I often tell folks that I take after a crock pot: I need time to let ideas simmer before I can articulate them to others in a clear and productive way. If you put me on the spot when I’m not ready, the results are not going to be good.
On the other end of the spectrum, some folks are pressure cookers. Their ideas come together quickly, and they’ll explode if you don’t let them release steam by sharing.
Why am I beginning 2024 with a metaphor about small kitchen appliances?
Because communication is one of the most challenging aspects of life. I have seen many great nonprofits jeopardize their critical mission work with unnecessary team drama and misunderstandings around communication styles.
At your next staff meeting, use the crock pot vs. pressure cooker topic as a warm-up question. Ask team members which they relate to. It may foster some interesting discussion and give you insights about your colleagues.
Equip Your Team
Don’t stop there! Explore the wide variety of communication assessment tools to strengthen your team’s interactions. I appreciate Robert “Bob” Youker’s approach. As the co-founder of Project Management Institute and the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management, Youker spent decades contributing to the thought leadership and practice of project management. He understood that clear, productive communication is essential for successful project management.
Youker asserted that there are four main communication styles:
Each style is inclined to focus on a different core question (What, How, Why, and Who) and be drawn to specific types of information. Keep in mind that your dominant style may evolve, or your approach may be influenced by the situation.
Invite your staff, board, or other workgroup to use Youker’s self-assessment tool. Then, host a discussion to foster understanding and define communication tactics to improve effectiveness. Youker also shares free team-building tools that can augment the dialogue.
Possible discussion questions:
Which communication style feels like your default?
What does each team member need from the group in order to feel heard and understood?
Who needs more time to think through their response first? Who needs space to immediately process their thoughts aloud (with grace from others as they work through their ideas)?
How might your team meetings and one-on-one interactions take into account the different communication styles?
What other style differences are apparent? Are both the introverted and extraverted folks feeling engaged? Do some visual folks need more written material rather than verbal communication?
Invest in your team’s communication knowledge and tools now to minimize stress later.