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What’s your working style?

Independent, cooperative or proximity strategy?

Office culture has undergone some major changes in the past two decades. Gone are cubicles, rigid 9-to-5 schedules and “climbing the ladder” of corporate structures. Open office layouts, flex hours, working from home and diplomatic corporate structures are the new normal in the corporate world. But there is one part of office culture that hasn’t changed: the need to build cohesive teams made up of various working styles.

Superstars come in all different types of work styles. They can be solitary creative geniuses, strong team leaders or adaptable and flexible. When you’re building a team, first determine your own business style and familiarize yourself with the three main types.

What is your work style?

Your work style is the way that you go about your day-to-day tasks on the job. Everyone has his or her own working style, or strategy for optimally performing while at work. Are you more efficient when you’re working independently and are responsible for your own schedule and tasks? Or do you like having a team to give feedback on your ideas, provide support and help you stay on track?

There is no right or wrong work style. The key is to hire the right team whose work styles complement each other so that productivity soars.

1. Independent

Some people are not happy unless they’re working solo – we’ll classify this as an independent work style. They have great difficulty working closely with other people and can’t work well under a great deal of supervision. They have to run their own show. They like to follow their instincts and see where they take them.

Visionary and entrepreneurial types often have an independent working style. This type is also often found in creative or scientific fields. Imagine the writer working late on a novel or the engineer’s intense focus on solving a problem. Independent work styles are efficient, disciplined and productive.

2. Cooperative

Others function best as part of a group. We call their working style cooperative. They want to share responsibility for any task they take on. They enjoy bouncing feedback off others and working together on projects.

Cooperative workers are diplomatic and are typically excellent communicators. They are often found in relationship-oriented roles like human resources and in leadership roles. Account executives, HR directors and project managers are often known to  have a cooperative business style. They’re organized, strategic and collaborative.

3. Proximity

Still others 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. They get to have a social connection with their coworkers while pursuing their own projects.

Proximity working styles are found in all aspects of business. They are versatile and adaptable, able to take on many different roles. They’ll connect the independent and cooperative types, helping to build a team that works.

You can maximize different types of work styles

Everyone wants to build a culture of positive change, high productivity and cooperative teamwork. In order to do this, you must determine how to get the most out of the people you supervise. There are many factors that motivate employees and affect everything from how they work with others to their ability to stick to deadlines.

Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle? It’s 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’ working styles. If you’re asking someone to do something that goes against their working style, they most likely won’t excel at it. Successful promotions begin with the manager recognizing and rewarding the different types of work styles appropriately.

How to reward the independent type

Sometimes you’ll find an employee who is brilliant but always seems to be going against the grain. He always has to do things his way. Now he just might not be cut out to be an employee – maybe he has an independent working style and is more suited to become an entrepreneur. 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, find a way to maximize his or her talents and give them as much autonomy as possible. If you make him part of a team, he’ll drive everyone crazy. But if you give him as much independence as possible, he can prove himself to be invaluable. That’s what the new concepts of entrepreneurship are all about.

How to get the most from cooperative working styles

People who work best in a cooperative setting 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 doesn’t mean you have to keep a person at the same level, but it does mean you should give promotions and new work experiences that utilize the person’s best talents, not his worst ones. Just as everyone has their own leadership style, an employee’s true working style must be recognized and worked with accordingly.

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 acuity to know how people work best and then find a task they thrive in.

Putting it all into action

How can you honor your team’s individual working styles? Here’s an exercise to do today. After reading this article, practice eliciting people’s metaprograms. Metaprograms are a person’s inner workings that affect the ways they process their experiences – and affect their business style. While “what is your work style?” is a common interview question, it will be much more effective to ask them:

  • What do you want in a relationship (or house or car or career)?
  • 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? Are they interested in your response or are they occupied elsewhere? Do they respond with lots of answers about themselves, or do they discuss how they appreciate a teamwork environment?

These are only a few of the questions you can ask to successfully elicit the metaprograms we’ve discussed. If you don’t get the information you need, rephrase the question until you do. This will help you to determine working styles and figure out if this new candidate will be right for your business.

Independent, cooperative and proximity workers all have a part to play in the grand scheme that is a successful business. If you can learn to harness the power of the different types of work styles, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition when it comes to improving efficiency and creating a successful team.

Header image © Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, philanthropist and the nation’s #1 Life and Business Strategist. Author of five internationally bestselling books, including the recent New York Times #1 best-seller UNSHAKEABLE, Mr. Robbins has empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video and life training programs. He created the #1 personal and professional development program of all time, and more than 4 million people have attended his live seminars.

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