The Manager's Communication Toolkit: Tools and Techniques for Leading Difficult Personalities

The Manager's Communication Toolkit: Tools and Techniques for Leading Difficult Personalities

by Tina Kuhn


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626345898
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 509,866
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Christina Kuhn is the President & CEO of a cyber company.  She has 34 years of leadership positions and has managed upwards of $440 Million a year of revenue and 1,600 people. 

Ms. Kuhn has performed multiple transitions of organizations from low performing to high performing, efficient teams.   Using her insight on people management, she is able to rapidly assess organizations and make create high functioning teams.

Read an Excerpt


Understanding Different Personality Types

Most organizations are only as successful as their leadership. As a leader, you have multiple lines of responsibility to your subordinates, coworkers, supervisors, and clients. Balancing everything can be a delicate, demanding, and exhausting task. Success depends on knowing as much as you can about the most important assets your organization has: the people — including yourself — on whom you depend to make everything happen. In this chapter, we'll take a look at the various types of people you might expect to interact with, trying to learn the most effective ways of ensuring good communication with each type.

Being an effective leader and communicator depends on understanding yourself and others. For managers to communicate effectively, they should understand what motivates and drives each person they encounter, which can provide a framework for rapid assessment of strategies to bring about a successful outcome. It provides a method to observe and understand your own behavior and that of others and to analyze conflicts and miscommunications, enabling you to resolve them in a positive manner.

Many different models exist to describe the different dimensions of individual personality. In my experience, the most useful practice focuses on diagnosing and neutralizing negative behavior patterns. When people feel stressed, they may resort to undesirable behaviors as defense mechanisms. The negative behaviors can manifest in any of the following ways: manipulation, gossip, naysaying, controlling, perfectionism, people pleasing, drama, reclusiveness, whining, and lying. The more information you have about a colleague or subordinate's personality and communication preferences, the greater the likelihood you'll be able to defuse potential stress and generate positive interactions. As a manager, recognizing the uniqueness of those with whom you work is crucial for assessing, connecting, motivating, and resolving conflict.

When a leader takes the time to listen to and observe those around them, they become more adept at identifying individual motivations. Whether you are meeting someone for the first time or talking to someone you have known for twenty years, shifting your behavior and tailoring the interaction to their personality will lead to more effective communication and better relationships.


Different personality types require different techniques for the most effective communication. How do you communicate in your organization or team? Do you know how much contact the people you communicate with prefer or need? Does your boss need to hear from you frequently to feel comfortable that your tasks are going as planned? Does your customer prefer email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings? These questions are worth considering, because the more you know about how people like to communicate, the better rapport and relationships you will be able to establish — and the more efficient your organization, tasks, or project will be. An effective manager collaborates and builds relationships at all levels of the workplace community.

Poor communication can compromise your reputation and effectiveness. Any person (team member, boss, coworker, customer, end user, member of another department, someone in the broader community) can either derail or promote an activity, project, or task. To leverage the whole community, you must build relationships with all stakeholders. Good communication skills help build good relationships.

Some relationships will be easy: communication will flow back and forth smoothly. With others, the road to effective communication is bumpy and not much fun. In these cases, already-difficult relationships can be compounded to unmanageable levels of stress during a crisis. To navigate those situations, leaders must be able to manage themselves as well as their teams. Moving forward depends on the manager's ability to think clearly and rationally.

To be a good manager, you must be able to communicate effectively to all different types of people in a variety of styles and mediums. The good news is that these techniques work no matter who you are dealing with. The subsequent chapters will teach you how to adapt your communication in order to work with various types of individuals: how to present yourself, how to listen and respond to others, how to recognize stressed people, and how to effectively resolve conflict.

To get started, of course, you need to understand yourself. This includes not only your communication preferences but also the tools that are available to you, which we will explore in the next chapter.


Your Communication ToolKit

Just as different people have differing communication styles and needs, you have at your disposal tools with differing capabilities. Depending on the situation and the person with whom you are communicating, some will be more suitable than others. This chapter will help you establish ground rules for choosing the best tool for a given scenario and communication partner.

We have a variety of communications media available: face-to-face and telephone conversations, email, texting, group meetings, presentations, and written reports. Each can be effective if it is used in the right context, but each can be disastrous if used in the wrong way. People with different personality types are not all equally comfortable with any single given tool, and the higher the stakes, the more critical it is for you to choose the most appropriate method for the other person in the situation. After all, when you are going into a potentially stressful interaction, it does you little good to have other people on edge any more than necessary. It is up to you as the manager to ensure that you and your team utilize the correct communication tool for each situation.

There are four basic groups of communication tools widely used in the workplace:

1. Face-to-face (including video teleconferencing) and telephone communication are individual meetings with you and one other person. Face-to-face meetings are the most effective type of communication technique for building rapport, collaboration, or confrontation.

2. Email and texting are written, nearly instantaneous messages extensively used in the workforce. Email and texting are ubiquitous but may help or harm, depending on the message and situation.

3. Group meetings and presentations involve multiple people meeting together. Presentations are group meetings with prepared information to describe and/or review. Both are great for keeping everyone on the same page but challenging to keep on track.

4. Written reports are formal written documents. Reports are effective for documenting information multiple people need to agree upon or approve.

Let's talk about basic communication tools and the benefits and pitfalls of each.


When it comes to communication intended to foster collaboration, confrontation, or to conduct any other type of sensitive conversation that could cause an emotional reaction, face-to-face (including video teleconferences) and telephone communication work better than email and texting. In face-to-face discussions you have access to all the body's signals: words, body language, gestures, paralinguistic interaction (voice, volume inflection, and pitch), facial expressions, and appearance. An estimated 93 percent of human communication is nonverbal and paralinguistic; these cues provide valuable information to your communication partner, determining in many cases how your message is received. Further, another person's nonverbal, paralinguistic, and body-language feedback can help you perceive and adjust what you say and how you are saying it to be most effective. In face-to-face and telephone conversations, active listening is an extremely important component. Often when people talk to each other, they do not listen attentively. They are distracted, half listening, or busy formulating a response to what is being said. Especially in situations involving frequent communication partners, people assume they have heard what the other person is saying many times before, so rather than paying attention, they focus on how they can respond to prove their point or win the argument.

Active listening has several benefits. First, it forces people to listen attentively to others in order to be able to accurately reflect back what has been said. Second, it avoids misunderstandings, because listeners have to confirm that they do really understand what another person has said. Third, it tends to open people up, to get them to say more. In active listening, the listener does not have to agree with the speaker but still works hard to understand and repeat what the speaker said. If the listener has not properly understood, the speaker can further explain. Active listening is especially useful during confrontation. (There is more information on confrontation techniques in chapter 15.)


In face-to-face conversations (including video conferences), your body gestures and posture (i.e., body language) can help you communicate your message. Make sure your body language gives the same message as your words. Your body position and gestures give other people cues about your thoughts and emotions. Body language varies from culture to culture, and what is polite in one culture may be offensive in another. For example, in Russia, to smile a lot conveys that you are not trustworthy; in the United States, smiling is the way to connect with people. In Japan, eye contact is considered rude; in the United States, if you don't look people in the eye, you are not considered sincere. If you will be directly communicating with people from another culture, you should learn their norms.

In any situation involving face-to-face communication, it is important to stay engaged in the current conversation. So many times, cell phones and other interruptions distract you and have the effect of making the person you are talking to feel unimportant. In some cases, it may be appropriate or necessary to accept a call, but please apologize and explain why the interruption is necessary. In fact, if you anticipate an urgent or important call, it is a good idea to alert your communication partner at the start of a conversation.

Let's look at two face-to-face scenarios. In the first scenario, interruptions damage an important personal connection. In the second scenario, an employee does not take the time to understand his communication partner's preferences.

The interchange left Tom feeling he was unimportant to the organization. Arthur clearly didn't believe introducing him was a priority.

Let's look at a way both Arthur and Stacey could have handled this better.

Stacey waited until Tom was engaged with Oren before she pulled Arthur aside. She didn't talk about her urgent issue in the hallway but simply requested Arthur come and see her when he was done walking Tom around. She then introduced herself to let Tom know he was important to her. In refraining from using his smart phone, Arthur also let Tom know he was important.

In this scenario, both made erroneous assumptions on the other's communication preferences. Larry should have communicated to Joe his expectations for the meeting. For his part, Joe failed to ask Larry what he wanted to see and how it should be presented. Once he realized the disconnect between his expectations and Joe's preparation, Larry, as the supervisor, should have simply stopped the meeting, explained to Joe what he expected, and rescheduled. Instead, he let the meeting continue, only to subsequently dismiss Joe by paying more attention to his phone. Joe, noticing Larry's dissatisfaction, could have chosen to apologize, find out what he wanted, and set up a briefing time with the material and formats Larry preferred.

Let's look at the scenario again when Larry and Joe communicated appropriately and set expectations ahead of the meeting.

Larry communicated to Joe what he expected. Joe listened to Larry and provided the requested information. Joe also saw the value of gathering and analyzing the information Larry wanted to see. Both Larry and Joe were happy with their first status meeting, and the relationship got off to a good start.


Telephone conversations require some discipline to be effective. There are no body language or facial expressions to help convey the message, so the words, tone, and inflection alone must do the job. The natural cadence between people when they talk is also disrupted due to the lack of visual clues as to when the other person is finished speaking. Let's look at a telephone scenario. The following scenario shows a person unprepared for the phone conversation.

In this scenario, the first impression given by the customer is confusion; who Jacob is and the reason for his phone call are not clear. The receiver has to take the lead in the conversation.

The following scenario describes a more polished and professional way to handle the discussion.

This conversation works because the caller identifies who he is and gets straight to the point. The communication is clear, direct, and doesn't take up any unnecessary time. Both speakers are professional and helpful, and the conversation ends on a positive note.

Telephone etiquette is a part of the general impression you give people. Following are some do's and don'ts in telephone conversations.


Email and texting have become ubiquitous in our culture and are used for all types of communication. Because they are worldwide, are nearly instantaneous, and can be used to communicate with a number of people at the same time, email and texting can be powerful tools if used with discernment. While both are great for quick exchanges of information and data, they fall short of promoting or encouraging collaboration. Furthermore, email and texting should never be used for confrontation. Why? As respected human communications expert Albert Mehrabian proved, communication between humans is approximately 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice, and 7 percent what you say. With email and text, you remove the first 93 percent.

Emails and texts are very easy to write and send but also incredibly easy to misinterpret, simply because the personal element is almost completely missing. Much of what we feel and think comes out in our nonverbal communication. Emails and texting cannot provide nonverbal cues, so it is very easy to convey the wrong message and just as easy to receive and interpret an email or text incorrectly. While some may attempt to use "emojis" or texting codes such as "lol" ("laughing out loud") to convey emotional context, these shortcuts generally lack the professional tone that you will want to maintain as a manager. For all these reasons, if you need to have communication with someone that involves potentially emotional content or that must function to build rapport, email and texting are almost never the correct choices.

There are, however, instances when these rapid methods of communication can be extremely useful, so let's take a closer look at their principal strengths.


Most managers receive a huge volume of email. To be most effective, emails need to have a clear purpose. If extended dialogue is required, communication should take place in a phone conversation, video teleconferencing, or meeting. However, email works well to disseminate information to a large number of people. It is asynchronous (the sender and receiver do not have to communicate at the same time), which works wonderfully for communicating to teams distributed across time zones (or even on different continents), for information and data sharing, and for communication of noncritical or noncontroversial data.

The following scenario illustrates an overly detailed, complex email. The customer, reading on her phone, saw only the first three lines and missed the most important part. This led her to misinterpret what she read and then to call the president of the company and complain about the quality of the project team.

The email did not get to the point fast enough and was full of technical jargon. It is very common for readers to just glance at the first part of an email before responding. In this case, she never read the part stating that the problem was solved.

But the following scenario suggests an example of a much better way to deliver the required information.

This email is very clear on the question being asked and the response required. It omits unnecessary detail. The recipient can read it easily and send back a quick response.

Another facet of providing only the necessary detail: while sometimes you actually need to forward an entire email chain (the exchanges between recipients and senders, appearing one above the other in reverse chronological order), there are other times when you should "snip the tails" — delete all but the message immediately preceding your response. If you do not, what started as a short exchange may grow into a multipage document by the time it has been passed around among a number of participants. For this reason, many discussion lists require the tails to be snipped.


Excerpted from "The Manager's Communication Toolkit"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Christina Kuhn.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Read This Book? 1

Part I Personality Types and Communication Tools 7

Chapter 1 Understanding Different Personality Types 9

Chapter 2 Your Communication ToolKit 13

Chapter 3 Using Your Communication Tools 47

Part II Building Bridges: Getting past Issues and Back on Track 59

Chapter 4 The Manipulator 61

Chapter 5 The Gossiper 73

Chapter 6 The Naysayers 83

Chapter 7 The Controller 93

Chapter 8 The Perfectionist 103

Chapter 9 The Yes-Man 113

Chapter 10 The Drama Queen 125

Chapter 11 The Recluse 135

Chapter 12 The Whiner 143

Chapter 13 The Liar 151

Part III Your Own Communication and Leadership Style 161

Chapter 14 Your Own Management Style 163

Chapter 15 Confrontation 171

Chapter 16 Leadership 183

Chapter 17 Next Steps 199

Acknowledgments 213

Notes 215

About the Author 217

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