If you’ve ever felt a disconnect with your coworkers, maybe you’re not speaking each other’s language. Different personalities have different ways of communicating, and by better understanding yourself and others, you can become a more effective team, says Jeremie Kubicek, coauthor of 5 Voices: How to Communicate Effectively with Everyone You Lead.
In their work as leadership consultants, Kubicek and co-author Steve Cockram routinely heard about employees who took personality tests, only to forget the results or not understand how to use them. "Personality tests can be useless because they’re based on how the person views themselves at work," says Kubicek. "They’re often too complicated and not sticky."
But personality is important when it comes to effective communication. Drawing on the research of renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and using insight from basic personality typing, Kubicek and Cockram simplified the process. The result is 5 Voices, a method that creates a common language so that every member of a group can not only be heard but valued for their unique contributions.
The voices are distinct, each with its strengths and weaknesses:
1. Nurturers. Nurturers are hardwired to care for others and help others to develop. They protect values and principles, and have a commitment to organizational harmony.
2. Creatives. Creatives possess a gift for envisioning the future and are champions of innovation and new ideas. They can see how the pieces of something fit together, and are always looking for ways to make things better.
3. Guardians. Guardians strive to preserve and protect, focusing on responsibility, hard work, and stewardship. They seek clarity and logic, and like to see track records of success.
4. Connectors. Connectors love connecting people, ideas, and resources. They have an intuitive ability to sense what others feel and need in the moment.
5. Pioneers. Pioneers are dominant and loud, bringing military-like thinking to the group. They always look to the future, and have a strong desire to win.
Your voice is your sweet spot, and if you can spend 70% of your time doing things that fit your sweet spot, you will thrive, says Kubicek. Once you identify your own voice (the authors offer a free online assessment) or recognize it in others, use it to build better teams and communicate more effectively.
Nurturers make great managers because they go the extra mile to support their team, which often results in better productivity. Nurturers also resist change, so when you share a new idea, make sure to address how it will benefit employees or customers.
Creatives are the champions of the big ideas of tomorrow, driving growth and innovation, and they’re often found in academia, design, and technology. This type often needs to be drawn out to share their ideas, however, so if you have a creative in your group, make sure you take the time to ask them questions.
Guardians can be seen as a wet blanket by the team, because they are always envisioning what might not work. This voice, however, keeps companies afloat and on the right track, and they are the engines that take great ideas and make them happen. Talk to this voice by understanding their motives and dispelling their concerns.
Connectors are often the life of the party and the voice that makes the company fun. They are expert networkers and do well in roles such as sales. They are great collaborators who work better on teams. If you need a source, connectors have a knack for knowing who has what.
Pioneers are powerful characters who have the potential to be strong leaders. While pioneers make up just 7% of the entire population, Kubicek says they’re in more than 50% of CEO roles. This voice loves creating strategy, and has the courage to make tough decisions.
Knowing the voices can help companies form effective teams as well as strategies. In meetings, for example, ask for input by starting with nurturers, then creatives, then guardians, connectors, and finally pioneers. "Pioneers are the loudest voice and the worst listeners," says Kubicek. "You will get all ideas and thoughts on the table if pioneers speak last."
All five voices are needed in organizations and groups, and one is not more important than the other, says Kubicek. "For any executive team to function at its full capacity, each voice not only needs to be present, but to be honored and represented in strategic discussions," he says. "Every company needs to champion the contributions each of the five makes. To minimize or marginalize any of the voices is to undermine team effectiveness."
When people don’t understand how voices can differ, misunderstanding and competition can happen. "Communication is pivotal; it’s a hard commodity in today’s information economy," says Kubicek. "Transformation happens when people begin to use the language and the insights of the five voices."