Know Your Audience: Not everybody hears the same

I always find it interesting, when discussing a sermon, a training or a podcast with others, to find out they heard something totally different than me. Sometimes I feel compelled to go back and listen again wondering how I missed it! We are all wired so different kinds of information gets our attention.

Let’s imagine you are leading a meeting with a group of people that hear the same content but receive it in different ways. How do you cater your content or your facilitation of that meeting to their approach? I will often draw on the insights from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to help me understand how people can hear the same content in such a different way. Check out below for ways that you can engage these four different “hearing” styles (based on MBTI) if you are trying to introduce new information in a meeting:

Dreamers 

Dreamers are looking for the “why” behind things. They like to contribute in the early conversations that involve change. If not involved early, give them the context as you communicate where you are going. What will be different? If we do this new thing, what will be the impact? Inspire and motivate with fresh ideas and clear goals with some opportunity for them to add or build on the “dream.” Clear boundaries in the meeting can be helpful at curbing potential “rabbit trails” — clarify the scope of the discussion, set a time limit on brainstorming, be clear on how next steps are formulated and decided.

Fixers 

The Fixer’s genius is they see when things are broken and need to be fixed. They see into the details on what could be tweaked or reworked to make it better. If they don’t see a compelling reason to change, they have a knack for poking holes in any great idea. What really is broken? How do you know it’s broken? How will making this change solve the problem at hand? Share enough details to “make your case” and outline a few next steps. Then, invite feedback. They will notice what you missed. “Meeting before the meeting” can be helpful with a Fixer. Giving them time to process in advance can help minimize some of the “hole-poking” that can derail a meeting.  

Doers

The doer’s genius is found in their label — they get things done. The quick response to what needs to happen in the here and now is motivating. Meetings are boring and a waste of time for most Doers, unless they are quick, relevant, and practical with a clear next step they can act on. Set an agenda that is strongly facilitated and keep things moving. This can help engage the Doer and minimize potential resistance if the discussion is too “in the clouds” or the process is too drawn out.

Thinkers

The Thinker’s genius is their deep analysis of every aspect of the situation or the problem. They turn things upside down and inside out in their mind. Their mental efforts are working to link the parts and the whole together to see the most strategic path forward. When I was on the team with a Thinker, everybody else was dreaming, fixing, and doing while he listened quietly. As the meeting was about to end, one team member turned to our Thinker and asked for his thoughts. The wisdom that flowed from our teammate stopped us all in our tracks to rethink some critical aspects of our next steps. Call on the quiet Thinker in your group before the meeting ends to uncover key elements that could be missed and ensure everyone is on the same page before you leave the room.

Next Steps

  1. Identify your audience member’s style(s). What kind of facilitation or presentation will connect best with your audience? 
  2. Identify your approach to help them hear. What needs to be included in the information you share? How do you want to facilitate the agenda to address audience needs while keeping things moving?
  3. Identify what could derail your meeting. Each style adds value to the conversation AND can get trapped in their own style. Prepare for the actual meeting as well as consider how to set up the meeting to address potential derailers before they happen. 

A little preparation on knowing your audience and how they hear your message can help you craft both the content and the flow of your meeting to get the most engagement from your team and minimize potential stalls or even hijacks to the meeting. Also, praying for your audience is as important as preparing your content. Knowing who they are, what gifts they have and how they serve on the team make a difference in how effective you are as a team.  Check out last week’s blog on Presentations: what to cut and what to say.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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