How many times have you thought you were a great communicator only to discover that your efforts failed?

As a basketball coach, I thought I delivered my messages clearly, concisely and directly. I was result-driven, focused, and intense, which often scared my players and peers. I actually believed that everybody desired this style of communication and was frustrated when other people failed to get to the point.

What I failed to grasp was that this approach did not work with all people, which meant I wasn’t getting the best from my players. It took me several years to understand the differences in personality styles and how interpreting these various styles could help me inspire my players to greater heights.

There are many different names for the personality styles, but they all describe essentially the same four traits. Michael Dobson in his book, Exploring Personality Styles, described the four traits as the Focuser, Relater, Integrator and Operator while Dr. Tony Alessandra, the author of Relationship Strategies, described them as the Lion, Lamb, Peacock, and the Owl.


These people are results-driven, ambitious, focused, determined and usually have their heads buried in work. They are very practical and consider themselves to have great common sense. They love to be in command, exude authority and want to be valued for being productive.

In order to communicate with the Focuser, you want to get to the point and value their time.


The Relaters are known as peace makers. They want to be welcomed and valued and want other people to feel the same. They value teamwork and the ability to be flexible. Their focus is on coordinating and facilitating group goals. They want to be valued for being adaptable.

The best way to communicate with relaters is to get to know them. Spend some time with nonessential conversation, and then make them feel like a part of what you are doing.


The integrators are focused on innovation and problem-solving. They are very social people who love excitement. They like people who question and have creative ideas. Their focus is on ideas and input. They want to be valued for being known as self-reliant.

If you would like to get the best response from Integrators, you want to provide them with new ideas but back those ideas with results which have been documented.  They also love the idea of brainstorming.


Operators are often labeled as data gathers who desire to be perfect. They love facts and figures. They monitor, analyze and document. They value policies and procedures and those people who follow the rules. They want to be known for their knowledge and accountability.

In order to communicate effectively with Operators, it is best to let them know that you play within the rules. Show your respect for details and accuracy. Ask them how and where questions but avoid using absolute words like “always” or “never.”


Once you understand what drives people, then you are able to better communicate with them. This ability changes your relationship by encouraging mutual respect. When you show that you are willing to speak other people’s language, they not only hear you better but give you their highest effort.

Isn’t it worth investing a little bit of your time to create better relationships? I know it was for me.