “How do I talk to people?”

Victoria: It seems a very simple question. However, there’s so many complexities. In finding solutions in how do you talk, particularly in organisations, how do you talk crossways up? Middle management? Admin, like there are so many different types of dynamics that you need to shift your language style in order for the message to be heard.

Victoria: Because not just in the workplace, but also, on the personal front, I’ve certainly coached enough people in my time to, there are some excellent communicators at work. However, when it comes to their personal space, the skills don’t often transfer across, and I always find that an interesting conversation to have with whoever has been in front of me over the years to understand.

Victoria: The differences of the two spaces between a professional workspace and a personal workspace, and where our communication styles then seem to dramatically differ, but I think that they are one of the same, but we sometimes get caught in the, ‘Okay, this is work and this is home life’. I feel that often, I suppose my journey as a coach has been connecting the two that It comes down to, I suppose my other question is, which we probably should have addressed at the beginning, the definition of communication and communication styles. Because there are so many communication styles, Brian, that you know that I know and the art is being able to read the room and pace the conversation and understand also how people perceive and learn.

I mean, this has been my experience as a coach. I would love to hear how you have helped navigate people through those spaces to help them just be great communicators no matter what space they’re in.

Brian: Yeah, and you’re right, there are very many different types of communication styles. In the communication styles, metrics that I work with, there’s actually 65 different communication styles, but there’s four primary styles, and that’s what I usually get. The people I’m coaching and working with, I get them to focus on those four primary styles.

And the thing with communication is, It affects all of us. But I think some of the important points in that is it’s not only how we communicate professionally as well as personally with our people in our lives, but also how we communicate with ourself. And I think that’s probably one of the key points, is getting people to use and recognise our own communication style.

And that’s really the basis of the beginning for this training, but understanding their own style and then getting that, ah, so that’s why I communicate the way I do. Okay. And it’s not that we’re trying to get people to change. It’s what we call I call it communication, dancing and it’s as much as getting people to be aware of their style and know where they are on the communication metrics and then where they need to be.

Victoria: Brian, would I be able to ask you to give a quick definition? Of the four main communication styles, ’cause we obviously don’t have time today to go through 65. I’ll need to get you back for many conversations. However, for today, love to hear in your experience the most four important styles of communication, which I’ve heard that there are four?

Brian: Yeah, I could, I’ve got a quick definition and a quick description that I often use in my coaching sessions. With people. So, what I like people to do is think about when I do this quick definition of it, if they can identify what their communication style is, and I often try and ask them to see if they can identify mine.

And the reason I do that is I want people to see how simple of a tool this is to use and how massively effective it is. So the four primary styles, one of the number one styles is what we call action-based captains. Now action-based captains are generally your CEOs, CFOs, upper executives, and upper leaders. They are bullet point, bottom line, very concise communicators. There’s no fluffer and stuffer in the way they communicate. The second communication style is what we call fact-based analysts generally come from a background of IT, engineering and finance. They’re extremely detailed in their communications. If they ever get any complaints about their communications, it’s usually too much information. They tend to overexplain things, and it’s generally because they feel they need to educate people to be able to make a really good decision. The third communication style is what we call people-based friends.

Now friends, they tend to be working in HR. They’re social workers, they’re counselors, they’re coaches, they’re teachers, they’re trainers, they’re people, people. Very similar to the analysts. They’re very detailed in their communication, but their focus is on people’s feelings and emotions, whereas the analyst focuses on data and information. And then we have the fourth communication style, which we call the ideas-based entertainers, generally PR, sales and marketing. They are the idealist, they’re the creatives. They’re extremely good at presentations and speeches and talking to people. They love to, to share that, their knowledge and their information with everyone.

Brian: And again, with the different styles. I guess one of the, important things to remember, we’re actually a mix of all four styles. But we have a primary, some of us have a fairly strong secondary, so it’s not unusual to find an action-based captain who’s an entertainer as well. ‘Cause often the CEOs and CFOs and or executives that are really good at talking to people have a bit of that entertainer in them.

And same with Analyst Captains, again, they can be very detailed, but they’re also very direct and to the point. So, we are a mix. Now, the idea behind this type of communication style is recognising what our style is and how we can make some minor adjustments to that when we’re communicating with the other styles.

And of course, part of the learning about communication styles is learning how to identify and recognise other people’s style and you can, you can learn to do that in just a matter of seconds in talking to somebody.

Victoria: And that was going to be my next question. Have you had a lot of research from your own experience, and is it, does it fit when you look at someone’s role, that it actually correlates very succinctly with one of these four styles of communication?

Brian: it’s a science, but it’s not an exact science. And as much as you can be wrong and from time to time, but it is actually quite good. And I would say it’s probably 80% success in being able to guesstimate what somebody’s style is or getting close to it based on their role as well. One of the things that I do before I coach anybody or meet anybody for the first time, I look at their LinkedIn profile, from their LinkedIn profile.

I gather a lot of data, but one of the things I can gather is their communication style. And I would say over the last, let’s say 500 times I’ve done that, I’ve probably been wrong three.

Victoria: Okay. So I would say that’s fairly evidence-based from what you have been doing as a coach. Extent that I would take that as verbatim. I guess the art of being an influential communicator, because let’s face it, when you communicate something there needs to be a solution somewhere in there, right?

There needs to be a need that is wanting to be answered and the art of being able to understand, firstly, your own communication style is then being able to quickly identify, as you said before, where someone else is in terms of where they’re sitting, between those four different styles of main communication.

Victoria: And I would love to know some tips in being able to what I call read the room, being able to. Be aware enough for where someone sits within those different categories because gosh, it does make the art of influencing a message through communication if you know of how to relate to that person that you are talking with.

Victoria: So I’m curious to know. if there was a cheat sheet that you could share some tips along the way to help our listeners understand how they can quickly read the room and work out what type of communication skills are required?

Brian: Yeah, I guess the really main tip you talk about being able to read the room, it’s also knowing your audience. It’s kind of the same thing, and I like to tell people or coach people on getting to know their audience. Meaning do some research before you have the meeting like I do with LinkedIn, and you can get some good insights.

Brian: Now, generally, if you’re communicating upwards, senior leadership, they’re generally Captains. They don’t need to know all the details. They just want basically an executive summary. ‘ They already know that you’ve done your work because that’s your job. And so you’ve done the research, you’ve done all the information.

So, one of the quick tips is doing that pre-work of getting to whether you use LinkedIn or a lot of companies have their intranet their internal social things. There are always ways to find out. When you go through and with the coaching that I do I, provide a cheat sheet about that quick introduction within a little more detail.

Brian: It doesn’t take long to start being able to work out people’s style. You’ve only gotta be close. And the idea is, if you’re wrong, it’s easy to recognise it straight away. So, you’re able to move around and say, you know, and again, I said I’ve been wrong a couple of times over the last few years. And I thought somebody might have been this, but when I started talking to ’em, I realised, no, they’re not, that they’re a different style.

Brian: So, we just move in into thinking about, okay, this person probably wants more detail. They’re probably more Analysts, this person’s more Captain. And having just, like I say, there’s 65 different communication styles, but the four primary styles are generally all we need to know to be able to understand other people’s styles and we can quickly recognise it and adjust our communication to be more effective and more persuasive.

Victoria: So again, in your experience when clients have come to you, how do they know that they’re experiencing some stress in this space? How do they know, what are the signs and symptoms that they’re really not doing a great job as a communicator and there’s an opportunity to improve? What would be the stress signals that would be going on?

Brian: I think. For a lot of people, especially moving into that new realm of leadership and leading people – is that being heard, being influential, being persuasive? You know, how do I get my team to do this? How do I get my manager to do that? How do I tell the CEO that they’re wrong? Or how do I tell my manager that it’s not gonna work that way?

So, most of us have the ability to communicate downwards or with our team quite effectively. As we move into more people leadership, we need to separate that the way we communicate with people, I guess is, is what I’m trying to say… so, the way we recognise and work with the different styles is just being able to understand people and understand their style and then how do we use that, knowledge to be more effective in our own communication.

Victoria: So, what would be your top three insights that you use with clients to help them address this? So, Putting my coaching hat on. Three actions, you know, or three insights that they would take away and work on to help them improve their communication and or understand their communication styles. Understanding their communication style, is that something that you directly help them with?

Victoria: So leaders come to you and say, look, I’m having these issues and challenges. Help me understand how I communicate, firstly, and therefore give me some superpowers to then go and be a more effective leader.

Brian: Communication styles is just one piece of the puzzle. ‘Cause a lot of times when people come to me for coaching, they know something’s missing. They know they need to communicate better. They know they need to have better relationships. A lot of times people are challenged by that small talk and that chitchat, they think, oh, it’s a waste of time.

Brian: It’s actually a great time to actually use that, tool for discovering information for mining data and information on people so you can have that relationship. But communication styles, like I say, is just part of it. A lot of times it’s getting people. To ask instead of tell. So, it is getting people to ask those questions and we do that with our team and the greatest leaders, and you see ’em all the time, they never tell people what to do.

Brian: They say, so how are we going to do this? Or, what’s your best solution? They already know their own ideas. They already know what they want. They just want to know what your best ideas are, and they look for that. So really moving from telling to asking I think is one of the important steps. Learning about appreciative communications, which is another side of the communication coin.

Appreciative communication is ’cause we all have those negative thoughts, even with ourselves. Appreciative communication is so important. ’cause we often say, oh, I’m afraid to speak up and I’m just no good at this. And we have that negative talk with ourself, and I always get people to focus on, okay, how do we turn that into a positive talk?

We can’t stop those negative thoughts, but it’s what we do with them is what becomes important and how we communicate that. So, we could say, I’m not the expert here in this meeting today. I like to get people to think about you probably still know more than the other person. That’s why you’re presenting the data.

And I said, they’re experts at what they do, but they’re not necessarily experts at what you do. So having that appreciative communication with yourself is another good place to start by thinking just for today. Or just for this meeting, I am the expert. I can deliver this information. I am the messenger delivering the information to these people.

So that’s, that’s the second key point to that. So, then we’ve got communication styles, understanding how do we say, and often that’s the question people ask, how do I know what to say to people? They see people and they say, they always seem to say the right thing at the right time.

And I’ll guarantee you, whether directly or indirectly, they understand the power of communication styles and they understand the power of appreciative communications. It’s like when we have problem at work, and it’s that calm under fire. How do we communicate that message? Do we walk into the room in a panic and say, the sky is falling, the sky is falling?

Or do we walk into the room and say, okay, everybody’s calm. What’s working? We start focusing on that, that’s the appreciative communications, is focusing on the positive. Okay, there’s gotta be something working here, and we get everybody on that bandwidth, then we can start looking for solutions for what’s not working.

And again, that communication starts with ourself. As in that example I just shared, we flow that into the situation or the communication we’re having.

Victoria: You mentioned earlier around one of the action steps. For clients to take away around the power of pausing. Walk me through. Is that, think before you speak?

Brian: Absolutely. And it’s that tool we use for hindsight. And when we look at the power of pausing, what we’re saying is, take that time to think, take that time to respond instead of react. That’s very key. ‘Cause we often react, you know, as a lot of sayings, one of the ones I like to use is shoot from the hip and it’s never a good thing.

And how many times have we said something to somebody or made a statement and thought, Gosh, I really wish I hadn’t have said that, but we can’t take it back. We can apologise and hope that works for us, but we can’t take it back. That power of the pause is that moment we take, whether it’s a few seconds, and as we practice this skill, it can become a few seconds or sometimes a few weeks.

I know for myself, I’ve done it myself where I’ve written that email, got all that, that heated thoughts and emotions out, but I never sent it. And I keep writing that email, but I never send it. I keep writing it until I write the email I need to send, not the one I want to send.

Victoria: It is very sage advice. I think that’s a beautiful tip to harness from today’s conversation. And to summarise, there are four primary styles of communication and what you’ve taken us through is action-based captains. I love that one. I. Fact-based comms people-based and ideation based. And hearing that, yes, there are obviously 61 more styles of communication.

We’ll need to pick this conversation up at another time, Brian. But certainly some tips that I’ve heard you share is, really starting off with understanding how you communicate as a person is the first place to start. Second one is being able to really understand the audience that you are trying to get the message across to, and holding a different space and asking instead of telling, and I’ve always said this as a coach, it’s far easier on the journey when we align our comrades rather than alienating them to get something achieved together. And it’s much easier to work as a team, right? Rather than being a solo firefighter out there.

Brian, thank you very much for your time today. You’ve shared lots of actions and, some insights and some tips along the way.

For our listeners to take out, and I definitely would love to be able to explore the other styles of communication. That is for sure. So thank you very much for your time today.

Brian: You’re welcome Victoria, and it’s been a pleasure, being able to have this chat with you today and, thank you for sharing some of your insights as well on what you do and what you’ve learned in communications and leadership.

Victoria: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of Hello CoachCast. If you’ve enjoyed the content and listening to our conversation with Coach Brian, we would love for you to subscribe like, share, or leave a review on your favourite podcast platform. Also, if you’d like to work on improving your confidence in leadership and communication, or if there’s anything else that you’d like support with, you can certainly get matched and booked with an incredible coach, such as Coach Brian by heading to hello-coach.com.

Victoria: Thanks for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again very soon.

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