Back in the 1990’s, when I was working as an Assistant Store Manager for a regional department store, I was invited to attend a leadership program specifically designed for mid-level managers.  While most of the content was delivered by in-house facilitators, we knew something special was about to happen when some “hired guns” showed up on day two with beautifully printed materials.

These guest facilitators from Effectiveness Institute launched into what I later learned was a half-day workshop on “People Skills”.  I loved learning about my style preferences and was amazed at how a 24-question profile could so accurately describe my workstyle, strengths and blind spots.  Being an off-the-chart Persuader, I enjoyed talking about myself and learning more about ME.  I definitely had “the best” style of all.

Then as we shifted away from what I like to call “the horoscope” portion of the workshop and into content focused on how to use the behavior-style information to improve our effectiveness, I became more introspective and a bit concerned.  Like most people in the workplace, I saw myself as professional and respectful when working with coworkers and customers.  As we went deeper into the characteristics of each of the styles, I couldn’t help but think about my peer assistant manager back at the store.  Mike valued routine, data and took a thoughtful approach to making decisions.  I viewed him as too cautious, too slow, and a roadblock to getting things done quickly.  I saw him as an Analyzer – a style potentially toxic to my own.  I thought about all the times I had discounted his gentle warnings about leaping before I looked, even responding with comments like, “that’ll never happen”, “It’ll be fine.” and “Don’t be such a worry wort Mike!”  Suddenly, I realized with dismay that I had not valued what he brought to the team and my dismissive comments, and my belief that the way I did things was the best way, was blatantly disrespectful – something I never wanted to be.

When I returned to the store, I sat down with Mike to share what I had learned, and to apologize for any insensitive or disparaging comments I had made during our time as coworkers.  He was gracious, and I view that conversation as the beginning of an improved working relationship based on mutual understanding and respect.  It’s not too much to say that the People Skills content truly changed my life.  It illuminated my understanding of workplace conflict and I even finally “got” some of feedback I had received about my management style over the years.  I was in my ‘30s when I was introduced to this important material and it makes me cringe to think that I had been managing and working with others for over 10 years by then.  But when we know better, we do better.

A few years later, I had the opportunity to be certified to deliver the People Skills material to others.  Since then, I’ve shared that material with for-profit and non-profit organizations, in-person and online, and to front-line and C-Suite audiences.  Sometimes after we’ve worked on identifying others’ styles and practiced modifying our preferred style to meet the needs of others, someone will comment, “It sounds like you’re asking me to change.  I don’t want to change.”  That’s an understandable feeling, so I am always happy to clarify how this program is not asking anyone to change who they are. However, if you want to improve your effectiveness at work and enhance your relationships, modifying your behavior to meet the needs of others will pay dividends.

Dana Pratt is the Principal of DCP Training & Talent Development and is one of our Certified Delivery Experts.

Read more about Dana here.