Stop The Vanilla Blog

To Be Understood, Consider Others’ Communication Styles


There’s an old Indian saying that says you cannot understand a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. It would serve us well to remember that when we are communicating with others. Take your cues from the other person, and communication will improve. The most effective way to interact with someone is to figure out how they want to be communicated to, not how you want to communicate to them.  Adapting your style is the mark of a superior communicator.

That sounds good, but how do we achieve it? The key is learning to understand a person’s behavioral style. It is a proven fact that people hear more of the content when it is delivered in a way that they want to receive it. A person’s behavioral style determines how they like to receive content and communicate.

It follows that one of the most important skills of effective leaders and sales people is that they adapt their style to that of the person they are trying to influence. For some people, this is an innate skill and happens automatically and for others, they have to learn it. Here’s the good news: the more you practice identifying someone else’s style, the better you get at doing it. Everyone’s behavioral style is created by the time you are seven years old so the sooner you learn your style and the style of others close to you the better.

Would you like to communicate more effectively with your supervisor, your customers, your colleagues, your kids and your spouse?

Start by being more observant of others and their style. Are they outgoing? Reserved? Detailed Oriented?   What is their pace? Their body language? What does their office look like? You can download the “How to Recognize Behavioral Styles” Tool Kit at

For example, let’s say you are communicating with a person who is dominant, which means he or she is ambitious, forceful, decisive, strong-willed, independent and goal-oriented.  The best way you can interact with that person is to be brief, be bright and be gone! Don’t talk about things that are not relevant to the topic at hand. Stick to business. Be organized and don’t leave any loopholes or cloudy issues. This is an important style to know how to effectively communicate with because it is often found in entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders.

On the other hand, how would you vary your delivery if you were talking with a person who is more patient, predictable, reliable, steady, relaxed and modest? You must be non-threatening, and begin with a personal comment to break the ice. Begin by asking “how?” questions to draw out his or her opinion, and make it a comfortable situation. Here is a place where you don’t want to appear domineering or demanding. You must take a little more time to get to know each other, and not rush headlong into business.

As you approach meetings and social functions, think of the people you are going to see and develop a mini communication plan in advance of the interaction. Try to determine the other person’s behavioral style and how you can adjust to them in your interactions. Thinking through your approach in advance will increase your success and ultimately build stronger and lasting relationships.

You will find that you have to be flexible and vary your communication style based on the person with whom you are interacting. It is well worth your effort when you take steps to recognize the other person’s style.

Individuals and organizations that have a higher understanding of behavioral science end up with more effective communication. That leads to higher employee satisfaction, retention, productivity and profitability. Communicating with style can be the first step in improving the relationships of those with whom you live and work.

You can increase the sales of your company by training your sales team on how to recognize the buyer’s behavioral style so your sales team member can adapt their style for a more successful sale process.   Behavioral science understanding dramatically improves the performance of the sales team.

As you move forward, experience greater success in your professional and personal life through more effective communication by understanding the style of who you are communicating with. Ensure the brilliance of your content is not lost in its delivery.  Remember, Those Who Plan

The “Family” In Family Businesses

Family Business

Did you know that family-owned businesses account for an estimated 60-percent of total U.S. employment, 68-percent of all new jobs and 65-percent of wages paid?  If you are involved in a family-owned business, you know it is not always easy to survive. According to The Boston Globe, only 40-percent of family-owned businesses survive to the second generation, 12-percent to the third, and 3-percent to the fourth.  That’s an unsettling fact, given that family-run businesses are the backbone of America’s economy.

From my experience working with hundreds of family-run businesses, there are actions you can take to increase your chances of long term prosperity and success.

Communication – Effective communication is the key to keeping a family business on the right track. We have found that a formal communication process works best because it keeps everything professional and consistent. This is accomplished through shareholder meetings to review financial performance and any other strategic business or family challenges. These meetings should be held at least quarterly, if not on a monthly basis.

It is crucial to keep family challenges out of the day-to-day operations of your business. It is also important to keep these issues from ruining a family function. When a formal process is followed, all family members know the guidelines and expectations. Be sure to have a communication plan that defines the dos and don’ts for family communication in the business setting.  For example, one common rule of thumb is to call family members in the business by their first name versus Mom or Dad.   This keeps the work environment more professional and comfortable for non-family members.  An effective communication plan creates a process to address all issues, even the real sensitive topics.  Rumors and side bar discussions create mistrust and burn through resources that should be focused on resolving the real issues.

Business Plan – An agreed-upon business plan is another key to a smoothly-running family business.   Through a business plan all stakeholders understand and agree on where the business is going and it provides them a benchmark to objectively monitor company performance.  The monthly shareholder meetings provide clarity on where the company is at and how it’s performing against the plan.  They also allow the opportunity to agree on necessary adjustments that need to be made.  A business plan is the best way to unify your leadership team of family and non-family members.

Role Clarity – Outside of ineffective communication, lack of role clarity is often one of the greatest issues faced by family businesses.  Early on in the growth of the company, family members typically take on any roles that are needed for success.  As a result, over time the family members and other employees do not clearly understand their specific job responsibilities.  Who exactly does what becomes kind of grey and confusing over time.   Lack of role clarity creates significant issues, most importantly lack of accountability.  A clear organizational structure and job descriptions across the organization are critical to role clarity.

Skill-set Alignment – Every family member who works in the business should be in a position where they can bring the greatest value to the company and themselves.  Just because a person’s last name matches the name on the building doesn’t mean they have the skills to lead the company.  Their position must match his/her skills, gifts, education and experience.  An under-performing family member because of skill set misalignment is a common problem SM Advisors is called in to resolve in many companies.   Businesses that understand that each family member has to be in a position that they can bring the greatest value to the company usually have less family issues and achieve a higher level of organizational success.

Outside Director/Advisor – An outside director or advisor can help immensely in raising the bar for professionalism and respect at family meetings.   An advisor can help minimize or manage the emotions that come with family businesses.   The most functional and successful family businesses are those that have an engaged group of advisors working together in the best interest of that company and the family.

I have seen family businesses destroyed because of family conflict and mismanagement. However, I have also seen family businesses create wealth and joy for generations. Take steps now to ensure a prosperous future for your business, and more importantly, your family.  Remember — Those Who Plan PROFIT!

It’s Time To Go On A Run!


Often in politics you hear a candidate announce that they are going to run for Congress. They are going to take a run at a campaign for a political seat.   I have that same discussion with leadership teams or an individual when we are starting the … [Continue reading]

Business Advice: Making Money When Not Working

Making Money

Can you think back to a turning point in your life? It’s a time that you will never forget. For me, one of those moments came in 1999 when I was looking for my next leadership opportunity. I met with more than 100 business leaders during my search. … [Continue reading]

It’s Not You, It’s Me!


“It’s not you, it’s me!  If you’re a fan of the Seinfeld show, you probably remember George Costanza making that statement as he navigated the dating world.  Your damn right it’s me! It’s also a saying that company leaders should often use when … [Continue reading]

There Is No Questioning The Power Of The Question


“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”  That’s a quote from Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz.  I couldn’t agree more. Over the years in my consulting career, I have learned the … [Continue reading]

Increase Your IQ On Your EQ


Let’s say you are hiring a new employee, manager or partner. Would you want them to have higher Intelligence (IQ) or higher emotional intelligence (EQ). Through a thorough hiring process using assessments you determine one of your final two … [Continue reading]

Emotional Intelligence Essential To Future Leaders

Future Leader

I remember when I first started my career, the leaders who often got promoted were the tough, no-nonsense types. They had an autocratic style and the attitude of “It’s my way or the highway.” They would tell their employees what to do versus sell … [Continue reading]

Personal Accountability


I have to thank my parents, Don and Mary Jane, for so many things. But one of the most important lessons they taught me was personal accountability. You know – taking responsibility for your actions. It was one of those things that was not much fun … [Continue reading]

5 Reasons To Prove You Are The Best


You see it every day. Organizations stating they provide the best product or service. But few of them ever prove it. In our experience, we estimate that fewer than 7-percent of all companies illustrate the tangible value that their customers receive … [Continue reading]