BY Nicky Denegri

DATE: 26 OCT 2017


I've done a couple of blogs recently about putting yourself in the other person's shoes when you're pitching, and being aware of their Social Style when you're talking to them to help you do so even more effectively.

Finishing off the theme I'm going to talk about Versatility - the key to making said Social Style more effective for you and the people with whom you are working.

Versatility is the ability to focus on other people and what's important to them, remembering that in dealing with Style, each has its own need that it’s trying to satisfy:

  • Driving – results
  • Expressive – personal approval
  • Amiable – personal security
  • Analytical – to be right

This means we use a range of behaviours that they understand and feel comfortable with, in order a) to get things done more quickly while b) paying attention to how we enable them to meet their need. And if we do that, over time it means they will hopefully start to use behaviours that we understand and feel comfortable with-creating that lovely concept of "reciprocity" i.e. helping us to meet our need. 

The four pillars of Versatility are:

  • Image (8%)
  • Presentation (9%)
  • Competence (48%)
  • Feedback (35%)

In a nutshell, each one in turn means:

  • Do you dress appropriately for the occasion - or your own comfort (and do you present a good general demeanour to the outside world)?
  • Are you comfortable presenting information and are you able to tailor the information to each person's or each group's level of comprehension?
  • Irrespective of the job you do, do you approach it flexibly; creatively; optimistically; keep going when times are tough and ensure that you do it well?
  • Given that almost every job involves dealing with people are you able to practise and demonstrate empathy; listen well; interact with them effectively and give them time even - or especially - when you don't feel like it?

The percentage in brackets means how much (or little) each pillar contributes to the overall Versatility effect.  So, whatever your job, doing it really well, and having good relationships with the people around you, are the most important elements. 

Here are half a dozen ways you can demonstrate your Versatility when working with Styles that are different to yours:

How to work with the ANALYTICAL style

  1. Take your time
  2. Communicate clearly and concisely
  3. Don't pressure them for answers
  4. Respect their processes
  5. Ask directly for their feedback
  6. Give them space

How to work with the DRIVING style

  1. Respect their time
  2. Stick to the facts
  3. Follow up your promises
  4. Show your competence
  5. Earn their trust before expecting it
  6. Let them have some control

How to work with the AMIABLE style

  1. Approach conflict carefully
  2. Get to know them
  3. Consider their perspectives
  4. Draw out their opinions
  5. Handle issues in private
  6. Always be courteous

How to work with the EXPRESSIVE style

  1. Laugh with them
  2. Listen to their opinions
  3. Think big picture
  4. Recognise their contributions
  5. Lighten up
  6. Form a friendship

These behaviours are not difficult to understand.  The challenge is actually doing them, if they’re not behaviours that you naturally gravitate towards, and/or consider important, for example:

  • The Expressive working with the Analytical may find the lack of information they’re given (verbally and non-verbally) frustrating.  Analyticals – serious and exacting – focus on the task and outcome more readily than they do the relationship.  An Expressive – more outgoing and dramatic - can enable the Analytical to share the information that’s important to them by picking just one or two of the six listed.  When they have done something for the Analytical, they can then initiate a conversation that is geared more towards the personal – even a little small talk about the weekend coming or gone. And of course it works the same in reverse – if the Analytical is in charge of the conversation and what’s happening, they might kick off by asking how the Expressive is, and allowing that Expressive to show their personal side before getting down to business.  The Expressive will reciprocate (hopefully!) by being prepared for the conversation and having a grasp of the detail needed.  This way, everyone wins.
  • The Driving – strong-willed and emotionally controlled - working with the Amiable – easy-going and supportive - may be frustrated by the pace at which an Amiable typically works, and their desire to build a relationship first.  They might demonstrate that frustration publically.  If they’re working with high Versatility however, they’ll realise that the Amiable (often the social glue that holds teams together) needs to be handled gently and any challenging conversations need to take place privately.  They also need to be very clear that they’re separating the issue and the person, otherwise the Amiable is more prone than the other Styles to take what’s happening personally and brood about it (to their own and others’ detriment).

Again, this works in reverse.  The Amiable in charge of an interaction with a Driving can keep a weather eye to how much time they have (and the discussion needs), and do so in a way that is professionally brisk without being rude!  Talking about issues in a factual and specific way first, and then talking about the emotional components, helps reassure the Driving of their (the Amiable’s) competence and builds trust in a way that makes sense to them.

The key to Versatility is not to pretend to be a Style that you’re not; rather, it’s to use Style-appropriate behaviour when the task – and/or person – calls for it.  That way you can still be authentically yourself, but an appropriately controlled one, whatever the situation. 

We’ve been using Social Style in our work – and in our team – for over two years now, and it’s the most helpful thing we’ve used in terms of building relationships and personal effectiveness.  Fancy giving it a try? 


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about the author

Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.

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