While rapport is very important, sometimes it is not enough.  By listening carefully to the words people use to express themselves we can identify a number of motivational traits that can help us to understand, predict and influence the behaviour of others.

Too many communication seminars or trainings focus on rapport. They are often full of exercises about body language, voice tone and pace and the frequently misquoted research by Mehrabian; that the meaning of communication is 55% body language, 38% voice tone and only 7% words.  It is often forgotten that Mehrabian did his research in a very specific context: the first minute of when you meet someone you don’t know and you want to be liked by them.  This is a very specific context and it is misleading to generalise it for all communication. 
(Ref: Mehrabian, A. (1981). Silent messages: Implicit communication of emotions and attitudes (2nd ed.). Wadsworth, Belmont, California.)

As regular readers of this blog you will probably be familiar with the profiling tools I use – the Language and Behaviour Profile (LAB Profile) or its online companion the iWAM (inventory of Work Attitude and Motivation).  They are very context-specific and recognise the fact that people are motivated by different things depending on the context.

In this blog we’ll be looking at the second of the four levels of relationship mentioned in previous blogs.

No Emotions here – this is a workplace!

I was recently facilitating a Leadership Programme for a group of directors and senior managers and the subject of ‘emotions’ was raised.  The Programme was emphasising the need for bringing your ‘whole self’ to work because people can identify with a leader who is in touch with their emotions and the emotions of others.  The debate about the role of emotions in the workplace became quite polarised between the IT Manager and the Business Development Manager.  You can probably guess who was for and who was against . . .

It was interesting to listen to them discussing emotions but using a very different context to state their case. The IT chap, let’s call him Peter, was saying “I don’t think it’s appropriate – I don’t go blubbering to my boss if there is a problem.  I know how to handle myself and my job”.  The Business Development Manager, let’s call him Steve, was saying “Surely you need to show how excited you are about our products and services?  That’s what gets people interested, you can see the difference it makes for them . . . what do the others think?”  He went on to say “It really depends on the situation . . . getting feedback is important if you want to engage people and understand their needs”.  He then went on to tell Peter that he should really listen to people more.

I won’t repeat Peter’s response – let’s just say his body language was saying that he did not appreciate Steve telling him what to do!  He was genuinely aghast with the idea of people being emotional at work, he related it to crying and whinging.  Steve the Business Development Manager automatically linked it to passion and excitement in a sales context.  After some further discussions that explored various situations and the appropriateness of emotions in each, there was more agreement about the place of genuine emotions at work, especially in the context of Leadership.  Emotional Intelligence is about understanding and being appropriate with your own emotions as well as understanding and being with the emotions of others, no matter what they are.

What was particularly interesting about the interaction between Peter and Steve was how quickly they judged one another and their choice of words made it difficult for them to see eye to eye.  Both felt personally accused and belittled by the other, when in fact they were only stating their case.

Decoding Communication

The LAB Profile is a great tool for decoding communication and facilitating understanding.  While ‘what’ they were saying was useful to note, it was more revealing to listen to ‘how’ they were speaking.  Peter was using a lot of ‘I’ statements.  He knew inside of himself what was appropriate or not, especially in his own sphere of work.  Steve was basing his opinions on external information; the feedback from others and he was interested in what the rest of the group thought.

Peter had an ‘Internal’ motivation in that context and was motivated by his own experiences and reference to his own standards.  He didn’t want to be told what to do and resisted instructions. 

Steve had an ‘External’ motivation, he was very interested in the thoughts of others and sought their opinions.  He was basing his standards and behaviour on the feedback he received.

Many relationships, both at work and in our personal lives, can be fraught with friction and unhelpful judgments just because people are speaking from a different motivational point of view.  There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in either of these patterns, it’s just that some are more appropriate for certain roles.  Externally motivated people require lots of feedback to know that they are doing a good job and they respond well to guidance and instructions.  If they don’t get the feedback or direction, they may feel lost and uncertain.  These people are ideally suited to customer focused roles where they respond well to customers and get great satisfaction from serving them.  Customers in turn feel listened to and appreciate that their concerns are being responded to.  An Internally motivated person will not respond well to feedback and may find it patronising.  They will see instructions as information and not necessarily something to respond to!  This pattern can cause problems in more junior staff.

Generally, managers are clear about the standards required and are very Internal about the way things need to be done – ‘They know best’.  While it is important to be clear about what standards are required and to be able to argue your case at a management meeting, being ‘Internal’ can be a problem if managers don’t listen to the suggestions from staff.  This applies equally to Directors with their Managers.

Change in context

It’s interesting to note that a change in context can make someone flip from high internal to high external.  This is not unusual in the case of promotion, especially from Staff member to Manager or Manager to Director.  There is usually less support at the top of an organisation and there is also an expectation “Well, you’re now on a Director’s Salary, so act like one!”  What gets forgotten is the steep learning curve and new thinking that is required at the next level.  Without sufficient support and guidance a new Director can flounder.  Their confidence is eroded; all of a sudden things are very different, the rules and standards that were clear for being a Manager no longer apply.  But often they are not used to asking for help and may feel very awkward or embarrassed about it – they don’t want to be seen as emotionally weak, especially if they thought staff who needed lots of feedback were weak or ‘high maintenance’. 

A highly internal MD or Ops Director may not notice that the new Director needs support and feedback, especially if it was not needed when they were a Manager.

Think about your clients and how ‘External’ they are to you when you first start working with them because they need your help.  Highly ‘Internal’ clients simply don’t look for external advice. They know that everything going wrong is the fault of others!

You may want to keep an ear out to any shifts in this pattern in your clients.  They can shift from being very open to ideas and advice; to judging what you say for themselves and challenging you if you imply that they are at fault.  If they go ‘Internal’ to you they will only take on board what you are saying if is put in a certain way.  Telling them what they ‘should do’ will be like a red rag to a bull.

If someone is very Internal and you need to influence them, your best bet is to find out what is important to them and then make suggestions that link directly to them achieving more of what they want, or avoiding what they don’t want.  They will reject direct instructions like “You should, you must, etc.”  Instead, it is useful to give them something to consider, so that they can make up their own mind about it.

Peter and Steve needed to remove their judgments and listen a bit more to one another.  The heated debate about emotions was never going to get anywhere without them stepping back and recognising where the other was coming from.

Listen to ‘how’ people speak

Listening to ‘how’ people are speaking can let you in on some real clues about what motivates them in a particular context.  This can enable you to communicate more effectively with them and they will feel a positive emotional connection.  They will feel that you ‘really’ understand them and this means you can develop even better working relationships that go way beyond rapport.

If you would like to know more about your own motivational traits or those of your clients you may want to consider completing an iWAM questionnaire.  This will provide you with lots of useful and practical information about your motivational traits.  It is completed online and feedback can be arranged face-to-face or over the phone.

Many highly successful consultants are now using it and getting great results by helping their clients play to people’s strengths.  The feedback they get is amazing because there are always some interesting and useful insights from the feedback and the profile.  To find out more now just click here

It’s up to you to know what is right for you and your business.  If you want to get an edge in your market and get a deeper insight into your clients it might be worth considering how to learn more about these very powerful profiling tools. 

If you have decided that you want to learn more about people and how to influence them according to their motivational patterns, you may want to click here to get more information.  It’s your choice and you’ve got nothing to lose.

Accessing more details

After giving the talk for the business group I wrote a short EBook about the key principles (and the 4 cylinders) mentioned above.  In order to read it in accessible bite-sized chunks I divided it into a number of articles.  Each article focusses on one of the four levels and some of the key drivers and motivational patterns at that level.

To get your own copies of the articles sent direct to your inbox Click here to continue.

Remember . . . Stay Curious!

With warm regards


David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (www.InspiredWorking.com

Visit our new Website www.inspiredworkingonline.com
If you have a communication or performance problem and would like some objective advice drop David a line at [email protected]