Understanding Your Colleague’s Styles and Motivations

22.03.2018 |

Episode #5 of the course Increasing your leadership potential by Bob McGannon


In my last email, I shared the four fundamental work styles: action, planning, social, and analysis. In this lesson, I will discuss how to identify those work styles and use that information to understand motivations and enhance the capabilities of your team members.


Identifying Styles

There are two primary ways to identify work styles: preferred activities and language usage. Let’s look at preferred activities first.

Your peers who consistently gravitate toward building plans to get things accomplished are, not surprisingly, Planners. Individuals who seek and seize opportunities to communicate with and gather teams together are typically Social. Those on your teams who are focused on “getting things done” or doing things versus talking about them are quite likely Action Oriented. People who constantly ask questions and enjoy looking for alternatives to drive more efficiency are most likely Analysts.

While preferred activities are usually easy to spot, don’t jump to conclusions too quickly! For example, an action-oriented person might believe the creation of a plan to be a very good idea. Therefore, you might see an individual with an action preference creating a plan quite frequently. The key is to determine if they seek out opportunities to create plans or if they create plans to facilitate downstream actions. Remember that individuals can be capable of displaying all four styles; you are looking for preferences.

The language or words your peers use can also help identify preferences. Look for key words!

• Action-oriented people use words like “do,” “accomplish,” “complete,” and “finish” very regularly when talking about what they want in the workplace.

• Planners use words like “plan,” “approach,” “control,” and “thought through” and express a desire to be “in sync” or “on the same page.”

• Social-oriented individuals typically discuss “the team,” “working together,” “collaborating,” “sharing opinions,” and “harmony.”

• Analysts are identified when you constantly hear words such as “options,” “alternatives,” “optimizing,” and “research.”


Motivation by Applying Style Preference

Making generalizations about what motivates any individual can cause issues, so it is always wise to validate what inspires your team members. Generally, people want to be recognized for their capabilities; when others acknowledge the contributions you make, it is motivational.

Using the preferred work styles as a means of assigning tasks or asking assistance from others enriches your team members’ roles in your business. In addition, having team members work with others in ways that capitalize on their strengths is especially motivational. For example, having an action-oriented team member review the planner’s documents for applicability allows them to create a better plan for both of them to use. This is considerably more effective than having two action-oriented staff members create or review a plan; in this case, you are unlikely to get a plan that is as high quality, and you will not have demonstrated an appreciation for the planners on your team.

Understanding work styles and leveraging them is critical for being perceived as a caring and effective leader.


Enhancing Your Team’s Skills

We already talked about closing gaps in your team’s work styles; this is directly enhancing the capabilities of your team. This is not the only way to improve the skills of your team, however. Appreciating the contributions that are made by team members from each work style and sharing your enthusiasm for them helps your team recognize what they can do together as a team. Helping team members understand the work styles of others who may even frustrate them from time to time is a positive way to demonstrate your leadership. Also, helping a team member who is “stuck” by over-emphasizing their personal preference, such as trying to perfect a plan beyond what is needed for the task at hand, is a good way to enhance team skills.

Tomorrow’s email will address understanding your team’s expectations of what they want from a leader so you can strive to support them appropriately. Until then, find and appreciate the contributions made by people with preferences for each work style!

Talk soon!



Recommended book

Introduction to Type by Isabel Briggs Myers


Share with friends