How much time do you devote to resolving workplace problems whose root cause is miscommunication? Unfortunately, for many leaders, the answer to that question is a resounding “Way too much.” Project delays, false starts, misconceptions, and even outright conflicts occur because people fail to understand the differing communications styles of their peers and their bosses.
Likes and dislikes regarding how goals are communicated or instructions are given and they are received can vary widely within any work team. Some people prefer communications to be formal; others are happier with a casual tone. Some people want any discussion to get right to the point, while others are offended if time isn’t allowed for social interchange first. You can smooth the flow of communication and reduce the frequency of miscommunication by understanding these and other communications preferences and adjusting your own style accordingly.
While you need to learn how to communicate effectively with everyone on your team, no type of individual is more important to master communicating with than your high performers, those who get more done faster. These people have the potential to be the strongest contributors to your organization’s success… and to your own success as a leader. At the same time, many high performers are high maintenance and can disrupt your whole team if not communicated with appropriately. Their abruptness and hard-driving style can be off-putting to others, causing them to frequently be the source of turmoil or hurt feelings. So understanding this group’s communication preferences is particularly critical to boosting their performance as well as keeping them from interfering with the whole team’s performance and chemistry.
Let’s Do It My Way
High maintenance high performers want to do things their way, a trait that shows through in their direct and often abrupt communication style. These folks have their own ideas, know precisely what they want, and are not afraid to ask for it. Here are three communication strategies that are effective with high performers:
Tip #1: Coach or guide your high performers, don’t tell them.
High performers, particularly the high maintenance ones, really dislike being told what to do. When you communicate with your high maintenance high performers, don’t prescribe exactly how to do something. Give them options. Many managers of high performers make the mistake of telling rather than guiding. Often it is simply a matter of how a request is phrased, so ask questions rather than giving answers, give options rather than prescribing.. Remember, they like the freedom to operate in their own way.
Tip #2: Give them the information they need to make decisions.
High maintenance high performers are probably the most impatient people you will ever meet. They exhibit their impatience in almost everything they do. For example, high maintenance high performers get very frustrated with people who can’t stick to the subject at hand. And while they appreciate small talk, they don’t want to indulge in it until after the topic that is of immediate interest to them has been covered.
As results-oriented people, high performers are ready to see the bottom line. They want to go for the gold right now. Give them the information they need and turn them loose!
Tip #3: Don’t talk about rules and restrictions.
High maintenance high performers don’t like being told what they can’t do. If you need to change the direction in which a high maintenance high performer is charging, then use coaching language to help them understand the consequences, for example, you might ask them “what if” questions, . Imposing rules will only challenge them to overcome those rules.
Mastering how to communicate with high performers will help minimize the time you spend correcting miscommunications. You will have to devote less time resolving conflicts and the whole group will spend more time moving forward together to achieve your organization’s objectives.
Learn more about managing high performer employees and high performer bosses in Katherine Graham-Leviss’ new book, High Maintenance Employees: Why your best employees will also be your most difficult… and what to do about it (Source Books), November 2005. For over twenty years, Katherine Graham-Leviss, president of XB Consulting, has been helping companies manage and develop their talent to improve results and grow their businesses.