The 4 main working styles — and why they’re all important
Every employee has their own way of working. Identify the four main styles and how to manage them with the help of our handy guide.
In every team, in every workplace, there are various personalities and working styles that make up the manpower. It’s these differences that affect how we think about things, structure tasks and complete our work.
Understanding these working styles can not only help us discover what suits our own approach, but it also allows us to become a better part of the team. And for managers, that means knowing how to balance these varying styles to optimise productivity and performance.
Here, we’ll look at the four main working styles in detail, along with some effective tips on how to work alongside, and manage, team members with different approaches to their work.
What are the four main working styles?
Also known as: drivers or doers
What does a logical working style look like?
Logical workers love to tackle problems head on. Data-minded and driven by results, they rarely shy away from a challenge. Because of their linear ways of thinking, they can complete tasks and achieve their goals with unwavering focus.
Because they’re so eager to get started, logical workers can sometimes forget to communicate what they’re doing to others. And if something requires a great deal of preparation, then drivers tend to downplay the importance of planning.
Also known as: guardians or learners
What does a detail-oriented working style look like?
Cautious and pragmatic, you can identify a detail-oriented worker by their strategic and organised approach to work. A key player on any team, they create a sense of order and stability that allows others to thrive. And because they’re so focused on the details, they’re great at understanding problems.
However, a guardian’s risk-averse nature means they’re slower to adopt new ideas and suggestions, preferring to think things through before forging ahead with something they’re unfamiliar with.
Also known as: integrators or lovers
What does a supportive learning style look like?
Concerned with consensus above all else, supportive workers are the diplomatic glue that keeps the team together. Driven by building relationships, their desire to create harmony amongst other people on a team makes them natural collaborators.
Their empathetic nature keeps communications clear and transparent, allowing them to understand the true context of situations that arise. Basically, if you want to know how others on your team are really feeling, the integrator will let you know.
Also known as: pioneers, leaders or big-picture thinkers
What does an idea-oriented learning style look like?
In contrast to guardians, idea-oriented workers are all about taking risks, sparking creativity and inspiring others to believe in their vision. Thriving on possibilities, the pioneer doesn’t see roadblocks, just new opportunities.
However, they have a tendency to get wrapped up in the bigger picture. And this pie-in-the-sky thinking means they might sometimes overlook the details of how to get there. They’re also prone to forgetting to check in with others on their team.
How to work with different working styles
Be flexible with other styles
When it comes to your peers, it’s important to be flexible as this lets you respect and value what the rest of your team brings to the table.
A large part of being flexible is recognising you may not have everything you need to succeed. Remember: there’s no I in team.
And while most people prefer working with someone like themselves, the melting pot of different styles tends to create better results.
Accept their differences
People tend to be set in their ways in the workplace, so it would be fruitless to try and change their fundamental approaches. Likewise, hiding your own style and trying to match theirs would prove similarly ineffective.
Instead, try to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Adjust your style, rather than attempting to hide it.
Instead of falling into the habit of criticising others, remind yourself of the attributes you have that others might find fault with. This allows you to move beyond differences, rather than dwelling on them and categorising other styles as good and bad.
You might also find there’s some room for improvement when it comes to your own approaches too.
Schedule in some face time
Email and apps like Slack are helpful to schedule dates and other things, but they only tell half the story. Face-to-face interactions are more effective to get used to other styles, allowing spontaneity, creativity and understanding to flourish.
Make your face-to-face meetings a more routine part of your week. This helps to stop small misunderstandings, preventing issues from escalating into something bigger.
How to manage these different working styles
Play to their strengths
When you’re assembling a team for a project, look at how you can get the best from your selection. How can you help each working style thrive?
For instance, the detail-oriented personnel on the team prefer an agenda and need time to process things before making decisions. Meanwhile, idea-oriented workers look to opportunity – why not allow them to take the lead on the project?
Elsewhere, logical types want to get stuck in as soon as possible, while the supportive workers will want to collaborate on ideas and ensure everyone is on the same page. When a project needs completing, what tasks are you going to give everyone, and when are you going to bring them aboard?
Give the right person the right job
If you work with someone who’s reserved and shies away from conflict, it’s best not to put them in situations that make them uncomfortable. If you do need them to go outside their comfort zone, remind them that they’re in a safe environment without repercussions.
Likewise, if there are pioneers on your team, having them work alone away from others is a sure way to stifle their progress. As a manager, it’s your job to understand what motivates those on your team and to put them in positions that will allow them to thrive.
Be clear about expectations
The success of your team is directly linked to setting expectations.
When you begin a project, get the team together so you can discuss how your objectives and goals relate to the company’s values and vision. In your discussions, make it clear how each person’s role supports the goals of the project.
The final result might look different to each person because of their different ways of working. As their manager, you should make sure they understand their roles, provide feedback along the way, and support them (or let them go it alone) if they need it.
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