A Supervisor's Guide to Communication Styles | SOS Podcast

A Supervisor's Guide to Communication Styles | SOS Podcast

Reaching and connecting with employees requires more than an exchange of information.  To do so most effectively, supervisors must learn to convey details using communication styles that align with those most preferred by direct reports.  In this episode, host Joe White covers four communication styles and highlights personality traits most commonly associated with each.







The SOS Podcast is a production of AEU LEAD, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.

Joe White:

Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success Podcast. Today's episode is our 9th of 13, scheduled for season 3. Released July 25th, 2023, it will be the last session aired prior to Labor Day. In today's episode, we're discussing communication. Inherently related to performance outcomes, capabilities, and interpersonal communication are among the critical few skills supervisors must have to succeed. The ability to effectively share information with others and to do so consistently is one of the most challenging things we're responsible for day in and day out. It's my sincere hope to share with you some thoughts and ideas for ways you can improve this core supervisor competency. That said, let's get started.

Modern conveniences exceed, in large measure, anything experienced in the past. The modes, means, and methods of communicating a message are many, and the stream of information around us is seemingly endless. Unfortunately, efficiency of effort in conveying information doesn't translate to effectiveness of outcome as a result of it. As a supervisor, your communication skills are directly reflected in the performance of direct reports. How much so? According to a Gallup study, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. Employee engagement is a leading indicator of performance outcomes and has a direct impact on customer service, turnover, quality, and workplace safety. As I've said many times before, highly engaged workers consistently exceed expectations, and disengaged workers seldom meet them.

As for how supervisors impact employee engagement, the list is expansive. For the purposes of our discussion today, I'll address a few of those specifically related to our topic. Setting expectations, providing direction, helping employees understand how they impact the bottom line are all examples of ways employee engagement can be shaped. Recognizing performance, showing appreciation, providing feedback, and coaching employees are foundational to ongoing growth and development and have a direct impact upon how an employee feels about their job. The common denominator among all these management practices is communication.

Understanding the importance of effective communication, however, isn't enough. To succeed, supervisors must have the ability to reach and connect with employees in a manner that delivers results and achieves operational objectives. Doing so requires an understanding of various communication styles. It also requires knowing employee preferences and aligning the two when critical information is shared. For those interested in learning more about communication styles and preferences, here are several thoughts for consideration.

There are four widely recognized communication styles. Different models have varying titles of each style. The ones I'll be covering are:

  • Supporter
  • Promoter
  • Controller
  • Analyzer

As I review them, hopefully, you'll recognize traits and characteristics that align with individuals reporting to you.

First on our list, supporters are team players.

They don't like conflict, are good listeners, and have lots of friends. They're most often patient, sensitive to the feelings of others, and are interdependent by nature. When talking with supporters, a slow and steady drip method works best. Earn their trust over time and don't overwhelm them or come on too strong. Recognize the importance of feelings and emotions and do everything possible to keep discussions positive and forward-focused.

Next, promoters are the life of the party.

They like to talk, are fun to be around, and can be dramatic. They're expressive, enthusiastic, and enjoy a good time. When talking with promoters, use anecdotal accounts, share stories or actual experiences and encourage them to do the same. Check in with them often and provide an opportunity for discussion and dialogue in response to any information shared.

Next on our list are controllers.

Generally speaking, they don't like small talk. They want clarity of goals and desired outcomes. They're task-oriented and are often viewed as being insensitive to others. When talking with controllers, get to the point. Don't sugarcoat things or use sandwich techniques intended to soften the impact of information. Be clear on time parameters, convey expectations, and get out of their way.

The last on our list are analyzers.

Typically, analyzers want proof. Driven by numbers, analyzers are all about facts and figures. They love charts, graphs, and data and will weigh pros and cons of important decisions before making them. When talking with analyzers, focus on principles of logic and reason and steer clear of emotional appeals. Provide evidence needed to help support decision-making and allow them time to process any request. To avoid paralysis from analysis, you will likely need to nudge analyzers on important decisions to help them move along from time to time.

Reaching and connecting with employees is a byproduct of effective communication. Knowing employees on an individual basis and using techniques that align with preferred styles is a secret to success among those that communicate well. Knowing employees on an individual basis and using techniques that align with preferred styles is a secret to success among those that communicate well. When breakdowns do occur, learn from them and modify strategies going forward. More than anything, do everything within your power to continue to grow your skills and interpersonal communications. Doing so will improve operational outcomes over time and will help grow your influence as a frontline leader.

Thank you for joining us. It's my sincere hope you'll find value and benefit from our topic of discussion today. Our next podcast is scheduled for release on Tuesday, September 5th. For that episode, we'll be discussing workplace safety. Should you have any questions or need additional information regarding today's topic, just let us know. Our contact information is provided in the show notes accompanying this episode, and for those that may not have reviewed or rated your experience with our show, we would greatly appreciate you doing so. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.

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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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