Adopting Different Styles of Engagement

Business Relationship Management

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter

This post is an aide-memoire for Business Relationship Managers to help identify the key styles of engagement with Business stakeholders . It is part of a series of posts on how to influence others.

In our last post we discussed negotation techniques and how to utilize them, let’s further hone our skills by exploring and adopting different styles of engagement. It's important to recognize and master the different styles of engaging in order to achieve our ultimate goal of influencing others.  

The competency here is for two scenarios and four styles. The first scenario is dealing with your audiences' preferred style and then secondly adopting your style to your audience. Success is being able to identify which style is being exhibited and being able to transition yourself between the styles. This takes a lot of practice and consistency in terms of balancing the impact you want with your audience and being authentic.

There are four styles:

  1. The “Boss”

  2. The “Accountant”

  3. The “Marketer”

  4. The “Co-worker”

The stereotypes suggested above are very leading, there is a little bit of the “Boss”, the “Accountant”, the “Marketer”, the “Co-worker” in all of us; so it is a question of really understanding the context and the person before you attribute a style.

The “Boss”

Dealing with the "Boss". 

The attributes of this person tend to be goal oriented, organized, task oriented and likes making fast decisions. However they can become easily bored, somewhat aggressive and insensitive. In this situation, the approach is presenting the facts in a candid and clear away, stating what you want and why. Assertive body language, confidence, tone and words such as fast, money, best unique, strong work well.

Adopting your style. 

Situations where this could be effective are also when influencing people who lack confidence or who are part of the new team, paradoxically. Once the team has been formed and people have become competent within the role then transitioning to other types of engagement will be necessary. Otherwise you could be seen as overbearing and not listening.

The “Accountant”

Dealing with the "Accountant". 

The attributes of this person tend to be very logical, thoughtful, and enjoy numbers. However, they can come across as distant and unemotional, requiring evidence and tend to make slow decisions. In this situation providing plenty of time to let them make a decision is necessary. Well-documented business cases can persuade these people. Getting straight to business, and having a structured conversation using words like Proof, evidence, logic, research.

Adopting your style. 

Many organizations tend to be very rational, being dependent on processes bureaucracy and decisions made based on facts. However, only using this approach to persuade people misses out on the emotional elements of the bargain.

The “Marketer”

Dealing with the "Marketer". 

The attributes of this person tend to be very sociable, creating new ideas, enthusiastic and talkative. However they can be disorganized, impulsive, emotional and easily led.  These people like to be appreciated and enjoy relationships. Managing the dialogue however can be an issue so be prepared to take the lead. Highlighting aspects that are fun, convenient and inexpensive are likely to elicit a response.

Adopting your style. 

Here it is key to appeal to the emotions and create enthusiasm. Typical situations where appealing to the “marketer” in us will be when trying to instigate change.  Inspiring people means looking to the future, use of imagery and stories.

The “Co-worker”

Dealing with the "Co-worker". 

The attributes of this person tend to be dependable, passive, quiet and easily influenced. However they tend to be cautious, submissive and require approval from other people. Pressure and change tend to be a strong negative. In order to gain the trust of these people, it takes time and efforts in building the relationship. Consistency and approach action and conversation will help. Words which engender towards security, safety, popular and proven are useful.

Adopting your style. 

Here, participation is key. This means an open questioning style, active listening, and making sure that they are part of the conversation. Adopting this approach means you do not have to rely on your expertise and the solution is a joint collaboration. However this approach has a long lead-time, cannot be rushed and does not provide a quick decision.

Considerations on Adopting Your Style

  • Your level of expertise in a specific domain. If this is low, then the “co-worker” approach maybe more appropriate.
  • The depth of relationship you have with the audience. If you are new to the team, then building up relationships first through the “co-worker” approach is best before adopting other styles.
  • The speed required to make a decision. If the matter is urgent then the “boss” approach is relevant.
  • The level of emotional buy-in. If you have all the facts, but you sense that people could be lackluster towards the proposal then the “marketer” approach will be useful.
  • Organizational culture. Which of the above styles best describe yours?  Does your engagement approach match?


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