Reading people - A Guide to Personality and Workstyles

Have you ever wondered why you get along with some employees and don’t get along with others? You’re having trouble working with them or you notice there’s discord among your colleagues, but don’t know why and what to do? Ultimately, it comes down to someone’s working style, which is heavily influenced by their personality. When two people with very different personalities and work styles meet, there’s bound to be some issues.

“Some people like risks, others prefer rules. Some want consensus while others want to win,” says Kim Christfort, coauthor of Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships.

Businesses and their growth are built on the work styles of their employees. If you, as an employer, are able to recognise and synthesize a plan to enable your employees and team members to work together, you will see better and more efficient results.

Here are three easy ways to start.

1. Quickly identify your employees’ workstyles by looking out for tells

There are four key working styles based on how people interact.

Firstly, people who value a fast paced work environment. These workers thrive on taking risks, sparking energy and imagination within their teams. You can identify them by their desire to take risks and explore uncharted routes, they tend to make quick and spontaneous decisions, often thinking on their feet but are not very focussed on details.

Secondly, people who prefer stability and a routine work environment. They are pragmatic, rational, detail-oriented and tend to stay clear of risk-taking tasks. You can identify them by their ability to think through things before they commence on a task.

Thirdly, those who thrive on challenges and results. These workers are goal-oriented and like tackling problems to resolve conflicts and most importantly coming up on top of the task they have been told to do. These individuals tend to be extremely resilient and analytical, using logic to create solutions.

Lastly, the communicators, who prefer consensus and value connectedness. They are diplomatic and thrive on teamwork, always looking for ways to foster a sense of camaraderie. They also have the tendency to think about matters more emotionally and are empaths, holding the team together. 

Here are some questions you can consider to identify which workstyle matches your employee:

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

2. Leverage the work style strengths of your team members

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

  • Employees at your company are logical, data-driven, and focused on achieving the stated goal or outcome since they solve complex problems and work in a logical and systematic way.
  • An organized, well-planned, and detail-oriented colleague’s strength is the ability to structure projects and tasks in an orderly manner and ensure their completion on time.
  • Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented colleagues excel at building relationships, facilitating team interaction, and persuading or selling ideas, so they will ensure that all of the project stakeholders are informed about the project and that your ideas are effectively communicated.
  • A big-picture, integrative, and ideation-oriented colleague’s strengths lie in serving as a catalyst for change, inventing solutions for problems, and integrating and synthesizing disparate ideas. They will ensure that both your thoughts and execution are varied, and that you do not stagnate.
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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.

      1. What is the goal?
      2. What is the deadline?
      3. What data or facts are necessary?
      4. What metrics will be used to evaluate success?
      5. How will the project be delivered?
      6. How will the project be completed? Is a project plan necessary?
      7. How will information about the project be communicated?
      8. Who are the project stakeholders?
      9. Who else needs to be involved?
      10. Who can support you in achieving the goals of the project?
      11. What are the gaps between where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the project?
      12. Why does this project matter to the team and the organization?
      13. 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. It’s crucial to promote diversity in the work styles of your team members. However, this does not mean that you as an employer cannot find solutions that encompass harmony amongst all your employees and strive towards a highly efficient workplace.

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