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Lykken on Leadership: Communication and Leadership (Part 1)

David Lykken
Nov 18, 2011

Welcome back. This is the sixth installment in a series of articles on “Leadership.” Given this month’s article on "communication," it seems an appropriate occasion to communicate a special "thank you" to those of you who have taken the time to e-mail me or send me a LinkedIn message to communicate how much you have enjoyed and benefited from this series of articles. I truly appreciate your encouraging feedback. In this month’s article, my goal is to provide you with some valuable information that I have learned over the years that has helped me in connecting and communicating more effectively with more people than I thought possible. I teach these principles in my seminars and to my clients. Even though we are only going to be able to scratch the surface of this topic, this article contains some practical “nuggets” of information that, if implemented, will greatly help you improve your ability to communicate and lead a larger and more diverse group of people more effectively. Please keep in mind that the focus of this article is “leadership development,” yet the principles I share are universally applicable to every relationship, whether it be personal or professional. In addition, because the topic of communication has some intricacies and complexities about it, I will break it into two parts (part two will follow next month). When you think about it, we were all born with an amazing ability to communicate, and to do so rather effectively, albeit in a very basic manner. Our ability to communicate was there with our very first breath. If you doubt me, just ask any sleep-deprived parent of a newborn if their baby is able to communicate or not. Babies have no problem communicating when they are hungry or if they need their diaper changed. They start "communicating" by acting fussy and agitated. If someone does not respond quickly, they begin to throw a fit and scream their lungs out. Everyone around hears it, regardless of the hour of day. This may not be the most advanced form of communication, but it is certainly effective and gets results quickly. In theory, we all grow up and learn more advanced forms of communication. However, as some loan processors and underwriters might attest, there are more than a few loan originators (LOs) who have failed to advance beyond this most basic form of communication … that of being fussy and throwing a fit (sorry, I couldn't resist the opportunity.) Regrettably, some managers use this same style of communication. If the staff doesn't do what the manager wants when they want or in a manner they want, they get bent out of shape and eventually throw a fit. This has more to do with manipulation than management, even though it can have the illusion of getting results. I like how Ken Blanchard defines this "management" style in his book, The One Minute Manager. He calls it, and I am paraphrasing here, a "seagull" management/communication style. The manager flies in, craps on everybody, and then flies out. It would be funny if it weren't so true and fairly common. Even though the definition of communication (the exchange of information) is simple enough, the topic itself is about as complicated as any on the planet, primarily because we are complicated. In addition to the numerous forms of communication available to us today, consider all of the new methods of communication available to us and how rapidly new methods are emerging—texting and social media being some of the more recent methods. Yet, the principles of effective communication across all channels have remained the same since the beginning of time. It all boils down to how well we relate to each other. An interesting side note … texting is fast-becoming the preferred choice of electronic communication, even in the professional world, it is supplanting e-mail—especially when we need to know if someone received time-sensitive information. The reason is that we have immediate confirmation if someone received a text message. In the case of an e-mail, we don't have that same level of certainty. Therefore, with all of the new and varied methods of communication available to us today, would you say we are doing a better or worse job as a society at communicating with each other? Recent studies indicate that we are doing worse … MUCH worse in fact! Is it for a lack of exchange of information? No, in fact, while technology is a wonderful enabler to accessing information about each other (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), it is not helping us to genuinely "relate" or "connect" with each other. This is profound in its significance. We see evidence of it all the time all around, and it isn't just with our teenagers. Look around the next time you are with a group of your peers. You will see people sitting together, each with their face in a screen (iPhone, iPad or equivalent). We are not talking with each other as we used to, and therefore, are "relating" to each other like the "good ol' days.” Technology and these new devices are here to stay, but we must go beyond the technology and learn to relate to each other again. Please consider this fact: Our ability to relate to each other is the single biggest predictor of how effective we will be in our efforts to communicate with one another and LEAD. Consider the marriage relationship for a moment. How many marriages do you know that have failed and ended up in divorce because the two parties involved came to the realization that they no longer “related” to each other. How is it that two people that supposedly loved and related so well to each other that they committed to spend the rest of their lives together in what has to be the most intimate of all relationships, wake up one morning and say they now no longer want to be together? An "autopsy" of any failed marriage yields some interesting revelations as to why relationships fail. The cornerstone in the foundation of every relationship is our ability to “relate” to each other. Whether we are talking about a marriage of two (as in matrimony) or the "marriage" of a group of people working together (as in a company), the degree to which those interacting parties relate with each other is to the same degree to which those parties will succeed or fail at whatever they collectively set out to do together. Therefore, it comes down to the answer to the million-dollar question: “How can we relate more effectively with each other?” So let's bring this discussion a bit closer to home. Let’s talk about YOU and YOUR communication style. First of all, do you know what your personality type is? Take a moment and study the following diagram: Which of the four personality types are you most like … the Social Worker (melancholic) type, the Cheerleader (sanguine) type, the Accountant-Engineer (phlegmatic) type or the Army General (choleric) type? It is important that you accurately understand and know who you are so you can better relate to others. How well we relate and communicate with each other has as much to do with our personality types as anything, and therefore, it is essential that we would do well to incorporate a thorough understanding of these four personality types in our day-to-day communication. As a way of driving this point home, I will use myself in contrast to my two business partners as examples. I am definitely an outgoing sanguine (blue) personality type. The description of the sanguine person describes me to a “T.” I have a tendency to "think (process) out loud," involving others in my thoughts. Therefore, I find myself using a few more words to communicate my ideas, than some would like. I have two business partners, Chuck Klein and Andy Schell. Chuck is definitely a choleric (red) personality type who typically "thinks before he speaks” and uses far less words to communicate his thoughts than I do. I know there are times where Chuck wishes that I could "get to the point" faster, but at the same time he has learned to understand, appreciate and even value my sanguine nature. By me processing my thoughts out loud, he gets a perspective he may not have considered. Another benefit is that he never has to wonder where I am at which appeals to his choleric “in-control” nature. Nonetheless, I have made adjustments to more effectively "relate" to Chuck’s nature. Then, there is my other business partner, Andy, who has more of phlegmatic personality (green) type. Interestingly, he is a CPA. While Andy might agree with Chuck about “getting to the point,” my phlegmatic business partner Andy would prefer me simply getting to the facts and figures and explain the return-on-investment (ROI) of whatever we are talking about. There are times when I can see strain come across Andy’s face if my sanguine expressive nature is taking too long to get to the point. You see, us sanguine types are more interested in communicating in a colorful and enthusiastic way how we feel about something, rather than simply providing the “boring” facts and figures. Having worked together as business partners now over the past five years, we have learned to make adjustments as it relates to our personality types. We have come together as a cohesive and effective team that has a balance of perspectives. To the degree that you become familiar with other personality types is to the same degree to which you have a better chance of relating to a greater number of people. Whether someone is introverted or extraverted, fun-loving or more serious, intuitive versus logical, or motivated to take action by how they “feel” about something, all plays into how you need to respond. If you don’t know who you are, you will become very confused. However, when you have solidly established who you are, then and only then, can you truly make adjustments to connect and relate with more people. The hardest people to relate to are those who are confused about exactly who they are. What is interesting is that some people project themselves to have one personality type publicly when that doesn’t represent who they are in reality. That is why we recommend a higher end personality assessment tool such as the Birkman Method, something that will be discussed in more detail in next month’s article. But most have a reasonable sense of who they are, and I am excited to begin to teach you specific skills on how to make adjustments on how you communicate so can relate more effectively to a greater number of people. Also, it will make you a more effective leader. And for LOs, these skills can have a positive impact on attracting more business and more loans. So, your homework between now and next month’s article is to study these four personality types and become thoroughly familiar with them. Then, you will be prepared for next month’s article, the second installment in this series on communication. David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 10, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]
Nov 18, 2011