People are all different, which is one thing that makes humans unique. While our differences make our lives interesting, they can add a challenging layer to work. You might be a morning person, while your colleagues are more productive in the afternoon. Perhaps you love to collaborate, while others prefer to work alone. Some people perform better working in longer sprints, while others are better at executing on short term plans.
Successful businesses tend to have well-connected teams that utilize a variety of strengths to be productive. It’s important to be able to work with various personalities and a wide range of skill sets. You’ll be better equipped to do this if you know your own work style and how to manage it. In this article, we are covering the different work styles and how teams can take advantage of them.
What is a “Work Style”?
You may not have given much thought to a work style, or if you even have one - but you do. Simply put, a work style is the way that you think about, structure, organize, and complete work. Work styles range from linear and analytic to more focused on planning, or flexible and linear. Divergent work styles become more noticeable working in team or hybrid environments. As individuals collaborate as a group, not managing unique work styles can block progress and hinder results.
That doesn’t mean you need to change the way that you work. The goal of understanding your work style isn’t to change it or try to take on a “better” approach. After all, it’s difficult to change patterns that are an integral part of who you are. Rather, it’s helpful to know your own working style so that you can adapt hybrid work processes that better allow for other collaboration and productivity. Additionally, knowing the different work styles of your colleagues can help you to create better working environments and put the right tools in place.
Research shows that improving teamwork and focusing on positive work experiences is good for individuals and for companies. 41% of team members who are aware of their strengths show lower absenteeism, and team members who use their strengths independently have a better quality of life. Furthermore, one-third of HR specialists agree that collaboration impacts employee morale, while effective communication generates 4.5 times higher talent retention. These are just a few of the statistics that point toward the importance of understanding your own work style and that of your co-workers. Doing so will make you more productive on an individual basis, and generate better results for your department and your organization.
Though work styles tend to account for several different behaviors, preferences, and personality traits, there are a few key areas to look at in order to understand your own work style. Start by asking yourself:
- How do you communicate?
- How do you plan your day?
- How do you handle conflict?
Related Article: How to Identify Your Unique Learning Style
The Types of Work Styles
Your work style is how you complete work, but it goes beyond that. It has to do with how you prefer to work, the different personality types and how they affect what you do. In many cases, people don’t even know these things about themselves, but how we work has a lot to do with who we are as people.
In order to be productive as a team with varying work styles, it’s helpful to first define the types of working styles. As different as people are, they generally fall into roughly six work style categories.
Leader work style
People with this mindset tend to take control of a situation whether they have the authority to do so or not. It’s not necessarily about hierarchy, but more so their natural inclination to take charge. These individuals tend to be inspirational, and others seem to follow them. That’s because they often have a vision or a “bigger picture” of the right way to work, which can motivate others. Every team needs a leader, but problems arise when there are too many in one team. You’ve heard the term “too many cooks in the kitchen”. If multiple people try to be a leader, then a group is pulled in too many directions and things are actually less likely to get done. While those with a leader personality can excite and motivate a team, and gain buy-in from stakeholders, they can also be detached. Leaders are great at sharing a vision, but their strengths rarely lie in executing on this strategy. It’s important that they are paired with other work styles so that tasks can get completed in a systematic way.
“Doer” work style
Just as the name implies, a “doer” is all about getting things done. They are motivated by tasks and checking items off their list. They excel in situations where they can take on specific projects and work toward milestones. These individuals make great team members, because they are focused, driven, and reliable. However, there are a few downsides present in this working style. Occasionally people who are so task-oriented are so eager to complete tasks that they don’t spend the amount of time that they should. They may be more concerned with checking the item off the list than getting the best results. Furthermore, these people aren’t always the most communicative. They work best alongside a strong manager who can help them to focus on the bigger picture and support them in communicating and collaborating.
Logical work style
There is a lot of overlap between a “doer” and a logical working style. These people excel at getting tasks done, but they also tend to look at their work analytically. Before tackling a problem, they tend to think through it and use any data at their disposal to make the best decisions. They use information to create processes that are most effective for completing tasks. These individuals tend to be known as linear thinkers, which helps them to be focused and accomplished, but they can experience some of the downsides of a “doer” as well. They may not communicate as well as those with different working styles, and sometimes neglect to plan as part of a larger initiative. It’s ironic that people who are so analytical can be poor planners, but this is often the case with the logical working style. It’s important that management of a team with logical work styles helps everyone to see the bigger picture, as well as plan for longer milestones. Having a clear plan with carefully planned deadlines will help everyone on the team, no matter their working style.
Detail-oriented work style
This work style tends to be present in the learners of a work team. People with this style tend to be thoughtful and sequential thinkers, who approach their work methodically and strategically. They need a sense of stability and order, which they can also bring to a team environment. This sense of order can actually be helpful for team bonding, too. While these workers complete tasks pragmatically, they tend to avoid risks and can work slowly. They are likely to perform research and look at all angles, which makes them excellent engineers. If you have a detail-oriented person on your team, it’s important to note that they might work slowly - but they’ll create balance and help round out a group.
Supportive work style
The other styles haven’t really touched on emotional aspects, but this work style is more related to that element. Being emotional at work often has a negative connotation, but when emotions are channeled in a supportive way, this can be positive. These individuals build relationships, develop collaboration, and create harmony among diverse team members. A supportive work style is really the driver of an effective team that communicates and collaborates well. You can count on them to actively work towards communicating and cooperating with others. While they are often the glue that holds a team together, they may or may not excel in more analytical or task-focused areas. It’s important to know the strengths of your other team members and help them with planning and task completion if these are not their strong suits.
Idea-oriented work style
Every team needs a visionary, a “big picture” thinker. Similar to the leader, they can inspire others and generate excitement. The difference is that idea-oriented people are often excited by risk and the option to pursue the unknown. They radiate energy and tend to energize those around them, but they often don’t want to account for the details and are less concerned with the downsides of any particular choice. As you might expect, because they are so focused on the bigger picture, they might miss smaller, less important elements of a project. They are great at turning lemons into lemonade, but it’s a good idea to have someone else watching over the recipe! A team will have a better balance if they have a leader and idea-oriented person as well as a detail-oriented or logical work style individual.
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Can You Choose Your Work Style?
Which work style are you? Chances are you’re a combination of more than one, with traits that are more dominant in a certain area. Knowing which work style you have will help you to know your strengths and weaknesses and work better with others. Begin by thinking about how you communicate. If you tend to be a more active listener, you might have a supportive work style. If you like writing things down and managing conversations that way, you could possess a detail-oriented work style. Next, think of your propensity for planning. How do you structure your day? The way you plot your time can reveal a lot about your work style. If you are careful about adhering to deadlines and writing down milestones to reach them, chances are you have a detail-oriented work style. Other things to consider are if you are more flexible, spontaneous, collaborative, etc. Do you enjoy a fast-paced environment or does pressure stress you out? Look for clues to point to where you fall on the work style spectrum.
Your work style is an integral part of who you are, based on inherent preferences and personality traits that are somewhat out of your control. That being said, compromise is an important part of life and work. Optimizing your strengths is key for work as well as personal relationships. While you may not be able to completely change your work style, you can adapt it in order to get the best results out of your work. Your energy is best spent focusing on maximizing the strengths that are present in your work style, and learning how to gel with other work styles on your team. That being said, if you want to perform better in certain areas, try developing a few new habits that are more reflective of a working style you admire.
For example, if you tend to be an idea-oriented person who loves big ideas, make a point of paying more attention to the details. Have a working session with your team where you can put together a list of tasks necessary to complete larger initiatives. Keep this list handy and take the time to reflect on the important steps and timelines. Set automated reminders for each deadline.
Similarly, if you have a detail-oriented work style, then you will need to be intentional about seeing the bigger picture. Consider ways to motivate your whole team and keep larger goals in mind. Talk to your managers about how your work impacts overall initiatives and helps to achieve company goals. While you manage the everyday details, continue to have conversations with team members about your team’s overall vision.
The point is that you can’t truly choose your work style (at least not without a lot of proactive effort). You can, however, perform research on your own work style to make the most of your natural traits. Similarly, you can learn about other work styles and adapt the traits that you admire. Simply by being conscious of different work styles, you can take measures that will lead to better performance and outcomes.
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Managing Different Work Styles
There is no right or wrong work style. It takes all kinds of work styles to make a team work the way it should. Consider a team of only logical work style individuals: they’d quickly become bogged down in minutiae and it would take a long time to reach goals. Just like a team with only idea-oriented people would spend far too much time generating new plans, without many people to execute on them. The key is to know your own work style, so that you can best communicate with others. Additionally, knowing your work style will help you to hire the right team and put the best people in place. Surrounding yourself with people who can fill out your team will make you stronger and more efficient. Having a mix of work styles will help everyone to complement each other for increased productivity.
Having more diversity in your work teams will help ensure a well-rounded effort. That being said, even a well-coordinated team requires oversight and direction. Begin by understanding each individuals’ work style and their contributions. Know their strengths and weaknesses so that you can create better outcomes as a team. A savvy manager is prepared to step in when needed, but is more focused on putting the right team in place so that the team self-managed according to their goals. Make sure the team is empowered to act on their own strengths without micromanaging. A self-directed team is more likely to be productive and have higher morale.
Another way to manage different work styles is to pay attention to work style pairings. Few people fall precisely into one of the work style categories, possessing qualities from a couple areas. However, many times working with a certain work style is more likely to bring out qualities from another area. For example, it’s a good idea for a logical work style to partner with a leader in order to both generate smart strategy and get things done. Similarly, a logical work style tends to be less emotional so it can make sense for them to be on a team with a supportive work style individual.
At the end of the day, the most crucial thing for managers to do is to consider their team members as individuals, and then plan work accordingly as much as possible. Although it can’t always be avoided, giving employees directions that go against their natural work style is unlikely to lead to the best results. If you can divide up initiatives in a way where each staff member is allowed to do what they do best, you’ll achieve much better outcomes.
Tools for Working with Different Work Styles
If it sounds overwhelming managing an entire team while considering each members’ work style, that’s because it can be. Luckily, there are several platforms designed to help. Here are some of our favorites:
First, you need to understand everyone’s work style. Since this isn’t something people are likely to know off the top of their mind, it’s worth going through an exercise to help people to learn this. One of the most popular options is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This shares insights across four key groupings: extraversion vs. introversion, judging vs. perceiving, intuition vs. sensing and thinking vs. feeling. Also useful is the Caliper Profile, which measures how the personality traits of an applicant or employee correlate to their performance in their work role. Another common tool is the DISC personality test, which looks at Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. There are several more evaluations that might be worth exploring with your work team - the important thing is to take some time to understand each individual’s style, and what their strengths are.
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Team collaboration software is on the rise, and for good reason. Technology offers plenty of resources for everything from communication to project management to group analytics. For communicating, instant messaging, sharing documents, and viewing project elements together, we like Slack, GotoMeeting, and WebEx. When it comes to project management, we like well-known tools like Asana and Trello. These platforms allow users to assign tasks to other members, add followers to projects and monitor deadlines. They’re also very useful as a to-do list or calendar for strategic planning. Trello is especially good for using other project management frameworks like Scrum. Another great option for creating and managing work together is Google Docs. Google’s collaboration tools include its Docs and Sheets services, which are designed to allow teams to edit files at the same time and save all their changes automatically.
Related Article: Top Collaboration Tools for Remote Team Management
As we’ve covered, various work styles make it easier for some people than others to get tasks accomplished. While some individuals find it easy and intuitive to have several to-do items and cross them off one by one, others do not. Some people really enjoy working alone, while others like being in a group environment. More people than ever before are working remotely, and people are spread across different regions and even countries in ways that they weren’t before. It’s important to accommodate these differences as much as possible. Tools like Todoist can help you to manage your calendar and tasks, while an option like Zapier can connect all of your apps so that all your software tools communicate. Shift is a powerful productivity tool that accesses a users’ accounts, apps, and workflows in one streamlined desktop app, designed for focus and efficiency. This allows people to move between various accounts with just one click, saving time and keeping work organized. With Shift, you can also customize notifications to make your day more efficient.
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There is a lot of value to be gained by understanding your own work style and that of your colleagues. Observe your team members, adapt to their strengths, and take a tailored approach to your projects. Doing so will result in new levels of efficiency and productivity for everyone on your team.