To build a successful and sustainable business, a team of employees – who bring their unique abilities, strengths, and perspectives to the challenges you face – is needed. But to draw and keep talented individuals who have a variety of skills and personality types, you need to learn a key skill: You have to learn how to communicate effectively with people who are different than you.

Many books on leadership provide valuable insights into key skills and abilities needed to communicate with others. But one concept that is not stressed enough is: to lead a successful team, you need to understand those who are not like you and be able to interact with them in ways that lead to an accurate interpretation of the message sent.

We say to ourselves (or others): “I know that. Everyone is different.” But if you take a closer look at how you communicate with others, it may become evident that you actually interact with everyone pretty much the same – in the ways that are most comfortable for you.

The source and scope of differences across team members are almost overwhelming, including personal and cultural background, educational and work experiences, current life stage and circumstances, personality characteristics, personal values and beliefs, and style of communication.

To truly practice this leadership skill, some foundational principles need to be accepted:

You need an effective team to accomplish your goals.

You need others to help accomplish the goals you have for the company (if you don’t, your goals are too small), so communicate with others in ways that facilitate mutual understanding and successful collaboration.

Other people think, believe, process information, and are motivated differently than you.

Some people think “big picture,” while others need specific details. Some are analytical, while others are dreamy, creative types. Some need to see the information, while others need to hear it. Some need both.

You don’t know if you understand others unless you check.

Listening, asking clarifying questions, and checking for understanding (of what they are communicating and that they comprehend the message you are sending) are critical processes to use.

Communicating your way isn’t always the best way for others.

You know what you are thinking and believe you are a good communicator. But believe it or not, others often don’t fully understand what you are trying to communicate. You may need to try sharing information in alternative means (written vs. verbal, bullet points vs. paragraphs, and pictures vs. words).

You need people different from you to make a good team.

Differences are good (although they involve challenges – like communicating clearly). You need detailed, analytic conservative fiscal types. You need energetic, outgoing “let’s tackle the world” salespeople. You need people who communicate ideas effectively to others, both orally and in writing. You need people who communicate through pictures, images, colors, and movement. A successful business utilizes the strengths of its multi-talented team members.

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