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Process Communication Model™: A practical approach to navigate diversity

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As we contine our blog series looking at virtual teams and how to ensure they are inclusive, this week we explore the Process Communication Model ™ as a tool for understanding the different personalities of our teams and how to engage with them.

“We need to understand how to authentically connect with people different from us,” says Andrea Cardillo, Managing Partner at TPC Leadership in Milan. “To complete the tapestry that we are, we need to appreciate diversity and become comfortable with switching our leadership style in order to engage everyone in a unique way.”

In a previous article, we explored why we need to tackle inclusivity in virtual teams more than ever. But if we are to be inclusive, we must engage those who have a different cognitive and behavioural style to our own. And we need to begin to expand our understanding of such variations and how they may impact our own approach to leadership.

Many personality tools accomplish this task but we have found over time that the PCM – or Process Communication Model – is particularly effective in providing managers and leaders with a pragmatic framework to understand personality differences and how to engage with them more constructively.

Six ways to see the world

The Process Communication Model developed by Taibi Kahler focuses on the fact that how we say something is often more important than what we say.

The tool helps leaders to recognise and understand how to engage with six core personality types with unique characteristics, distinguished by their perspective, priorities, communication style and approach to leadership.

The Process Communication Model does not merely categorise everyone into one type – but names six layers that are present in every person to different degrees, and helps us to understand which characteristics are dominant in a person’s current phase of life.

Thinker – organised, logical and glad to take on responsibility. Thinkers frame their ideas through the lens of fact-based logic, rational thinking, and their capacity to categorise situations and events. You will recognise this characteristic in someone if they often express themselves by saying, ‘I think that… the data shows… ‘ or when they encourage others to think. They respond well to questions engaging their thinking processes and so they may feel more motivated by a democratic leadership style which encourages and leverages their expertise and capacity to think clearly.

Persister – observant, dedicated and conscientious. Persisters see the world through the lens of their opinions, values and beliefs. You might recognise this characteristic in someone when they often say ‘I believe that…’ or ‘According to me…’ or ‘What I believe is most important is…’. Like thinkers, they respond well to questions and are engaged by a democratic leadership style which encourages and leverages on their role as trusted advisors and contributors to the greater whole.

Harmoniser – compassionate, sensitive and warm towards others. Harmonisers see the world through the filter of their emotions. You will recognise them when they ask, “How are you?” with sincere concern, or when they use nourishing language like, “I am really happy to be working with you today.” They respond well to others recognising who they are, above what they achieve. Harmonisers will feel more engaged when leaders can authentically express a relational and benevolent style.

Imaginer – reflective, calm and imaginative. Imagineers deal with the world through the filter of their imagination. You will recognise them when they seek time alone to reflect and come up with ideas. They respond well to the task-oriented imperatives of a directive leader, helping them to connect with the here and now so they can translate their imaginings into real-world action.

Rebel – creative, spontaneous and playful. Rebels interact with the world through the lens of their immediate (and often strong!) reactions. They love playful connection with others and adore when, within a task, there is also an opportunity to have some fun with others.  You will recognise this characteristic in someone when they often respond in the extreme terms (‘I love it!’ or ‘I hate it!’ or ‘Fantastic!’ or ‘This sucks!’). Rebels usually respond better to a Laissez-faire leadership style, leaving them free to explore, play and achieve goals in their own unique way.

Promoter – adaptable, charming  and persuasive. Promoters see the world as a place to take action. You will recognise this characteristic in someone when they seem to size up opportunities wherever they go, often using imperatives like: ‘Do this please’ or ‘Give me…’. Their action-oriented and goal-oriented approach responds better to a directive leader setting clear and – even better – challenging tasks where they can leverage on their capacity to influence others.

Among the six types, there are two that play a very significant role in each person’s life.

The first one is the person’s Base type, which develops in the first few years of life and determines their preferred communication and interaction style, as well as some of the core character strengths.

The second one is the Phase type, which determines the priority psychological needs in our current phase of life, and has a direct impact on motivation and energy at work.

Our culture and familiar environment will also, of course, play its part in shaping these layers of personality – and will influence how free and competent we feel to operate in each one.

Becoming more complete

“Organisations are learning that the best team does not consist of the people who score best on some test,” says Scott E. Page in The Diversity Bonus. “What is happening in organisations is aligning with what was found in the labs: The best teams are diverse.”

The Process Communication Model highlights types of interaction that are cross-cultural, but can manifest differently depending on a person’s background and context. Someone with strong Rebel-type energy in Japan may behavioralise it differently from someone with a similar energy in the UK. For leaders, learning to recognise and engage people differently, depending on who they are, is an essential first step towards including all individuals.

If our team has high levels of Rebel energy, we have to understand that not everyone will interpret the atmosphere of jokes and jibes as welcoming or effective. If we are to reap the benefits of a diverse and inclusive team, we have to make space for the logical as well as the spontaneous, for the harmoniser as well as those who thrive in challenge and conflicts, for the directive as well as the democratic.

“Communication and interaction preferences might not be immediately visible,” says Andrea Cardillo, “but the impact can be devastating if they are not taken into consideration.”

A more complex world

The Process Communication Model is meant to be a starting point only. In a globalised world, people are more complex than models. A person can be Asian, but born in the US, and have lived most of their lives in Spain. You will have to get to know them – and appreciate the nuances that go beyond what a leader can learn from a book.

What these tools do give us though, is a basic framework to recognise diversity. A way to understand in broad terms where our blind spots lie – and where we might have misinterpreted behavioural styles in the past.

Learning how to manage virtual cross-cultural teams is more important than ever. As we commit to grow in our awareness of barriers to inclusion, we will inevitably stumble across areas in our thinking that we need to change. But the stakes are too high to avoid that discomfort.

When the atmosphere of our organisation makes everyone feel at home, our collective intelligence will only increase, and the tapestry of who we are will be that much more complete. Everyone – including those who were always seen and heard – will feel how much better it has become.

Want more insight on how to move forward? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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