Transforming Talk at Work | March 2016



Dear Reader,

Jana, a driven, hard-working business analyst, was at her wits’ end with her colleague in new product development, Tim. She explained to me: “Tim always wants to talk and brainstorm, and I don’t need any of that. I just need him to tell me the requirements so that I can document them and give them to the engineering team. He wants to talk about the ‘big picture’ and I need him to focus on the details. We’ll never get his product in development if he has to talk so much!”

What Jana didn’t realize is that she and Tim have different communication styles. Tim, with his brainstorming and spirited communication exchanges, demonstrates the predominant style of “Motivator.” Motivators tend to be extroverted and consequently get their energy from working with others. They are far more concerned with the big picture and are less concerned with the details. Incidentally, that’s why they need someone like Jana around: to help them focus on the details.

Motivators consider the relationships they have with others to be the foundation of getting work done. And the way they enact those relationships is through communication, usually the face-to-face variety where there is lots of room for animated interaction.

If Jana can shift her frame of reference and see that the differences in communication style between she and Tim are an asset rather than a detriment to their ability to work together, she will be far less frustrated with Tim.

She may even come to appreciate his brainstorming and animated style, recognizing that his style is different from hers. (Jana, incidentally, demonstrates the Director style, which I’ll be discussing in next month’s newsletter.) Jana can maximize her interactions with Tim if she adapts her communication to meet his style’s needs.

The next time you are working with someone who is the “Motivator” style, use the following steps to adapt your communication to their preferences.


Reverse Engineer: Communicating with a Motivator

1. Prepare for small talk. Motivators place great value on their relationship with you. It is foundational to them. They want to know you and feel connected to you before moving on to the work at hand.

2. Show interest in them. Knowing that the relationship is important to them, ask Motivators questions and connect their interests to your message. They will feel more engaged and connected.

3. Be upbeat and positive. Motivators will be far more receptive to your needs if you can present them in a manner is upbeat and positive. Motivators always see the glass as half-full. Present your questions, needs and requests optimistically to get the best results from them.

4. Make room for ideas. Motivators bring ideas to our work and our organizations. Valuing the brainstorming process and the wealth of ideas they bring to their work shows you care about them.

5. Let them know. Most Motivators have a high degree of self-awareness, although they do tend to get caught up in their idea generation. It’s okay to let them know that you have enough ideas or that they’ve shared enough detail. Be sure to remain professional and diplomatic – remember, they honor their relationship with you.


Digest This: Connecting with Motivators

How to Build the Social Ties You Need At Work (Harvard Business Review)
Relationships at work matter – and this article explains why. Even if they don’t matter as much to us equally, they matter. This article is chock full of actionable steps you can take to put more emphasis on relationships at work.

The Mental Trick That Can Help You Brainstorm Your Best Ideas (Business Insider)
If brainstorming doesn’t come naturally to you, try the mind mapping technique shared in this article. It takes advantage of the way the brain tends to work, with new ideas branching off from other ideas. Use an app or draw your map on a whiteboard or paper, the old-fashioned way. It’s up to you.

7 Ways to Make Small Talk Way More Interesting (Inc.)
Small talk not your thing? Never fear. This article describes seven easy-to-implement ways to ace small talk. You won’t have to scrounge for things to say at your next networking event – or meeting with a Motivator – if you keep these tips in mind.


My Treat

Communication Styles

I regularly train organizations on understanding their communication styles. Here’s the high level framework I’ve developed to differentiate dominant communication styles. Hint: Everyone has a dominant style but is fully capable of adapting their style to that of others.

Let me know if you’d like to discuss how we could bring this training to your organization.


Over the next three issues of Transforming Talk, we will dive into the other three communication styles.

Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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