How to “Do Intentional Super Communication” (DISC)

For a fun meeting icebreaker have your team identify what DISC behavioral style they are, assign each style a corner of the room and have them plan a vacation. When the group gets back together, have them pitch their vacation and explain the process they went through to come up with the pitch. Lesson learned: people are different!

Communication is huge for a project manager (or anyone leading a project) because, per PMI, 90% of a project manager’s job is communication. Because people receive and give communication differently, project managers must adapt to different communication styles. The DISC behavioral profile is a common and helpful way to frame communication styles (read this summary if you’re not familiar with it). 

Be a mature communicator by speaking to their style

Chris LoCurto says, “Maturity has nothing to do with age.” Being mature in your communication style means you understand how you work and how you like to be communicated with. And you understand others’ communication styles and how they like to be communicated with. If you are capable of communicating to people in their style, they will be more receptive and you will be more effective. Do rapid ‘verbal parry’ with a D or slow down for details with a C. Laugh with an I. Be calm and sincere with an S. Project Leaders view it as their job to make the other person successful in communication. 

If everyone in the conversation is mature in their communication style, this opens the possibility for you to ask others to speak to your personality (but, not as often as you adapt to theirs). Think of how quality your team’s communication could be in a situation like this: If a C is speaking to a D and is getting long-winded the D could say, “Can you please speak to my style?” And the C (unoffended and nonjudgmentally) understands and shifts to speaking in bullet points.

Another way to show communication maturity is to ask lots of questions to pick up on new team member’s communication style. Based on the answers you get, you can make educated guesses at his or her communication style. Sometimes the “adapted” and “natural” communication styles can be tricky to discern because your initial questions may not be getting a “natural” response. However, by balancing being yourself while not necessarily leading with your full-on communication style, you’ll soon be sharing quality communication.

Communication and self-deception

From Andy Crowe’s book, Alpha Project Managers, 860 project managers were asked to rank themselves on communication effectiveness. Their self-assessment was they were 82% effective. Stakeholders then assessed they were actually 49% effective. While this struck fear into my heart as a PM (I think I’m effective!) this is likely true of non-project managers as well. We may not be as good at communicating as we think (you get me, right?)! Fortunately, one main recourse we have is to seek feedback. While in specific conversations and for overall communication on a project (ideally before lessons learned) ask, “How am I doing with communication so far; what would you like me to do differently?”

Here is a PM tip: it is well worthwhile to plan communication! Write down who your project stakeholders are (whoever is involved or thinks they're involved in your project) and next to that write why (intent), where/how (channel), what (message) and when (timeline) you’ll communicate to them. This will help you to be intentional and consistent about communication.

Communication is chaotic. However, it is worth the effort. By using the DISC framework and asking for communication assessments you’ll have a more effective and happier team with quality communication.

Josh Gelser