Working Styles

Everyone has his own strategy for work. Some people are not happy unless they are independent. They have great difficulty working closely with other people and cannot work well under a great deal of supervision. They have to run their own show. Others function best as part of a group. I call their strategy a cooperative one. They want to share responsibility for any task they take on yet have a proximity strategy, which is somewhere in between. They prefer to work with other people while maintaining sole responsibility for a task. They are in charge but not alone.

If you want to get the most out of your employees, or your children, or those who supervise, figure out their work strategies, the ways in which they’re most effective. Sometimes you will find an employee who is brilliant but a pain in the neck. He always has to do things his way. Now he just might not be cut out to be an employee. He may be the kind of person who has to run his own business, and sooner or later he probably will if you do not provide an avenue of expression. If you have a valuable employee like this, you should try to find a way to maximize his / her talents and give him / her as much autonomy as possible. If you make him part of a team, he will drive everyone crazy. But if you give him as much independence as possible, he can prove invaluable. That is what the new concepts of entrepreneurship all about.

You have heard of the Peter Principle, the idea that all people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. One reason this happens is that employers are often insensitive to their employees’ work strategies. There are people who work best in a cooperative setting. They thrive on a large amount of feedback and human interaction. Would you reward their good work by putting them in charge of some new autonomous venture? Not if you want to make use of their best talents. That does not mean you have to keep a person at the same level. But it does mean you should give promotions and new work experiences that utilizes a person’s best talents, not his worst ones.

Likewise, many people with proximity strategies want to be part of a team but need to do their own work alone. In any structure there are jobs that nurture all three strategies. The key is to have the styles to know how people work best and then find a task they thrive in.

Here is an exercise to do today. How do you know when you have been successful at something? What is the relationship between what you are doing this month and what you did last month? How often does someone have to demonstrate something to you before you are convinced it’s true? Tell me about a favorite work experience and why it was important to you.

Does the person pay attention to you while you are asking these questions? Is he interested in your response, or is he occupied elsewhere? These are only a few questions you can ask to successfully elicit. If you do not get the information you need, rephrase the question until you do.

Think of almost any communication problem you have, and you’ll probably find that understanding the person will help you adjust to communication so that the problem disappears. Think of a frustration in your life someone you love who does not feel loved, someone you work for who manages to rub you the wrong way, or someone you’ve tried to help who hasn’t responded. What you need to do is identify the operating program, identify what you are doing, and identify what the other person is doing. For example, suppose you need verification only once that you have a loving relationship, and your partner needs it consistently. Or you put together a proposal that shows how things are alike, and your supervisor only wants to hear about the ways they’re different. Or you try to warn someone about something he needs to avoid, and he’s only interested in hearing about something he wants to go after.

An employee with a negative style at work will be easily identified. His style affects his growth in the organization and also viewed with suspicion by his peers. In short all employees must have positive outlook and be cooperative with all other employees in the organization. This is in addition to their individual capability and performance.

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