How Clear Are Your Communications With Others?

This has probably happened to you – you think your idea through and present it to others but, somehow, what you thought was crystal clear isn’t received as such and the results are less than expected.

Don’t worry. It happens to everybody, and hopefully less as time goes on.

But how does this happen and how can you change it? Because, in today’s world, the importance of a clear message has never been greater.

Here at Forte, we find that a clear message has two key elements. First, each of us is responsible for bringing as much clarity as possible to communication, whether it be verbal, written or visual. Secondly, it takes a true assessment of our listening skills, because that ultimately determines how we perceive what we have been presented.

Both are skills that, more often than not, we learn through real-life experiences of what has worked and what hasn’t. To succeed in life, we definitely want to rack up more successes as our communication with others evolves. The Forte Communication Style report is your first step to begin successfully communicating. Click here to get your complimentary report, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete and provides immediate results.

Some may say that good communication skills are only reserved for those lucky naturally charismatic individuals. Yet, even charismatic people will have stories to share about those times their message did not resonate, was misunderstood or – and this is where the listening skills come in – the recipient simply did not agree with the message.

This was one of the challenges in developing the Forte Communication Style Profile. How could we minimize – and hopefully, eliminate – the likelihood of miscommunication, because although the individual had worked hard to achieve clarity of the message, it was misperceived by the recipient.

Therefore, it comes down to perception. You have probably heard the saying, Perception is reality. That rings true, whether that reality be an experience, a message, a background, a methodology, a native language in a global world or simply a state of mind.

When we look at the Forte Communication Style Profile, we see three very different dimensions of actionable information. There is the individual’s Primary Profile – or who that person is – and how the individual is currently adapting to the specified environment over the most recent 30-day period. These two patterns are the result of self-perception, since they are the result of an individual’s own responses on the Forte surveys.

The third profile is the Perceiver Profile, which shares how the individual is most likely coming across to others in the current timeframe. It is based on observed behavior, meaning it is the product of feedback from others.

Ultimately, this is the potential point of miscommunication – an individual adapting to a certain environment a certain way but being perceived differently.

The good news is that once this is known, Forte offers a Communication Style Strategy (CSS) for the individual to use over the next 30 days to close that gap. With the ability to get Forte Adapting Updates as often as every 30 days, proactively utilizing the CSS strategy over a period of time will minimize the potential for miscommunication.

We have mentioned before that the best communicator is the best listener, and utilizing this Forte Technology to get your message across also enhances your listening skills.

If you would like to take advantage of this technology yourself, there are instructions at the top of this article that direct you to the Forte website. Try it, and we would love to hear your feedback.

Hiring The Right Salesperson…The First Time

You have likely heard the mantra, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” before. This holds true, whether it is a product or service, professional expertise or social entrepreneurship.

You can even extend this into government when elected officials “sell” improvements to the residents (aka taxpayers) of a municipality or state. The taxpayer “buys in” and pays taxes. The sale was made. The check clears the bank.

So, after four decades of helping organizations identify the respective strengths of their sales personnel, we have learned a thing or two.

Here are our basic rules for finding the best salesperson:

  • Above all else, the top-performing salesperson really needs to believe in the product or service he or she provides.
  • The right person must be competent in support of that product or service, as no amount of coaching will overcome an inadequate skill set.

What we find the vast majority of the time is the answers to what drives our client’s top performers are right before our very eyes. As you think about your organization, there are likely some individuals in sales – granted, other positions as well – whose performance comes to mind as something you would like to instill across the greater sales team.

Forté has a rich history of identifying and understanding those communication styles and behaviors that drive top performance:

Step 1: Ask top performers to complete their Forte Communication Style Survey

In this specific instance, we ask the top-performing sales personnel to complete their Forté Adapting Survey regarding “how my customer expects me to act in the close.” In professional services, it could be “how my patients expect me to act,” etc.

Usually, the top performers fall within the top 20 percent of the sales team. From here, we can aggregate the results of a number of top performers to form a “Top Performing” profile for use in recruiting, onboarding and coaching potential performers on the team.

Now that we have this information, we move to the next phase.

Step 2: Build the existing sales team to higher levels of performance.

Salespeople want to achieve. Their success clearly impacts their income and career. We find them very open to coaching or adapting strategies they know have been validated from their team, instead of some cookie-cutter process completed on a national level across a very broad scope of salespeople that may or may not even come close to the product or service they are selling. The buy-in to the process is significant.

Step 3: The Forté Performance Coaching process continues to reinforce existing top performers on how they are adapting to their customer/consumer so they continue to improve. We may also find an updated adapting/coaching strategy that is more effective.

This is not a “once-then-done” endeavor. Life goes on and as the organization grows, new opportunities for improvement present themselves. We can provide Forté Adapting Updates as often as every 30 days to stay in touch with evolving trends and maintain performance ahead of the curve versus falling behind it.

It’s like the old adage, “A rising tide raises all ships” – that’s exactly what we do.

If increasing your revenue is of interest, we would be happy to share specific examples with you and discuss how hiring the right salesperson the first time supports the ongoing growth of your business.

What Matters to Millennials

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Think you know what matters most to Millennial generation employees?

You might need to think again after recent research.

Recently Futurestep, the Recruitment Process Outsourcing arm of Korn Ferry, released a study outlining the current attitudes of Millennials. For the purposes of their study, the company defined Millennials as everyone born after 1980, which includes the as-yet-officially-unnamed next generation into their category.

Below are the highlights of their report. Note that these were the executive’s responses about the Millennials they hired and work with – the Millennials themselves were not interviewed.

What Matters Most to Millennials?

The study sought to nail down the top considerations for attracting and retaining Millennial employees. When asked what matters most to employees born after 1980 the greatest number of respondents said, “the ability to make an impact on the business” (23%) followed closely by “a clear path for advancement” (20%), and “development and ongoing feedback” (16%).

Income came in fourth place at only 13%.

What Influences their Employment Decisions?

When executives were asked what makes Millennials choose one job over another, 38% said, “visibility and buy-in to the vision of the organization,” while 28% said, “a clear path for advancement.”

Job title and pay came in third place at 18%.

How to Recruit Millennials?

The survey revealed that 42% of respondents believe social media is the best tactic for reaching and recruiting Millennials, followed by “word-of-mouth and networking” (28%) and online talent communities (19%).

What do these Results Mean for Employers?

Trish Healy, Futurestep vice president of RPO Operations in North America said, “This research demonstrates the changing priorities of today’s young workforce.”

While previous research determined Millennials value pay over other aspects of employment, this research suggests now Millennials are “placing greater value on understanding what a company stands for and how, as employees, they can play a role in growing the organization into a better, stronger brand.”

Taking this research to heart, ensure you are recruiting on social and mobile platforms. Ensure you are communicating clearly your company’s vision and value. And ensure you are communicating any opportunities available for development and advancement.

With Millennials’ increasingly important contributions to today’s companies, it is worth the effort to keep your finger on the pulse of what is motivating them.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Reach us at the Forte Institute 910-452-5152.


Your Management Style

Every leader has an individual management style that is a blend of their innate personality traits, communication style strengths, work history, and life experience. The question is, do you know yours? And, is it always effective?

Effective leaders know their strengths, and they build a team around them that can compensate for their limitations. They know how to lead from their strengths, without turning a blind eye to their weaknesses.

Here’s six things you can do to ensure that your personal management style will help your company achieve its objectives:

  1. Know your specific management style: Step one is to find out how you are hardwired to lead. What are your strengths? What management style do you default to? An assessment can help you see this objectively in black and white. For instance, you can take the Forte Communication Style Survey to learn both your communication style and your management style.
  2. Know how you’re being perceived: The second step is to discover how you are coming across to those you work with. The adapting portion of the Forte Communication Style Survey also shows you this in black and white. Or you can ask some trusted peers or direct reports for honest feedback. For an even more thorough evaluation, use a 360 leadership assessment to see the full picture.
  3. Understand that your biggest strength can hold you back: It’s common for professionals to figure out what they’re good at and then run with it. In fact, when problems arise, we often pour on more of the same, only stronger. A planning style manager may bog the team down in plans and details, while an influencing manager may talk past the point of helpfulness and slow the team down. Sometimes, less is more – even of strengths. Remember that those around you have different defaults and needs. Your goal is to adapt. So first know your strengths, and then recognize when to throttle them back. 
Forte Adapting updates can help.
  4. Don’t hire in your own likeness: We tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to us. In fact, studies show that managers often rate more highly employees they perceive as “like” them. This birds-of-a-feather phenomena may help you build enjoyable friendships, but always hiring employees with traits like yours will build a lopsided work team. Hire, and then value, a diversity of opinions and strengths, matching each person’s strengths to the role they fill.
  5. Know those you hire: Each person on your team has a way that they like to lead and be led. There are specific ways you can communicate with each of them to best reach them and motivate them. Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. Effective leadership is not just about knowing and using your style, but also about adapting your style as needed to best lead the team. Give your team members the Forte Communication Style Profile to learn how to communicate and motivate the individuals around you.
  6. Get a wingman that is opposite of you: One smart thing you can do for your company and your growth as a leader is to build a relationship with a peer who complements rather than mirrors your management style. They can help you see your strengths and your blind spots. They can suggest alternative approaches you might not think of. And they can tell you how you really come across to the world.

To lead at optimum levels you need – chances are – information that you don’t currently have … like how you tend to lead, how each of your employees prefer to be led, and how you are currently coming across to them. The Forte Institute tool suite can easily put that information in your hands.

If you are in senior management, you’ve already seen time and again that people skills are key to effective leadership. Yet strategy and market positioning tend to occupy the thoughts of most C-level leaders. If you will take the extra step of understanding your own leadership style, then use it and also compensate for it, you will not only help your company excel, but your career as well.

For more information on how leadership assessments can help you hone your leadership style, see this article at or give us a call at the Forte Institute: 910-452-5152.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Communication Studies department. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 


Pinpoint a Great Manager

When a person consistently excels in their position – say as a sales rep – it’s a common practice in organizations to assume that person will make a great manager of their team or division.

Most companies have made at least one successful salesperson the sales manager, only to find their effectiveness in the managerial position a surprising disappointment. The skills required for effective sales don’t necessarily mirror the skills needed for effective management.

We see this frequently on the playing field. Sometimes a successful former player makes a good coach. Sometimes they do not. And sometimes a former mediocre player makes a great coach.

It can be helpful for the sales manager to understand the specific demands of this sales team selling this product – which they do when they rise from that team’s ranks. And it certainly helps for the manager to have the trust or respect of the sales force going in. But how do you know if one of your sales professionals can manage the team?

How do you choose a sales manager that can actually manage? 

Frank Cespedes, Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School (one of Forte’s clients) writes:

To identify salespeople who can become effective sales managers, leaders need to clearly define the specific behaviors required of managers, and then test for them effectively. And this actually isn’t so hard if you use the right framework and assessment techniques, and then use that knowledge and tools to communicate shared expectations with those aspiring to be sales managers.

So the first step is to clearly identify what traits and behaviors are required for successful management of this team.  Forté can help you do that – either by identifying the traits of your other/former top managers, or by getting the input of several key people in key positions and forming a top performer profile.

The next step is to compare that top profile with the profiles of your potential candidates – which Forté can also do for you. Even if you do not have a close match in your talent pool or applicant pool, Forté can help you coach the manager you hire to adapt themselves to display the needed traits and behaviors.

Reality is, to be profitable and competitive in today’s marketplace we cannot simply rely on our gut in promotion or hiring decisions. In fact, interviewing alone rarely results in a slam-dunk hire. Research reveals there’s only about a 14% correlation between a hiring manager’s perception of a candidate’s potential for success, based on an interview, and how the candidate actually performs in the job.

You need to see how your pool of candidates are likely to think and behave in that position, not just hear how they will talk about it in an interview.

So employ assesment techniques such as role plays, tests or simulations in addition to the interview. Have a clear vision of the traits and behaviors this position requires. And utilize software like Forté that can show both you and the applicant, in a matter of mere minutes, their communication and leadership style, and how that compares to the particular needs of this mangerial position.

You can hire a great manager.

We can help.


Give us a call at 910-452-5152.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Communication Studies department. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 




Communicating to Hire


Last year Derek Thompson wrote a brief article for The Atlantic titled:



Anyone who has owned a business, run a business, hired for a position, or worked inside a company has likely wondered the same thing.


The article concludes that: “People are complicated, organizations are complicated, matching people and organizations is complicated, and it’s extremely difficult to predict who will be brilliant and who will be a bust.”


Even large, successful corporations like Google find predicting who will be a good fit for a position perplexingly hard.


(Note: Google has admitted that the brainteaser questions they are famous for asking their interviewees are ultimately useless in finding the right candidate.)


So how do you choose among a stack – even a narrowed down, voted upon stack – of resumes with applicants that look equally qualified?


How do you choose between the top three candidates you brought in for interviews, and all three, while different, had great strengths and raised no discernable red flags?


The Forte Institute offers a complete hiring system to improve employee retention and productivity by helping you hire the right person the first time.


One of the best ways to do that is to understand what kind of traits are necessary for a person to display to succeed in that particular position.


What are the behaviors or characteristics of your top performers? What type of person, beyond education or task expertise, is needed to fill the position –  what key strengths do they need to bring to this position?


We can help you find out.


The Forte Institute can help you determine which traits are needed for high performance in which positions on your team by looking at the profiles of your top performers in each job category. Furthermore, we can show you which of your leading candidates best matches those qualities – and how to coach them in the areas they differ so they can best meet the demands of the job.


Hiring, on-boarding and training a new employee is time-consuming and expensive. And of course, their performance affects your performance as a company. So it’s crucial to make wise hiring decisions.


So why is it so hard to hire great people? It’s not that great people aren’t out there. They are, and they’re applying for jobs at your company. The challenge is knowing which person’s strengths will be a great fit for which position.


Call or email The Forté Institute today and ask us to tell you more about our “Communicating to Hire” service.

Forte Institute member Rachel Olsen is on faculty in the Communication Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist and a trained and certified coach.