Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Miscommunication Frustrating your growth?

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith

If you're driving a vehicle that's experiencing serious mechanical problems, blindly stepping on the accelerator is probably not a good idea. Yet that is the kind of thing taking place at many organisations.

Top performance depends on the presence of well-oiled teams. There is, however, a tendency to ignore this fundamental principle, and to try to accelerate with stretched targets and incentives.

Teamwork - the foundation of high performance - is driven by effective communication. Issues like giving and receiving instructions or feedback often create conflicts that are not always obvious. Undetected conflicts undermine the cohesiveness of the team and this negatively impacts productivity.

Organisations often make significant investments in search of increased productivity, while neglecting the human-resource factors that are critical in achieving objectives. The best results are achieved when personalities and behavioural styles are put to optimal use. Round pegs don't fit in square holes. Role fit is a solution and we help organisations to achieve this.

Two cases highlight the issue. We were engaged by a family-owned business, and during the initial information-gathering process, team members openly questioned why I was there as "the boss knows everything". Challenges in understanding and relating to what is known as 'D-style' leadership abound and rob organisations of productivity while provoking morale problems. The D represents 'dominance', being 'driven', 'direct', and potentially 'dogmatic', and 'demanding'. 'Decisiveness' is another cornerstone of D-style leadership.

Some individuals have a real problem understanding and functioning effectively under D-style leadership. Many organisations fail to recognise this as a manifestation of what we term a 'followership crisis'.

Team members often opt out of active participation in response to D-style leadership. They throw up their hands in the face of what they perceive as arrogance, stubbornness and a failure to listen.

Lessons can also be learnt from Dawn, who was promoted to lead her department. Complaints revealed that all was not well in the department. Management tried to resolve the issue before seeking our support.

We immediately identified that communication was at the heart of the problem. It was the equivalent of Dawn communicating in Swahili to her Russian and Greek-speaking teammates.

Dawn thought Suzanne was lazy and lacked initiative. Suzanne got the message that Dawn wanted to call all the shots and that she (Suzanne) should act solely on Dawn's instructions. Claudine was stunned that Dawn thought that the documentation and reporting that she laboured over so diligently was a waste of productive time.

We resolved the issue successfully by introducing DISCerning Communication - the language of behaviours.

Here is the basic framework for understanding DISCerning Communication:

Our preferred approach for going through life is placed into four basic categories. These approaches cover our outlook; how we react to developments; how we communicate - orally, in writing and through our body language; how we hear others; and our strategies for achieving our objectives, etc. [This is not saying that there are four types of people. Rather, it is a method of classifying the strategies or toolkits that we use to cope with life].

Dawn has a preference for communicating using the D-style (Red). Action, results, taking charge, making things happen, bottom line vs details. She might come across as pushy and aggressive under pressure.

Suzanne operates from the opposite end of the spectrum

(S-Green). She wants to operate in a calm, stable environment. She wants to ensure that she does not butt heads with Dawn.

Using DISCerning Communication principles, we were able to defuse the tension and lay the groundwork for better understanding among team members. Decoding the messages being received by team members opened up a whole new approach to internal communication with marked improvement in team dynamics and productivity.

Team dynamics are an important component of any quest for improved productivity. Are your teams speaking the same behavioural language?

Is miscommunication frustrating your growth? If so, opt for a team-building intervention using DISCerning Communication.

• Trevor Smith is the CEO of the Success with People Academy, home of the Certified Behavioural Coach programme that offers 36 SHRM Professional Development Credits. Site: