Communication 101 for Music Entrepreneurs: Know Your Communication Style

In my recent post about what it takes to be a successful musician in the 21st Century, one of the skills that I mentioned was Communication Skills.  What do I mean?

Musicians need powerful communication skills in many different settings:

  • In ensembles to make sure that the group is on the same page musically, listening carefully to each other so that the music flows;
  • In collaborations with other artists to maximize the synergies and create a powerful experience for the collaborators and their audiences;
  • Engaging their audiences so that the audience members will appreciate the music and have a deeper and richer understanding of the performance;
  • Teaching so that their students understand how they can improve and grow and learn;
  • Creating something new, be it a festival, a non-profit organization or an ensemble, and getting people on board to support the new venture
  • Networking so that they can meet and connect with other people.

Effective communication is a powerful leadership skill.  It starts with knowing who you are as a communicator and what are your strengths.  One way to do this is to know your communication style.

Think of communication styles as the way you naturally relay information to others and focus on the tasks versus the relationships.  Communication styles break down into four categories.  If we take the case of a string quartet, the four styles would play out as follows:

  1. The leader of the group who sets the pace and leads the group to achieve maximum bottom-line results, namely a great performance;
  2. The person who is bursting with ideas and can’t wait to share them with the rest of the group;
  3. The person who is focused on the details and aims for precision; and
  4. The person who is concerned about the group dynamic and how the members of the group are relating to each other

The first person is the Driver, the person who likes to take control of the situation and get to solutions.  Drivers value getting the job done and being the person who makes that happen through hard work, decisiveness and delegating to others.

The next person is Expressive, the idea and big-picture person who is excited about sharing ideas with everyone else.  Expressives tend to be happiest when they can offload the details to someone else!

Person #3 is Analytic, the person who values accuracy, precision and details.  Analytics are organized, logical and tend to be cautious.  They also prefer to work alone so if you have someone like that in your ensemble, it is important to respect their need for privacy.

The last person is Aimiable.  Her priority is relationships and making sure that everyone on the team is doing well.  Aimiable folks tend to be warm, caring and friendly and solicit a lot of advice from others before making decisions.

A great team has people with all 4 of these tendencies since each is appropriate under the right circumstance. 

Why is it important to know about communication styles and how can it help you to be a powerful leader and a successful entrepreneur?

First, if you know your own style, you can understand where your strengths lie.  If you are the Aimable person, you play a valuable role in making sure that the group gets along.  You can focus on building up this strength and use it to make your maximum contribution to a team.

You can also see where a style may be holding you back.  Again, our amiable person may have trouble getting his work done since he is so focused on how everyone is feeling.  By understanding where a style might be holding you back can motivate you to close the gap and work on being more decisive and focused.

Second, by knowing other people’s styles, you can learn how to communicate with them more effectively.  Take the Driver, for example.  If you know that she cares about bottom-line results, you will not waste that person’s time chatting about your weekend. Instead, you will be more effective by telling the Driver that you have an idea that will make the piece sound better and result in a more effective performance.  Similarly, when communicating with an Analytic musician, be sure to be precise:  “Measures 18-25 of the 2nd movement would benefit from a slower tempo.  Let’s try it this way” as you demonstrate with precision what you are talking about.

Above all, use these styles to grow and understand others, while remaining true to yourself.  It is not about becoming a chameleon!  Rather, it is using empathy and emotional intelligence so that you can best understand how to deliver information in such a way that the person you are speaking with will best understand you.  Now that is leadership! And it shows why musicians should incorporate leadership skills in order to achieve better results personally and professionally.