There are a million pieces that all work together to propel you forward as a leader but, ultimately, it's about how you connect with others. No matter if you're setting a vision, being creative, or pushing results, your success will boil down to how well you communicate. And the more people you lead, the more critical your communication is.
Harvard Business School Professor Boris Groysberg says in his book Talk Inc., "The higher you go in an organization, the more you must engage other people in conversations, rather than trying to shout them into submission."
Through my work, I've pinpointed four thinking factors--analytical, structural, social, and conceptual--and three behavioral factors--expressiveness, assertiveness, and flexibility--that every leader (and every person) possesses. And the way each leader uses these thinking and behavioral factors is unique. But you need to communicate using all seven of these languages to ensure your message gets traction. Although this column and my next six will cover just one of each of these factors, keep in mind every person has them all. Also, a person's tendencies for a certain way of thinking or behaving do not dictate his or her abilities to do so.
Why You Should Communicate Analytically
Analytical thinking is logical, data-driven, and rational. It's the objective, factual part of the brain that immediately asks, "Why?"
Take a look at this profile my company produced for a leader who has a huge preference for analytical thinking (shown in blue). That means, data and information will inform everything he says, and does. And he'll expect the same kind of analysis and rigor from his workforce. I heard a highly analytical thinker say the following in a workshop: "In God we trust...all others must bring data."
As part of your communication, you need to be sure you're speaking to the analytical section of your audience (those people who are highly analytical, and the analytical part of the brain of those who are not). In order to best convey your message, you must show your analytical side, by showcasing the facts and proof that will ea you trust and credibility.
My research has shown that 67 percent of the population has at least a preference for analytical thinking (usually mixed with other types of thinking). If analytical thinking drives an employee, they're typically skeptical, and have a sound and deductive thought and reasoning process.
As a leader, communication is a two-way street and intake is just as important as output. Strong analytical thinkers will latch onto information intake, so ensure that you give them the right kind of data. Analytical employees will also respond well to questions that ask them to prove a point and show evidence, so don't be afraid to be upfront and ask for it. This will help you gain respect and build trust.
Ways to Communicate Analytically
Here's how you can be sure you speak and interact analytically to draw out your analytical-thinking employees, and position yourself as someone who desires and values an analytical kind of approach:
1. Encourage open-endedness.
Push for investigation and examine all areas of a problem.
2. Ask for research.
Make sure your people are getting what they need to give you the data you need.
3. Highlight important information.
You need to show the big picture, not just the details.
4. Provide a case study.
Analyze past successes to allow your team to develop new ideas.
5. Provide an overview as well as objectives.
Clarity about your needs is critical.
6. Use analytical phrases.
- What is the cost/benefit of this project?
- I need more information. This doesn't make rational sense to me.
- Let's get to the point.
- Let's explore this in more depth.
- What's the bottom line?
- What does the research say?
- There are many layers to consider.
- I value your investigation of the facts.
- I've been analyzing the situation.
- Can we quantify this?
Now you have tools to think and communicate like an analytical leader because, whether analytical thinking is your preference or not, you've assuredly got people on staff whose brains work analytically. You need them engaged, and believing you understand them--and the way they think.
In my next column about leadership communication, I'll write about how best to communicate in a structural, detailed way.