Everyone has his or her own working style, or strategy for work. Some people are not happy unless they’re independent. 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.
Others function best as part of a group. We call their working style a cooperative one. They want to share responsibility for any task they take on. 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.
If you want to get the most out of your employees, or your children, or those you supervise, figure out their working style – as we discussed in the previous metaprogram, push vs. pull – the ways in which they’re most effective. Sometimes you’ll 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 and avenue of expression.
If you have a valuable employee like this, you should try to find a way to maximize his (or her) talents and give 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 invaluable. That’s what the new concepts of entrepreneurship are all about.
You’ve 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’ working styles. 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 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.
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.
Here’s an exercise to do today. After reading this article, practice eliciting people’s metaprograms. 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? Is he interested in your response, or is he occupied elsewhere? These are only a few of the questions you can ask to successfully elicit the metaprograms I’ve discussed. If you don’t get the information you need, rephrase the question until you do.
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