Synching up the team's working styles: Part II

Synching up the team’s working styles: Part II

Posted on May 7, 2014 | Tags: , | No Comments

Synching up the team's working styles: Part II

Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on Working Styles, a Teamworks tool that helps teams better understand and play to each person’s strengths. Read part one here.

In the first part of this series, we discussed differences that can throw a wrench in the dynamics of any team — from contrasts in the way team members think or how they pace the work to conflicts over ideal working hours. And we offered tips to help you bridge everyone’s comfort zones.

This week, we’ll talk through three more clashes we’ve commonly seen, and offer more advice from the Teamworks playbook.

Feedback lovers vs. feedback avoiders

Feedback lovers are continuously working on growth and self-improvement — and feedback is one of their most important tools. They actively seek it out because it helps them assess their progress and understand where to focus their attention. When they’re paired with feedback avoiders, who can be reluctant to both give and receive feedback, tensions can result. Because it takes the second type longer to process feedback and because it feels more loaded, they want it less often, and only under specific conditions. On the other hand, if the first type is starved of feedback, they start to misinterpret behavior, and can fall into a destructive, anxiety-ridden spiral.

Try these tips to get the team in sync:

  • Set up rules of engagement before anything goes wrong. Make sure you know how each person you work with feels about feedback. Discuss some potential scenarios and agree on how you’ll approach giving and receiving feedback with each other.
  • Expand your feedback comfort zone. If you thrive on feedback, try to slow yourself down so you’re OK getting feedback less often than you’re used to. For those with a slow feedback metabolism, pace yourself with scheduled feedback sessions at regular intervals to help build tolerance.
  • As a manager, customize your approach so everyone is getting feedback at a pace that’s compatible with their feedback metabolism. A one-size-fits-all approach will inevitably leave someone feeling exhausted from too much feedback or depleted from too little.

Visual learners vs. verbal learners

Visual learners often need concepts to be sketched out in order to fully absorb them, while verbal learners tend to process best through reading or conversation. People with different learning styles can get stuck if the discussion veers too much toward one extreme or the other: Team members who can’t follow the flow of ideas won’t be able to fully participate or contribute.

Try these solutions:

  • Capture conversations in real time using multiple modes. Make sure at least one person is sketching ideas as they get expressed. Have another person write down the thinking on a whiteboard or in notes in a shared document.
  • If you’re working with someone who needs to make a concept real and tangible before understanding and committing to it, get in the habit of prototyping low-resolution versions instead of making time-consuming high-res versions.
  • As a team exercise, read a book on visualizing ideas like Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin. This will help verbal thinkers boost their ability to express ideas visually.
  • If there are materials to read, send them out before a meeting to give verbal folks time to read and digest.

Perfectionism vs. pragmatism

Sometimes a working styles problem is caused not by too much conflicts but by too much similarity. For example, there’s the kind of team that’s so determined to do amazingly perfect, outstanding work that the finessing never stops. We call this the shadow side of inspired teams with high standards and big ambitions: you keep thinking and rethinking decisions in pursuit of making the work better. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Designate a point person to get the team to commit. The truth is that any number of the ideas you’ve developed then rejected in the brainstorming phase is probably great — but the proof can only be seen in the pudding. A team-appointed pragmatist can help lock the team into action so you can move toward the next phase.
  • Switch up your rhythms: After the first refining stage, release the work — whether you feel ready or not. Before refining again, gather feedback from clients/users/stakeholders. You’ll have greater momentum, and avoid falling into a trap of refining and refining until you’re forced to release.

How to get started

Everything starts with a conversation. If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, gather the team and start exploring what working style preferences people have in common and where they diverge. Let us know what conflicts you encounter on your team in the comments section or by emailing us.

Also, Teamworks can help! If you’d like your team to take our Working Styles diagnostic and map out a plan for getting in sync, sign up for a free two-week trial. After taking the team diagnostic, select “Strengths” as your first “Focus Habit.”

Further reading from Teamworks:

Synching up the team’s working styles: Part I
Knowing when to manage and when to lead

The transformative impact of great managers
Does your team have decision dysfunction?
You’re in a duo with everyone on your team


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