Thinking Out Loud


Judy got promoted at the radio station where she works. Because she learns quickly, has a good work ethic and has good rapport with her co-workers the promotion seemed natural. Virtually everyone thought it was a good move. Judy, of course, felt a little in over her head but was confident that she could learn to be a good manager.

After about six weeks in her new position, Judy became concerned because some people in her department had begun to be standoffish and others outright avoided her. Then she thought she overheard the word micromanaging in a conversation. She was sure they were talking about her, and she was right. They were. She confirmed that by talking with a friend in her old department whom she trusted to tell her the truth. Her friend had heard Judy described as micromanaging.

Judy was hurt by this feedback and after she reflected on her first six weeks believed it was true. It was so unlike her she decided to talk with the HR director for help learning how to delegate. The HR director, Jim, was confused: It was hard for him, too, to believe that Judy was a micromanager, but since she was new to the position, he remained open minded.

Jim began making some informal observations, trying to get a feel for the situation. He also decided to meet regularly with Judy to offer support and guidance on how to delegate responsibility. Although they both enjoyed the talks, the situation was not improving. So, Jim decided to reflect on the problem through the communication styles lens. At their next talk, he asked Judy to refresh his memory regarding her core processing strengths. Judy reminded him that she is high kinesthetic, a hands-on learner. In other words she needs direct experience to learn. She is also strongly interpersonal, so the direct engagement with others is important to her in processing information.

As Judy spoke, Jim had an insight that he immediately shared with her: Because Judy is in a new position, she might be trying to learn about the department by experiencing everything she can first hand. Before he could finish his statement, Judy’s whole body relaxed and she began shaking her head affirmatively. “Yes, she said, “that’s it!”

From this insight, everything fell into place and Judy decided to meet with her staff to have a frank discussion. She told them how it was her intention to learn everything she could about the department as a first step, and because she is a hands-on learner she had been involving herself directly in all aspects of the operation. She said she knew she had inadvertently stepped on other’s toes and suspected she had communicated a lack of confidence in their abilities.

Her openness was met with relief and an opportunity for department staff to acknowledge their frustration and confusion. Judy assured them that it was not her style or intention to micromanage, and that she would welcome their feedback and help as she was trying to learn her new job.

The Communication Styles Framework often gives us a pathway to problem-solving. Frequently when I’m feeling stuck and puzzled, I remind myself to focus on the situation through the CS lens. It often frees up my thinking and gives me a fresh perspective, as it did for Jim (and Judy!).

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