We welcome back regular contributor Taunee Besson, expert on career transitions and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions. Today Taunee offers insight into how to improve communication at work. — Maurice Gilbert
Q: I have difficulty communicating with my manager. When I have a new idea, he throws cold water on it by asking all kinds of specific questions that have little bearing on the overall plan. Getting a decision from him takes forever. We often lose critical opportunities because of his failure to act quickly.
Scheduling time with him is another sore point. He spends most of the day alone with his door shut. But the funny thing is, just when I’m about to give up on trying to get through to him, we have a moment of agreement.
I like my boss as a person. I enjoy my job and its position within the company. A career move isn’t necessary, just some fine-tuning. Do you have any advice on how I can communicate more effectively with my manager?
A: While you like your boss, it sounds as if you are blaming him for your communication problem. This attitude isn’t going to improve your rapport. Instead, acknowledge that you and he have different decision-making styles which create problems when you’re discussing a new project or course of action. Neither of your styles is right or wrong, but their divergence is obviously a frustration for both of you. He probably leaves your meetings without the data he needs to make an informed decision. You chafe because he can’t make up his mind. Everyone loses.
Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple way to change your presentation style to meet his needs. Many career planners use a decision-making profile based on Carl Jung’s personality types (The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) to help their clients communicate more effectively with management, peers and subordinates. Essentially, your decision-making style can be described using four sets of opposites, each of which has an important bearing on how you tackle a new task:
EXTROVERT vs. INTROVERT
SENSOR vs. INTUITOR
THINKER vs. FEELER
JUDGMENT vs. PERCEPTION
Extroverts tend to ask lots of questions. They enjoy brainstorming, teamwork and group consensus. You generally know what they’re thinking because they tell you.
Introverts, on the other hand, are self-sufficient problem solvers. They’re more comfortable sitting in their offices by themselves, working through problems alone rather than discussing them with others. Often it’s difficult to judge their position on anything. They keep it to themselves.
Sensors need the facts. They want concrete explanations backed by specifics. Their comfort level increases as they become acquainted with the step-by-step process. Their co-workers would describe them as practical, matter of fact, bottom line.
Intuitors are big-picture people. They enjoy looking at possibilities, long-range agendas and new ways of doing things. Facts tend to bore them. Ideas are a lot more fun.
Thinkers make decisions objectively. They can distance themselves from a complicated situation and consider how to handle it through a rational thought process. They enjoy planning projects and seeing solutions fall logically into place.
Feelers have a great concern for people. They are sensitive to the way a given course of action will affect staff, customers, the community, etc. Their insights into human needs and desires are always an important key to any decisions they make.
Individuals who are high in judgment prefer making decisions to gathering information. They like to move quickly, cut through red tape and get on with the project. They have a low tolerance for indecision.
Perceptives would rather gather information than make decisions. They enjoy finding new knowledge. They’re usually flexible in adapting to changes, but they may have difficulty making up their minds.
If you take an overall picture of your manager’s probably type (ISTP), you’ll recognize why he:
- tends to spend a lot of time alone (I),
- wants the nuts and bolts (S),
- enjoys developing flow charts (T) and
- needs more information than you think is warranted to make a decision (P).
In contrast, your type (ENTJ):
- wants more contact with him (E),
- prefers to look at the big picture rather than get bogged down in detail (N),
- enjoys the objective planning process (T) and
- moves quickly on decisions (J).
To communicate more effectively, try to structure your conversation to parallel his decision-making style. Acknowledge that your manager needs to assimilate your information privately. Present your case in a detailed, step-by-step manner, rather than your usual big-picture approach. And don’t expect quick answers. Give your boss at least 50 percent more decision-making time than you think he should take.
While you may feel this forces you to do all the adjusting, you’ll gain measurable benefits from learning to adapt your communication style. With a little practice and observation, you’ll be able to discuss problems and opportunities more effectively with friends and colleagues. You’ll also develop an increased appreciation for the way others’ differences can compensate for your deficiencies. ENTJs have many good qualities, but they need ISTPs to force them to consider the details and avoid snap decisions.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.