The Interpersonal Style Profile

 

What is it?  How to Use it?

 

The purpose of the Interpersonal Style Profile is to help manage relationships more effectively.  The instrument can be applied in a variety of situations, including management, sales and customer service.  In support of this purpose, the profile provides you with a very reliable picture of come across to others based on two dimensions of behavior called Dominance and Sociability.  A knowledge of your interpersonal impact along with guidelines for improvement makes for powerful performance improvement tool.

The concept of interpersonal style focuses on the observable behaviors that are most often used to describe a person’s behavior within the two dimensions of the model.  While these dimensions provide an accurate measure of a person's interpersonal style as seen by others most of the time, they are also situational, in that the behaviors are more or less effective in different situations to varying degrees.  In short, a strength expressed in one situation may be a weakness in another.  For example, a surgeon may show patience, empathy and understanding during a patient interview.  These same behaviors exhibited in the emergency room would probably be less effective.  Learning to adapt your actions to meet the needs of the situation, and the people in it, is the ultimate outcome of style awareness.

Observing Behavior

Whether we consciously realize it or not, all of us are observers of the human scene.  We have conditioned ourselves to pick up clues from the observable behavior of others, such as, a smile, a frown, a deep sigh, a clench of the fist, a shaking of the head, a gaze.  We also send non-verbal signals to others in various ways; for example, a glance away, a crossing of the arms or legs, a hearty laugh, leaning backwards or leaning forward, and countless other actions.  These actions translate into interpretations on the two dimensions of Interpersonal Style.  A simple phrase, “Where are you going?” can be interpreted in a variety of ways. These signals are cataloged in our minds and very often they determine our likely actions and reactions toward each other.

The behaviors that comprise the profile are non-judgmental; in other words, neither good or bad.  There is no right place to be on the profile.  By learning to be a better observer you can determine a person’s style and how it might be the same or different than your own.  Armed with this information and some practice, you can quickly learn to adapt your actions in order to gain endorsement from the other person.

Creatures of Habit

From early childhood, we begin to form a pattern of actions that determine our style.  And although it is not very likely that people would describe us as directive or driving, amiable or analytic in those early years, the fact is that certain patterns start to emerge and become reinforced over time.  The formation of style patterns can be summarized in the simple phrase: Every time you act you reinforce the motivating idea behind what you have done, as long as it makes you comfortable.  Over time behaviors become reinforced as a style emerges.  To sum it up, the responsive acts that we choose are consistent with the set of behaviors we feel most comfortable with, our Comfort Zones.

Non-verbal Communication

As observers, we frequently concentrate on the non-verbal signals we receive, "He is dominant, fast paced, quick to act." or, "She is warm in relationships and open to communication."  Of course, there is no dictionary for us to rely on.  Our translations seem to be based on a combination of instinct, experience, intuition, and possibly, some training.  Most of us would agree, however, that some part of our interpersonal communication is non-verbal.

It may be surprising to learn that researchers generally agree that the non-verbal portion of our communication is as high as 83% of the message.  There are three main forms of non-verbal communication:

· Body language: The use of facial expressions, gestures, and posture.

· Use of space: The manner in which we use, defend and arrange our space.

· Tone of Voice: The expression of our words in terms of tone, pace, and inflection.

 

Describing Behavior

The two dimensions of Interpersonal Style are divided into four quartiles of measurement.  Each quartile represents 25% of the population.  Dominance is a measurement of a person’s effort to influence the thinking and actions of others.  Sociability is the tendency to express feelings openly and to be outgoing with others.

The Model

Interpersonal style consists of a particular pattern of actions that can be observed and agreed upon by others for describing behavior.  The model is divided into behavior patterns with Dominance on the horizontal axis and Sociability on the vertical axis.

 

Interpersonal Style Model

Pattern IV

(Low Dominance/Low Sociability)

Pattern I

(High Dominance/Low Sociability)

Pattern II

(Low Dominance/High Sociability)

Pattern III

(High Dominance/High Sociability)

 

Style Patterns Defined

As an objective observer of style, you can learn to free yourself from premature judgments or reactions. This fresh perspective will help you to view others with greater acceptance based on an understanding of style differences.

Pattern I

Sometimes referred to as driving or directive behavior, this style combines high dominance with low sociability. People in this quadrant get results through assertive and controlled actions.  Drivers are competitive and resourceful.  They prefer to deal with immediately relevant issues and tend to excel at defining goals along with a plan for reaching them.  When over using their strengths, drivers can also appear to be unyielding, poor listeners, inflexible and blunt.

Pattern II

Often referred to as amiable or counseling behavior, this style combines low dominance and high sociability.  Amiables display feelings openly but are not typically aggressive.  Amiables are relationship oriented.  They are supportive, and in turn desire secure relationships.  Amiables are team players that encourage participation and avoid conflict.  They can also appear to be naive, too easy going, gullible, emotional and retiring.

Pattern III

Sometimes referred to as expressive or collaborative behavior, this style combines high dominance and high sociability.  Expressives are very open and are given to a show of feelings and emotions.  Expressives are intuition oriented.  They thrive on involvement and are persuasive.  They respond well to incentives and rewards, and are especially comfortable in a leadership role.  Expressives can also be perceived as impatient, impulsive, dramatic and opinionated.

Pattern IV

Often referred to as analytical or deliberative behavior, this style combines low sociability with low dominance.  Analyticals are good planners and organizers.  Analytics are thinking oriented.  They generally prefer to work alone or in small groups.  Their decisions are based on critical thinking and the examination of the relevant data for each situation.  Analytics can also appear to be poor improvisers, slow decision-makers, rigid, too formal and cautious.

Style Recognition

As you observe others ask yourself, “Is this person more or less dominant than most other people I’ve seen? Is he or she more or less sociable than most people I’ve seen?”  The answers to these two questions will help you to position a person on the matrix.

Keys to Style Recognition

Assets and Liabilities

When a person is feeling stress or tension in a relationship, the assets of his or her style can become liabilities.  This is called Fall Back behavior.

A driver who is direct and assertive can be perceived as blunt and overbearing, or even autocratic.  An amiable that is supportive and flexible can be viewed as ingratiating and vacillating, or acquiescent.  An expressive may be enthusiastic and persuasive or pushy and antagonistic or attacking.  Finally, the analytical that is thorough and careful may be viewed as indecisive and suspicious, or avoiding.

Quite frequently, relationship tension increases because our basic style needs are not met.  For example, a driver needs to be allowed, while, the amiable seeks support.  An expressive seeks recognition, and the analytical needs to be right.

Interpersonal Style and Leadership

Leadership can be viewed as a transaction between the leader and the led, an exchange of services, if you will. As a service or transaction, it is clear that if it is going to work, both leader and led must contribute something to the interaction and both must get something out of it.  In short, effective leadership starts with a quality relationship that is characterized by mutual support and endorsement.

It is also a well-documented fact that the most successful leaders gain their support voluntarily rather than through power and control.  Good leaders depend on the backing they receive from others, rather than position.  When viewed this way a good leader can be found in any walk of life, whether it be teacher, businessperson, or parent.

 

Predicting Behavior

Here are some self management strategies on how to adapt your style to meet the needs of the differing styles.

Managing yourself when relating to directive or driving behavior

Drivers need to be allowed the latitude to act—to move toward their goal.   When working with drivers, support their need to achieve.  Minimize time spent building friendly relationships and use your time efficiently.  When developing action plans, describe the problem using pertinent facts and offer possible options and probabilities.

  Plan to be seen as . . .
  • Clear, specific and brief
  • Businesslike
  • Results-oriented
  • Ready to stress closure

 

  Avoid being seen as . . .
  • Vague and indefinite
  • Personal, informal
  • Directive, forceful
  • Careless with facts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing yourself when relating to amiable or counseling behavior

Amiables are able to build trust and confidence in relationships.  Their ability to effectively support others is the key to their effectiveness.  Emphasize your support for them personally and use your time informally to provide an agreeable framework to negotiate.  Minimize risk by assuring them that your plan is fail-safe.

  Plan to be seen as . . .
  • Candid, open, patient
  • Personally interested
  • Supportive
  • Having a well thought out plan

 

  Avoid being seen as . . .
  • Impatient, forceful
  • Aloof, too businesslike
  • Unhelpful
  • Pressing for a quick decision

 

 

Managing yourself when relating to expressive or collaborative behavior

Expressives want approval and recognition.  Share their vision and demonstrate your support for their ideas and concepts.  Involve them by stressing the exciting aspects of a project.  Use your time to be stimulating, positive, and even expansive.  Provide enough information to test the soundness of your idea, but don’t overwhelm them with details.  Provide solutions to problems and give them an incentive to decide.  When possible, offer an extra incentive to keep the momentum going.

 

  Plan to be seen as . . .
  • Supporting their ideas
  • Providing incentives
  • Supporting commitment
  • Stimulating, enthusiastic

 

  Avoid being seen as . . .
  • Arbitrary, directive
  • Emphasizing restraint
  • Vacillating
  • Unyielding, too structured

 

 

Managing yourself when relating to analytic or deliberative behavior

Analyticals need to be right.  They want to be certain that any action they take is well thought out.  Supply them with facts and support their need for accuracy and dependability.  Use your time to establish credibility for your ideas by demonstrating that you have researched your ideas and plans.  Show them how you arrived at a conclusion.  When asking for a decision, try to show them examples of how the outcome can be assured, and provide consistent, accurate follow up to your plan.

 

  Plan to be seen as . . .
  • Well prepared
  • Working an agenda
  • Ready to follow-up
  • Oriented toward specifics

 

  Avoid being seen as . . .
  • Unstructured, informal
  • Vague, too general
  • No follow through
  • Too reliant on others

 

The context of our relationships is continually changing, particularly in work situations.  The situation and the people in it can be greatly affected by a variety of conditions, which can affect the actions of the leader and the led.  For example, how a manager and his or her team act in a turnaround situation can be quite different than during normal business conditions.  Even the assigned roles or responsibilities will affect our behavior toward others.  An account representative will exhibit relationship skills that may be different than a production manager.  In almost any scenario, a person’s home base style or the position in the matrix that people see him or her in most of the time, doesn’t change, but self-management skills are often temporarily affected by the situation and the people in it.

The Added Dimensions: Going Beyond Style

There are two dimensions of measurement on your profile that are separate from the Interpersonal Style Matrix.  The first is the Comfort Index.  This scale measures the amount of stress between you and your survey respondents.  It is measured in quartiles measuring 25% of the populations shown below.

Comfort Index

Low Comfort Index  High Comfort Index
25% 25% 25% 25%
  • Impatient
  • Tense
  • Strained
  • Patient
  • Relaxed
  • Calm

The Comfort Index is a measure of tension as seen by others.  The scale, does not, of course specify the origin of the tension.  It could be a component of the individual’s basic temperament, or larger forces that are causing unproductive or harmful interpersonal problems.  Most likely it is a combination of both since tension begets tension.  The key to this scale is learning to interpret what the data are saying within the context of your work situation.

Orderliness

 Low Orderliness      High Orderliness
25% 25% 25% 25%
  • Easy
  • Uninspired
  • Vague

 

  • Exacting
  • Resourceful
  • Precise

 

The second dimension is called the Orderliness Dimension.  It is a measure of the amount of structure or organization a person exhibits.  Orderliness may be seen as applied to self, or in regard to a work group.  In either case it is situational because a person can learn to choose the appropriate amount of structure or organization in order to meet the requirements of the situation and the people in it.

As applied to a person’s own work, a person may ideally be described as precise, exacting and resourceful in most business situations. In this context, Orderliness as applied to oneself is usually viewed in the positive sense and will usually generate endorsement from others.  The high endorsement words on this dimension, “impressive” or “extraordinary,” tend to validate this concept.  When applied to what a person expects from members of his or her work group the affect will be more situational.  For example, a person who is highly self-motivated and knowledgeable about his or her work may resent too much structure, while a person who is relatively new to the job may relish it.

The Words Used to Describe Your Style

Your profile contains a list of adjectives and adjectival phrases based on your respondents’ scores.  They are arranged from high to low, from the most and least descriptive.  Another wordlist shows your self-scores. The two lists can be compared to determine the degree of agreement or disagreement you may have with how others perceive you.

The words are sorted based on your scores compared to the population average.  The words are individually weighted so that your score on each word is compared with the average for the population and is expressed in terms of how far from the population average that score is.  For example, if the first word on your “Most Descriptive” list was Straightforward, then you would be in a very high percentile of the population compared to other participants in our sampling.  Conversely, if the last word on your “Least Descriptive” list was Blunt, then you would be in a very low percentile of the population in terms of that perception.

Depending on your work situation, some of the words may be more or less important.  A person in sales would be comfortable being seen as flexible, resourceful and easy to know, while a production manager would be more reassured to see words and phrases such as, takes charge, task-oriented, and aggressive.

 

Managing Behavior

We tend to make decisions on how we treat people based on how we like to be treated, rather than the other person's unique needs.  Learning how to meet the leadership expectations of others is the true challenge, and using the Interpersonal Style model as a tool can help.

A person’s home base style is usually consistent over time and between raters, so the key is learning how to move out of our “Comfort Zone” and into the other person’s arena of expectations while maintaining comfort in the relationship (Comfort Index), while gaining endorsement for our ideas (Orderliness).

 

The Versatile Leadership Model

Endorsement (Orderliness)

Effectiveness of Efforts to Try (Comfort Index)

The Versatile Leader

A successful leader is able to use his or her style to influence a person or group to do something they would not otherwise do.  In other words, influence others to lend discretionary support to the leader’s vision or goals. In order to achieve versatile leadership a person needs to generate endorsement and the perception that an effective effort was made.  From this point of view, leadership is not just a position a person attains when him or her gets promoted.  It goes well beyond that.  It is the leader's behavior that differentiates them from those being led.

The versatile leader focuses on meeting the needs of others and developing associates to bring out the best in them.  From this position he or she determines the direction, which may often require "boat rocking" and single mindedness that may run contrary to the thinking of followers.  He or she is an agent of change.

The Interpersonal Style profile can be a springboard for refining your leadership.  It helps you to understand how others perceive you, not only in terms of your style, but the two elements that affect the quality of your leadership, endorsement and the effectiveness of your efforts to try.

Versatile Leaders are people who display a non-anxious presence while focusing on achievement.  They are willing to reject the familiar for the rewards of change, while making others comfortable in the relationship.

Summary

Leadership can take on many forms beyond the traditional roles that we usually think of.  It is largely based on your ability to manage your half of a relationship effectively.  It applies to all relationships, peers, subordinates, customers, even your boss.  By creatively managing your own behavior you can relate to people outside your Comfort Zone and become a Versatile Leader.