Managing Communication Styles

We all know communication is essential; it’s reasonable to think that we have all been in a situation where we felt we didn’t receive enough communication. In other cases, we felt like there was way too much, and we were overwhelmed, even annoyed. Think about having to have a difficult conversation with your employees, setting goals, supporting an employee through a challenging time, finding something to motivate them, or getting them to work more harmoniously together as a team. Striking the right balance and communicating productively is crucial. A communication style quiz or exercise could be an excellent option for you and your team and help you better navigate those situations.

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While some people might view a ‘personality test’ or ‘communication style’ test as unsuited for a business or childlike, recognize that several huge companies utilize tools like this to create efficiencies and a better environment for their employees. Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, in his book Principles, describes a baseball card system that they have used for years, in which they attribute weighted believability to employees and make decisions based on it. That might be a bit extreme for your situation, but it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t benefit from understanding your employees’ communication styles.

There are various ‘communication style’ tests or quizzes that you can find by simply searching them; some of them will divide the styles into things like passive or assertive. Others use animals to identify differences like Lion or Koala, etc. The best ones will give you a list of the person’s dominant traits, strengths, and weaknesses and give you suggestions on how they prefer to interact. Some are short, and some are very detailed. Some are free, and some will charge you a fee to use them. Start with something quick and free (Communication Style Quiz), and if you feel it would be useful, go from there.

As an example, you might have an employee that is an Owl. The Owl can be defined as detail-oriented, analytical, and compliance-focused. They like to look at a problem up close and understand all the intricacies before they get started. They are industrious and orderly but can sometimes be indecisive. An Owl would appreciate their manager provide them extensive details and guidance during a project. 

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Compare this to a Lion, who is a driver, an achiever, and is powerfully influential. A Lion wants to take charge and dive headfirst into a problem; a lion is determined and will take decisive action. If you give a lion too many details (as in the case for the Owl) and too much direction, they will grow impatient, feel micro-managed, and not perform at their best. 

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From the example, you can see that these two communication types are very different. One might seem to you better than the other; however, a critical thing to note is that diversity on a team is valuable. We need the Owls to look up close at things, so we can discover those tiny details that the Lion might charge right through. We need Lions to push us forward and make efficient decisions that the Owl might stall on. Understanding how to communicate clearly with each of these groups is such an advantage to a manager. It’s also an advantage to have your team understand their peers’ style to work together more effectively.

Management can be difficult, especially when handling many different people who have different experiences and expectations. Distilling some recognizable qualities about your employees through readily available tools is an excellent way to increase your capability as a manager, better communicate with your team, and produce the results you want. Communication is the key, and understanding the different styles will make you a stronger leader.


Dalio, Ray. (2017). Principles. Simon and Schuster.

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