Discovering and Leveraging Work Style Diversity
If you’re a leader, you know the importance of leveraging the diversity of your team members to achieve long-term success. But if you’re like most people, you probably think about diversity in too narrow of terms. Diversity means a lot more than just differences in ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and age. These are all important, but one type of diversity you’re probably forgetting about is work style diversity. This means the way that people think about, organize, and complete their tasks. There will always be differences in work style no matter what line of work you’re in.
There are four basic types of work styles:
- Logical, analytical, and data-oriented
- Organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented
- Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented
- Strategic, integrative, and idea-oriented
Balancing all four of these work styles within one group can skyrocket the success of the group! If your group members all share one work style, or if you’re missing one or two styles, you’ll run into trouble. For instance, if you have too many members that are focused on the big picture, you’ll frequently end up over budget and behind schedule. On the other hand, if you have a lot of the organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented members, you’ll struggle with product development.
It takes a variety of work styles working together, complementing each other’s various strengths and weaknesses to make a strong team.
Are you not sure what type of work style you or your team members have? Or are you wondering how you can promote this type of workplace diversity? Here is a simple guide to identifying your coworker’s work styles and using their differences to your advantage.
Observe Your Team
Just like in poker, your coworkers have “tells” that help indicate what type of work style they have. So, watch them at work and evaluate how they finish their projects. Look for areas where they excel and ones they seem to struggle with more than others.
Think about questions like this:
- Do any of your coworkers consistently complete tasks ahead of the deadlines, or do they wait until the last minute?
- Do they send emails that are brief and to-the-point, or overly wordy with lots of information?
- Are they animated with lots of hand gestures or are they stoic when they communicate?
The answers to some of these questions might be subtler than others. But they will all help you pinpoint the work styles of your team members.
Recruit New Members
Just like their personality, a person’s work style is often ingrained and won’t be easily changed. Because of this, the key to good workplace diversity is recruitment, not development. You shouldn’t expect a person’s work style will change with time, even if a person tries to change it. So, if you notice a lot of one or two styles on your team—or a lack of one or two styles—it’s time to switch things up to diversify work styles.
Lastly, after you’ve determined the work styles of your team members, you can start brainstorming ways of leveraging everyone’s individual strengths. Play to your coworker’s strengths. Manage your expectations for them in light of their different work styles. It’s unfair to constantly assign a Logical work style the tasks that the Supportive work style should be completing. And, your results won’t be as good as they would be if you were correctly assigning tasks to the appropriate person.
Here are some helpful hints on what tasks you should assign to each of your group members based on their work style.
This person will be at their best when they are processing data or solving complex problems. They have clear goals in mind and are intentional about exactly what they need to get done to accomplish those goals. Expect them to dwell on the facts and have a harder time with theoretical concepts.
The organized work style is your best choice for completing structured projects and accurately completing tasks. They’ll be great at creating highly detailed plans. Expect them to be consistent and practical. If you need someone to assess your decision and find the flaws with it, the organized type should be your first choice.
This person is great at building relationships, which means they are exceptional at persuading someone or selling ideas. They are effective communicators with sharp intuition. If you need someone to teach a concept or explain an idea to your other group members, the Supportive type will get the job done effectively.
These people are the catalyst for change. They are great at brainstorming and synthesizing disparate thinking. When you find yourself falling behind, these are the people who will ensure your group is doing what it needs to constantly move forward. They are creative and open-minded, constantly challenging the status quo.
When you really seek to understand the uniqueness of your coworkers or team members, you’ll be a much better leader. If you’re still not sure where some of your group members fall in these four types of work styles, or if you’re unsure of how to effectively leverage their strengths, take my Productivity Style Assessment. It’s an easy quiz that will help you understand and appreciate the differences in work styles.