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This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Registration for 2017 has now closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2017. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at www.employeerecommended.com.

What is your natural communication style as a leader?

How we communicate may be influenced by our personality. One often-examined personality trait is whether you are an extrovert or an introvert.

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Extroverts require outside stimuli to gain energy, which helps them function, whereas introverts are more sensitive to stimuli and often need quiet to function.

This one example can explain why some leaders may be more outgoing than others who are more introverted and naturally spend more time alone – simply because that's how they're wired.

Consider how difficult and mentally draining it can be for an introverted leader who has a team of extroverts who constantly want to interact with them.

Leaders who are introverted are not necessarily shy. They just naturally need more quiet time and, as a result, may spend more time in their office where they can reflect. The downside is that some employees may see this type of leader as being less approachable than an extroverted leader who more actively engages with their staff.

Both styles can be problematic for employees, depending on the employee's own style and personality. The point of this daily microskill is for all leaders to focus outside themselves first.

This microskill provides leaders with a framework that will help them focus on the outside so they can better align their communication approach with their employees' natural communication styles.

Awareness

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A leader's natural communication style may fit better with some employees than with others. Having a frame of reference for how you communicate is a good start. This Communication Style Survey (click here to complete) is a quick and easy way to identify your natural communication style. It also provides coaching on how to communicate with others' communication styles. Like extroverts' and introverts' personality attributes, each person has their natural communication preference.

Accountability

Communication style is like being an introvert or extrovert; the style doesn't define a leader's impact. Looking outside themselves first and paying attention to their employees' communication styles is one factor a leader can be accountable for. This demonstrates awareness that not all employees communicate the same way. Only the leader can decide if they care enough to learn how to communicate more effectively with different communication styles.

Action

This step requires a daily commitment and openness to the notion that not all employees have the same communication style. It requires focus, attention and patience. Like any learning, change can be challenging. However, when a leader masters focusing on the outside first they increase their opportunity to be a more effective communicator with their team.

· Get a communication style baseline – Seek to understand your team's natural communication style preference. Request team members to complete the Communication Style Survey and bring their report to a one-on-one meeting.

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· Explore results with your employees – In the one-on-one meeting, focus on discovering how well you have been communicating before and one or two areas you could improve to help your employee and you to communicate more effectively. Be open to sharing your personal style. This is not a perfect science. This activity is meant to uncover some blind spots and reinforce what's working well now or highlight how you might need to change.

· Practice matching employees' communication preferences – It takes practice to learn how to adapt to the different communication styles. In the Communication Style Survey results section there are suggestions regarding how to communicate with each different style. The goal is to keep your focus on the outside first and avoid reacting automatically.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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