A leader must be everything to everyone.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul wrote:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.
1 Corinthians 9:19-20,22

Few would dispute that Paul was a leader. And he became everything to everyone to accomplish his purpose.

A Leader Must be Everything to Everyone
To get the best performance out of each individual, a leader must be everything to everyone. (Click to Tweet)

A leader today must do the same thing, with a few exceptions.

To the energetic, you must show energy.

To the nerds, you must talk like a nerd.

To the lighthearted, you must use humor. You must learn to be funny.

To a high D (on the DISC profile), you must communicate like a high D.

So that by all means you may get the best performance out of each individual.

How to communicate with everyone

1. Learn their communication style.

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Use DISC and box them in a little bit. This is the starting point.

2. Observe them.

Do they joke? Do they use tech-speak? Do they bounce off the walls when they speak?

3. Ask them. Yes, it can be that simple.

4. Ask others. Interview co-workers, spouses, and others to learn the best way to communicate with each person.

5. Practice. Odds are that about 75% of people will require a communication style outside of your comfort zone. You better put in some effort.

Dos and Don’ts

Do: Realize there aren’t many exceptions.

Get used to the idea that most people aren’t like you and that you must learn to communicate with them.

Do: Hire to your strengths.

If you truly have a hard time communicating with jokers, don’t hire them. You will have a limited talent pool, but it’s better than being unable to communicate with someone you are paying.

Do: Ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to enlist others. Points 1-4 above all require the assistance of others. Tell them the purpose of the DISC profile and interviews.

Don’t: Compromise.

Being everything to everyone is not an invitation to sacrifice morals, vision, or what is best for the majority of the team.

Don’t: Try too hard.

It will come across as fake. You still have to be yourself.

Don’t: Try too little.

Being a leader is hard work. You either put in the effort to learn to communicate better or suffer the consequences.

How do you learn the best way to communicate with others?

24 thoughts on “Everything to Everyone

  1. Bob Winchester says:

    I love it, “box them in a little.”

    Asking for help is great too. I’m always surprised when I hear my wifes take on someone that I thought i knew. Different style, different interaction, different outcome.

    Thanks Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Another way to view it is to show you the lines where you can color.

      The area in which to color is still large, but it’s defined. Personality styles help you do that.

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    It takes practice. I don’t always get it right – especially the first time – or especially when I’m tired or rushed. It’s important to take the time and focus our energy on communicating well with each of our team members. Great reminders today, Matt.

    1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      OOOhh, tired and rushed. Yup, thats when my communication is certainly at its best 😉 haha. Thats when practice and focus pay off! Good points Jon!

  3. Carol Dublin says:

    Great points Matt. If you don’t learn to communicate with your team, then you risk losing good people because they are frustrated. Something I have realized lately, since I work with a lot of high I’s and D’s, and I’m a high C, I need to ask enough questions to get the details I need since they typically will hit the high points. So in a way, it goes both ways – I have to give them the info they way they need it, and get the info the way I need it. Great post!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      As a high D, all those questions annoy me by nature, but I am learning to be patient.

      I’ve found that when a high C gets about 30 seconds into their 5 minute explanation, I have already made my decision. But I focus really hard on listening to the rest and being respectful of their time too.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        you’re a high D??? who woulda thunk it?

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Shocker, I know.

  4. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    awww man! this sounds like WORK!! I don’t know if I’m up for that bro…
    haha, I think one best ways to learn the best way to communicate with others is to…communicate. As you talk and interact with someone, you will learn how they communicate, and what they respond best to. The key is paying attention. As you’re talking with them you have to be asking yourself “how do they communicate? What are they responding to in my communication? What are they NOT responding to?” and just make a note to adapt your communication more moving forward.
    Another aspect is just making sure that you are really listening. If you’re really listening, and truly want to understand, I think people are more receptive to you and more likely to receive your communication.
    Good post!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good one.

      Practice, practice, practice makes a great communicator it does.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Thanks Yoda!

    2. Steve Pate says:

      Also when you do try their ideas and able to implement their thoughts into your projects, that non verbal communication, will speak tons on future conversing.

      1. Matt McWilliams says:


      2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Yup, the effort goes a long way and is definitely a secret ingredient in communication!

  5. Bret Wortman says:

    Thank you for delving a bit deeper. I got a bit nervous when I read, “To the nerds, you must talk like a nerd.” Because I are one.

    Few things will set us off as a group faster than a manager-type who struts into the room and lays down the lingo without any real understanding. *Click* go the internal listening switches and everyone’s tuned out. Contrast that with the leader who comes in, treats everyone with genuine respect, doesn’t stoop to falsely trying to seem “hip”, asks smart questions and really listens. That guy will get everyone’s respect no matter how un-nerdy he may be.

    Style and authenticity matters more than lingo, and I believe that’s what you’ve said here!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well said Bret.

      I think Paul left out part, but certainly meant it…

      To the Jews, I acted like a Jew, because I already knew how to do that.

      To the Gentiles, I learned from them, and became like them.

      To the weak, I listened, sympathized, and then became weak.

      To the nerds, I learned to speak their language and what really makes them tick, and cared about them along the way.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        I have a hard time seeing Paul saying “to the nerds…” but then again, ya never know 😉

      2. Bret Wortman says:

        Paul was a nerd. I don’t know what translation you’re reading, but mine clearly demonstrates that he was my people.

      3. Matt McWilliams says:

        I’m with Bret.

    2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      Hey! *click* is the sound of my listening switch turning off when Matt tweets! how coincidental! 😉 But you’re exactly right, understanding is so, so important! Thanks for your insight Bret!

  6. Tom Dixon says:

    I’d encourage you to consider hiring outside of your strengths – I think having folks on your team who are different than you can help to show your blind-spots I want my team to have a different perspective and different style than me. I know what you are saying, you do have to relate to different people differently. I approach everyone on my team differently, because they ARE different. You got me thinking tonight…thanks!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good points Tom.

      I definitely don’t want yes men or people with the same skills as me, but I do want people with whom I am more naturally going to communicate well with if at all possible. Ultimately, all things being equal or close to equal, I will hire a high D over a high C. My preference in order is:


      and so on…that is how hard of a time I have with high C’s. I am working on it though because I realize I rarely get to choose who I communicate with. But when I do, I choose people in those five profiles.

  7. I think asking folks what they need to hear in order to get the job done is great. I was told to be direct with men – but when I checked with a few by asking them – some prefered a softer approach. A home example: I asked my husband would he rather I state what I need, like “I need you to take out the garbage today please”, or would he rather I say something like “when you have a moment, I would appreciate you taking the garbage out today.” He choose the latter. It takes me longer to get the wording right and to express my thought – but if it is what gets the point across, it is worth it. At work the main fellow I worked with was different – he liked things straight to the point – no dancing around the fire. One workmate likes the story behind the need to help her evaluate, another wants the need stated and then more info if asked. It is something like the love languages – it is the style of communication. No matter which style used – all must be done with respect.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well said Lulu!

      Love languages are applicable everywhere. Just because Chapman uses the word “Love” doesn’t mean they don’t apply at work. Replace the word “Love” with “Appreciation” and they still work.

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