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Employee Engagement

Using the 4 work styles to build an effective team

We all have different styles of working. They fit into 4 categories. We explore each and how you can leverage them to build effective teams.

Meryl D'Sa-Wilson

March 17, 2022

In 2021, an average of more than 3.98 million workers quit their jobs each month. People left their jobs to find flexible opportunities, purposeful work, and better benefits. Even as The Great Resignation is predicted to slow down in the coming months, businesses need to re-evaluate how they will find and retain their best employees.

That’s where understanding the different work styles of your team becomes important, as both contribute to employee engagement and experience. Let’s dive deeper!

What is a work style?

Nothing hurts productivity and growth like a team that doesn’t know how to work together. All employees have different styles of working that draw on their strengths and weaknesses. And these different styles make up a team culture. For teams to work together effectively, they should be aware of each other's ways of working. 

So, what is a work style, and how do you determine your employees’ and teams’ work style types?

Work styles can be described as the “dynamic component of how individuals maintain and adjust with their work environment”, according to the Journal of Vocational Behavior. A work style is how a person plans and completes tasks and projects and interacts with others on the team.

Your personal work style is how you like to operate, communicate, and manage conflict in a team and work environment. 

  • For some, this means focusing more on the bigger picture and finding new strategies. Others may delve deeper into getting the details right and maintaining consistent quality across the board. 
  • Some may spend more time in the ideation phase, while others take those ideas and make them a reality efficiently. 

A well-balanced team that draws on the strength of each member’s work styles can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and efficiency in the workplace. 

Why is it important to know your and your colleagues' working styles?

If employees don’t feel challenged, motivated, or heard by others in their team, they can feel less inspired to be their best selves. And, if members don’t compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll end up with a group that does too much or too little of one working style. 

What if everyone has the same work style?

Team members with the same work style and attitude can encounter a few hiccups. For instance, if everyone in a team thought only of strategies and end-goals without considering the finer details of accomplishing those goals (such as structure, time constraints, quality), execution rates would be low and work would fall behind schedule. 

Similarly, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking would be more of a hurdle if everyone preferred rigid and planned work structures.

What’s the right balance?

The variety of people in a team culture directly affects employee engagement, productivity, and retention. So, it is important to understand your employees’ work styles and how they influence team culture. 

In fact, for some high-level job positions, organizations even hire organizational psychologists to evaluate and assess work styles of prospective candidates via personality tests. This will help you determine if a candidate is a good fit and whether they are compatible with others in the team. 

You can then bring balance to your teams, allowing each member to do their best work. 

On any given team you’ll want at least two different types of work styles present. There’s a popular decision-making practice where employees assume 1 of 4 “thinking hats.” For example, one employee may be tasked with being creative. They’re encouraged to bring unpredictable or possibly outlandish ideas to a meeting. 

Another employee is then tasked with being more discerning. They consider the flaws and risks of different ideas. 

By assigning team members a specific “hat” it opens up for more inclusive discussions where a variety of ideas and perspectives can have a seat at the table. It’s a great way to bust dreaded group think that stifles innovation.

4 Examples of different working style types

Since teams’ working styles impact their productivity and success, it is crucial to understand and identify each employee’s work ethic. 

Let’s have a look at four common work style types:

  1. The rational, logical thinker
  2. The administrative project manager
  3. The supportive, emotionally intelligent team member
  4. The big picture, strategic planner

1. The rational, logical thinker

Numbers drive the game for employees with this work style. These are the doers in your team; they are logical, analytical, and data-driven. Their strengths lie in gathering and studying data and logical processing that helps them solve complex problems and meet business goals. 

These employees tend to follow formulas and set procedures as they complete tasks. This linear way of thinking allows for dedicated focus, but may lead to them discounting other ideas and suggestions that could add creativity and innovation to the project. They may even forget to communicate and update others on their progress. With a bit of open-mindedness, however, this can change, giving your teams both structure and creativity.

2. The administrative project manager

Employees with this work style are organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented. They understand business goals and can create a clear path and structure to accomplishing them. Their focus on details and accuracy will ensure projects don’t slip through the cracks and are completed efficiently. Such traits offer a sense of order and stability to a team. 

These employees are also learners and researchers. They love to prepare and do recon before diving right in. So, they approach projects thoughtfully, considering risks and benefits and planning for potential fallouts. They even plan, beforehand, the best way to handle collaborative projects. This way, you can rest assured that deadlines are followed.

While these employees may obsess over certain tasks, it is because of their attention to detail and desire to uphold quality standards. And when paired with more actionable, driven team members, they bring research, organization, and accuracy.

3. The supportive, emotionally intelligent team member

Employees who have an emotion-oriented and supportive work style are your collaborators. Their strengths lie in building relationships, communicating effectively, selling ideas, and working together in harmony. They are often empathetic and aware of others’ feelings, making it easier to facilitate team communication and interactions.

These employees work closely with others in the team while keeping stakeholders up to date on the project. Because of these strong employee connections, they will know when something is amiss in the group and what others may need to do their jobs well. And when emotions run strong, having a team member with a rational or organized working style on the team can bring balance.

4. The big picture, strategic planner

Then we have the pioneers or big-picture thinkers who strive for change and growth, invent solutions, and inspire their teams to be innovative. Individuals with this working style are visionaries and leaders, and their strength lies in being strategic and idea-oriented. They can be an incredible energy source, guiding others closer to achieving key business goals. Having an employee with this working style ensures your team does not stagnate.

However, while they focus on the bigger picture, they may overlook finer details. Here is where team members with other work styles can complement these people. An organized or empathetic coworker can keep them tethered to realistic goals while allowing room for innovation and ambition.

Do you need all the working styles on your team?

Research on personalities and group problem-solving has found that groups with diverse perceptions and approaches solve problems more creatively than groups with similar personalities.

So, what does this mean for your business? The more diverse your teams, the more productive and innovative the solutions. Thankfully, you do not need to reconstruct your teams to include all working styles. Simply recognize different styles of working and manage them accordingly. 

Depending on projects, teams may only need 1 or 2 employees with these work styles. For instance, you can pair a big-picture thinker with a rational, logical thinker or your organizational wizard. Or, you can pair the rational thinker with the supportive, emotion-oriented individual. In each combination, employees will keep each other on their toes. 

How to leverage employees’ working styles to build an effective team

These work styles are ingrained. So, you might have better chances with recruiting the right employees instead of expecting your existing ones to develop new traits. 

The first step to building diverse teams is determining what work style types are needed for each team. Observe and analyze your teams’ work styles to identify which styles are over-or under-represented. Then plan to hire new team members or restructure your teams. When hiring, use personality tests and assessments during the recruitment process 

Ensure everyone has a mentor and peer to learn from with cross-team mentorship programs. Observe your team members and their strengths and weaknesses. Then pair employees with different work styles to expand their perspectives.

There may even be an opportunity to leverage generational differences to help new employees grow. You may get senior employees to mentor a junior employee with the same style. That way they can find a role model and work towards being like them. 

Grouping together employees with different work styles can set them up to be challenged and innovative. You can build a positive and productive team culture that not only benefits your business but also helps your employees grow.

If you want to learn more about developing a more diverse and inclusive workplace, connect with us at Together and find out how mentoring software can help!

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