Jobs and the Future of Work

How to recognise and manage different work styles

Carson Tate
Founder, Simply Living
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Work style—or the way we think, structure, organize, and complete our work—is the foundation upon which businesses operate, grow, and thrive today.

If everyone in your organization had a very linear, analytical, planned approach to completing projects and didn’t value the disruption of new ideas, your company’s next big, fresh, bold idea is not even a possibility. And if everyone in your organization had a very big-picture, strategic, intuitive approach to completing projects and chafed against the structure of project plans, then you might frequently find yourself over budget and behind schedule. Neither of these situations supports sustained business growth over time.

It’s time, then, to start thinking about and promoting diversity in the work styles of your team members. Here are three easy, yet bottom-line-valuable ways to start.

1. Notice the workflow style of your team members

In poker, they call them tells: they’re betting patterns or physical changes that you use to evaluate your opponent and their hand. We have the exact same tells in our work-flow styles.

To quickly identify your colleague’s obvious tells, think about the following questions:

  • Does your colleague consistently complete work early, in advance of deadlines, or wait until the last minute?
  • Does your colleague send emails with only a few words or write novels?
  • Does your colleague gesture and use their hands while talking? Or are they more controlled and stoic in their movements?

Observing your colleagues and noticing these tells, both subtle and overt, will give you clues as to their respective work styles.

In any office you will find four basic types of work styles:

  • Logical, analytical, linear, and data-oriented
  • Organized, sequential, planned, and detailed-oriented
  • Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented
  • Big-picture, integrative, and ideation-oriented

2. Leverage the work style strengths of your team members

Now that you are aware of the differences in how your team members work and have a general feel as to which one of the four work styles they gravitate toward respectively, it’s time to leverage the unique strengths that each work style contributes to a team and the organization.

Your logical, linear, data-oriented colleague’s strengths are in analyzing data, logical processing, and solving complex problems. They are focused on achieving the stated goal or outcome and will ensure that you stay on budget.

Your organized, planned, and detail-oriented colleague’s strengths are in establishing order, structuring projects and tasks, and accuracy. They do not miss a typo and will ensure that work is completed on time.

Your supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented colleague’s strengthsare in building relationships, facilitating team interaction, and persuading or selling ideas. They will ensure that all of the project stakeholders are up to date on the project and that your ideas are effectively communicated throughout the organization.

Your big-picture, integrative, and ideation-oriented colleague’s strengths are serving as a catalyst for change, inventing solutions to problems, and integrating and synthesizing disparate ideas. They will ensure variety in both thought and execution and ensure that you do not stagnate.

3. Ensure different work styles are represented on each and every project

On the next project team you lead or participate in, ensure that the different work styles are represented. Realistically you might not have a person who represents each of the four work styles, but you can ensure that their approach and thinking is represented by asking this series of questions about the project:

  • What is the goal?
  • What is the deadline?
  • What data or facts are necessary?
  • What metrics will be used to evaluate success?
  • How will the project be delivered?
  • How will the project be completed? Is a project plan necessary?
  • How will information about the project be communicated?
  • Who are the project stakeholders?
  • Who else needs to be involved?
  • Who can support you in achieving the goals of the project?
  • What are the gaps between where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the project?
  • Why does this project matter to the team and the organization?
  • What barriers can you foresee that will need to be addressed as you implement this project?

Use the answers to these questions to develop the project plan.

There is value in the diversity of our work styles. By observing the work style differences in our colleagues, leveraging the strengths of those work styles, and ensuring that different work styles are represented on each and every project, you position your team and your company for innovation, growth, and sustainability.

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Carson Tate is an internationally renowned expert on workplace productivity and the creator of the Working Smarter, Not Harder™.

Image: Facebook employees work in the design studio at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

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