The Power of Understanding Working Styles in Developing a Team


One of the critical building blocks of developing teams is forming an authentic and deep bond with them. This can also be defined as engagement. There are so very many ingredients in this recipe of engagement, some which I’ve blogged about in recent weeks and many which could fill up pages and books. At the core of engagement is the need to be willing to meet people where they are at, and figure them out so that you can motivate them. Doing this requires many tools. One of these is understanding and accepting the unique working style that a person brings into a working relationship.

I’ve participated in a variety of tools to figure out a person’s working style. One of my all time favorite books that simply yet effectively speaks to using this knowledge for effective relationship building is a book by Julie Straw called “The Four Dimensional Manager.” I’ve drawn wisdom from this book when leading training series on motivation and communication at two companies now. It all started when I was with a company that used personality assessments to evaluate individuals (and teams as whole) for team building and communication refining purposes. I stumbled across the Julie Straw book when trying to find a great way to deliver the message of the purchased assessments. The whole notion of going from one dimensional (the view of the world I possess) to four dimensional (able to put on the glasses of others once educated as to their world view prescription) is really the heart of this message.

I’ve seen the principles of this stuff work in my own management journey. I myself am a highly dominant and interpersonal person. That means I like to bulldoze through things and build relationships along the way. So I’m a bit of a personality mutt you might say and based on my two types perhaps a bit conflicted at first glance! Due to this I typically bond well with similar souls (and in some cases need to understand how to respect those who are equal in dominance to me). What I naturally, in uneducated state, do not do well is bond effectively with the more detail oriented and soft-spoken/timid souls. However, in an educated and intentional state, basing my relational interactions on the knowledge of a person’s working style, I can make clear personal behavior choices so that all types that are not like me can still relate to me.

A specific example of this was when I had an employee on my team who was a true analyst by nature. He will probably be a book author some day, and absolutely loves some good data, hours alone and a chance to prepare a near thesis statement to accompany each work project. I knew that having this guy on my team could (and did) do wonders in driving up the bar of excellence in the department as he helped me dissect things, draw critical conclusions, blow up old broken processes and build new processes that drove performance upwards. However, I had to learn to curtail my natural energy and working/meeting style in order to tap into this and build a powerful team synergy. Naturally I am an impromptu and open door/talkative person. I am in the clouds and getting excited about new vision stuff about every hour. However, I had to learn to carve out time, space, structure and a calmer method of management and communication with this individual on my team. I had to create intentionally planned meetings that were structured, and let him talk and share and essentially make myself step back, be quiet and let him shine when it was his time. It would have been impossible to develop and grow him by forcing my style on him. Rather, I was able to draw the best of him out by respecting how he ticked.

In the end, the truth is that the strongest teams are the most rounded teams. Just like in sports, every player has a unique position. In isolation they cannot win the game. In tandem, victory is attainable. We need the drivers to keep us marching onward. We need the strategists to cast visions for us and motivate us with speeches. We need the energy bombs to jazz things up and keep it fun and get the sales in the door. We need the analysts and number crunches to keep us compliant and make process improvements and tell us when to budget and spend wisely. We need the sensitive souls and negotiators to help us come together. The wise leader will step back from him or herself and see this, respect the power of the group and diminish the role of “I” or self. The leader who plays the role of coach, and does this, will be able to drive break through performance.

Straw, Julie. (2002). The Four Dimensional Manager: DiSC Strategies for Managing Different People in the Best Ways. Inscape Publishing. San Francisco, CA.

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