Today’s post is written by Brian Tolle.

Communication can either be the death knell to accomplishing great things or the clarion call-to-action.

Those who “get” the clarion call and use clear cut and precise language are great leaders: They can marshal the great forces of their team to bring in huge new business wins and manage even the most unruly clients.

Those who assert their leadership position by being elusive and mysterious, who use their position rather than their communication skills to manage, are leaders in name only.

How do you become the first? How do you work with the second, no matter your position?

I’ve studied this dark and nefarious art form for 15 years, and I have written about it recently in a book that will help managers become effective leaders by understanding how to tune their communication to the four basic behavioral styles they encounter in the workplace.

Behavior is a type of language. Learn to speak the languages others speak.

We communicate through language. It’s easier to understand, motivate, and influence others when we speak their language.

There are other languages at work besides those we are accustomed to…the languages tied to a national or geographical area. These other languages are tied to how one prefers to get things done and think, or what we call behavioral styles. You communicate in a certain way (your tailored language) based on how you like to get things done (your behavior).

Tons of research has gone into understanding human behavior. It turns out we are not so radically different from each other. Based on this, researchers have developed frameworks that group common traits into discrete styles or behaviors. If you understand and recognize the different styles, you can understand and speak the different style languages.

One such framework is the DISC Behavioral Styles, made up of four basic styles.

  1. Dominance
  2. Influence
  3. Steadiness
  4. Conscientiousness

Behavioral attitudes for each style

  • The dominance style is all about moving things forward; get to the point, give me the headline of the story.
  • Those who fall within the influence style use language to make connections with others to have a powerful affect on the world, to motivate and stretch what is possible.
  • The steadiness style has a focus on the team and being a valuable member, avoiding conflict and slowing down change so the team (and you) can stay productive.
  • Conscientiousness is all about perfection, having high standards and finding the most effective methods for achieving those high standards.

Each of these four styles has its own “dialect” – words or expressions that accurately convey and reflect what they value. Populate these words in your communication and you are on your way to speaking their language and influencing them.

Dialects for each discrete style

  • Dominance: Progress, proceed, move forward, leap ahead, push ahead, gain ground, drive, results, output, yield, decisions made, actions taken.
  • Influence: Fantastic, awesome, fabulous, extraordinary, exceptional, remarkable, phenomenal, dynamic, exciting, positive, energy.
  • Steadiness: Consistent, reliable, stable, steady, dependable, trusting, anticipate, think it through, plan, process.
  • Conscientiousness: Standards, systematic approach, methodology, deliberate, efficient, thorough, well prepared, analyze assess.

Some of your audiences will comprise general population who will reflect a cross section of these styles – you will need to craft your message in such a way that you use all four dialects.

Other audiences will share certain commonalities which usually results in them sharing certain style preferences. For example, an audience made up of senior business leaders speaks dominance whereas an audience of engineers speaks conscientiousness.

If you want to lead and influence, you must speak the language your audience already uses.

Brian Tolle is a partner at The Re-Wired Group, a business development consultancy that uses Demand-Side Innovation to create and commercialize new products, services, brands, and businesses. His work focuses on designing strategies to secure employee buy-in to organizational change as well as influencing consumer behavior through their Jobs-to-be-Done framework. You can find him in the comments here or on his Facebook page.