There are many great conversations around the holidays.  Unfortunately, there are also some weird conversations.  There is nothing more awkward than being in a one-sided conversation.  The person is going on and on and doesn’t realize you are no longer listening.  You started off trying to be a good sport and hang in there, but you start to lose focus after the fifteenth cat story.  The problem is a lack of self-awareness.

When people lack self-awareness it is painful to watch because they often don’t know it.  Self-awareness is the ability to accurately describe yourself and others.  It allows you to assess situations and respond appropriately.  When someone is not self-aware it is impossible to lead effectively.  The reason is trust.  Trust is built on the foundation of honesty.  Those who are not self-aware are not honest with themselves.  They don’t know where they excel and where they need work.

As leaders we must all grow in our self-awareness and it starts by taking a look in the mirror.  There are many ways to gain self-awareness.  One of the best ways to evaluate your leadership is to take a behavioral assessment.  One of the assessments I use with my clients is called Communicating With Style.  It covers the four personality types:  Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.

I use the example of being shipwrecked on a deserted island to explain the personality types.  If your personality style is Dominance and you land on the deserted island, you will quickly jump into action.  You will build a fire, spear some fish and find shelter.  If your personality style is Influence, you will pull everyone together and find out their strengths.  Then you will assign leaders and teams to get the work done.  If your style is Steadiness, you will take a deep breath and ask everyone to relax.  You will ask everyone to assess the damage and create a list of supplies and meet back at the checkpoint in an hour to create a plan of action.  And finally if your style is Compliance, you will let everyone know there is a right way and a wrong way to survive.  You will let everyone know where the housing should be situated, how the food should be cooked and the dangers of the island.

All of the personality types are valuable, and all are needed to make a team work.  The more we become self-aware the more we become aware of others and what they need to be successful.  When we understand communication styles we have more productive and interesting conversations.  So this year for the holidays if you find a conversation going off course, think about the communication styles and try a new approach.  Having great conversations and making memories with people you care about is the most important part of the holidays.  Wishing you a great Christmas season!

Question:  What is your primary personality type?  What is one thing you could work on next year to be a better communicator?


  • Pam says:

    I enjoyed this communicating with style reading and find the analysis of the personality types interesting. I find myself being a little of each and this is mostly dependent on the situation, the people around me and their communication style. Is it common to utilize different styles to best fit the situation and the recipient’s preferred method of communication?

  • Jay says:

    Awareness of your own style as well as tuning into others styles is essential. A dominant style can easily squash the steadiness style, for example, it the awareness is not there. This is the beginning of dysfunctional groups.

    Also, I have found that as you mature your styles do change and morph. A driven person may mellow with age or an expressive person may move more to “bullet-point” style communication. Too many people box themselves in as a certain style. No style is wrong but being aware of differing styles and how to connect with them is the key.

    Thanks Ben

  • If I am honest I weigh in more on the compliance style. I resonate with thinking this is the way it “should” be. I find that this way of thinking prevents me from moving forward at times and paralyzes me afraid that I am not doing it “right.” This is perfectionistic thinking. I want to continue to try and fail and be ok with it. I also want to take “should” out of my vocabulary. Looking how others do it differently and finding what I like about their approach will also help me to see the value in other approaches.

  • Nathan says:

    When I took this assessment years ago I was “I” primary and then “S” for secondary. I find myself wanting to lead in many areas, but do not have the energy or time. Quite honestly I need to listen more. As you mentioned, it comes down to trust and that obviously starts with honesty, but it is ultimately about relationships. Relationships are a two way street and listening to someone is a great way to build trust. An “I” can influence best when there is trust and respect in the person. A “know it all” Influence person can definitely rub people the wrong way. I have done that too many times.

  • Jason Muenster says:

    Could not agree with you more on the topic of self-awareness. Some of the weaker leaders I have known were certainly lacking in this area. I think it that having self awareness opens the door for more authentic and genuine conversations and relationships, which is built upon trust between the individuals. Another good read on this is “Leadership and Self Deception”. Great topic Ben!

  • Gregg McCarthy says:

    Self-awareness is key. I believe in servant leadership and listening is the key. I highly encourage readers to read the book called ” The Leadership Contract” by Vince Molinaro.

    There are four stages of leadership to get to accountability and behind all the “fluff” is having self-awareness in my opinion. Ben, you know where I would fall. “I” for my communication style.

    Appreciate your thoughts Ben!

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