Optimizing the Work Styles of Your Innovation-Forward Team

Your team is running behind schedule and you’re discussing how to meet an upcoming deadline. The assignments were made weeks ago, but everyone has a different excuse for not meeting expectations.

Cynthia is supposed to write some of the code for new software, and she’s researched a great new plug-in that will make everything run faster, but she hasn’t even started the code for the original idea.

Larry, the marketing director, created a timeline for rolling out the campaign, but he’s feeling constrained because finance won’t get back to him with the numbers he needs.

Marisol, head of quality control, is frustrated because she’s worried their less-than-stellar performance will make it impossible to meet deadlines, at least not with a quality product. 

Malcolm despises the silo mindset at the company and wishes people would cooperate instead of fighting about who does what. 

It isn’t always easy for different personality types to get along when they all have different ideas about how work should be done. So who is right? The answer is everyone. 

As a leader, it’s your job to figure out how to manage different personalities so they produce the best work possible for themselves and for your organization. These four basic working styles — pioneers, guardians, drivers, and integrators — are common personality differences in approaching work tasks. Once you figure out how everyone works best, you can maximize their strengths so that every member of the work team excels. It just requires some planning.

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Pioneers at work

Pioneers seek adventure. They love to try new things, and they want to be first in everything. It doesn’t matter if an endeavor is risky or if no one has done it before — that only makes things more fun. This is where Cynthia the software developer excels. She feels hampered when people are slow to adopt ideas that would make things better for everyone.

Pioneers love to lead, so give them opportunities to do so. Allow them to be creative

Although they may not enjoy being tied down to certain responsibilities when a new idea looms, pioneers are more likely to follow through on responsibilities if they have creative time. Encourage them to take regular breaks from assigned tasks to come up with new ideas, and set aside time to meet with them so they can present those ideas to you. Why not let them lead group brainstorming sessions or present ideas to the team?

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Guardians of the team

Larry in marketing is a guardian. Once he gets an assignment, you can count on him to get it done. He craves order, and he prides himself on finishing tasks ahead of schedule. He doesn’t stir things up much — he figures he’s not the boss, so it isn’t his place to suggest they do things differently. He has some killer ideas for marketing campaigns, but he’s quiet about it, unless someone gets in the way of doing his job.

Guardians thrive when they have time to think. When there’s a meeting, give them an agenda ahead of time so they can work through their thoughts.

Better yet, ask the guardian to create the agenda themselves. With their meticulous attention to detail, they won’t leave anything out. Make their routines as predictable as possible, and they’ll appreciate your consideration of their time.

Drivers of innovation

Marisol isn’t in charge either, but unlike Larry, she wishes she could be. She, too, worries about deadlines, but she has a competitive streak. She seeks new resolutions about how to meet the challenges of inefficient processes.

When you’ve got a driver on your team, you’ll get results. To help drivers thrive, let them know their work gives the entire organization a competitive advantage. A driver will see through your groupthink and tell you where there’s opportunity for growth and a better way of doing things, helping you avoid costly mistakes later on.


Integrators, your connectors

Malcolm’s been talking about cooperation because he believes in people. He’s aware of your team’s performance gaps, so he wants to help increase the group’s creative energy by bringing in other people for the project. It might cost the company more, but he figures the improvements will make it worthwhile.

Ask any leader and they’ll tell you connections are the key to success. That’s why integrators are so valuable — they can network like nobody’s business. They have a gift for understanding people and mediating inter-team conflict.

Bringing the four types together

People are not as easily broken down into four categories in real life. Some may share traits from more than one working style. But if you use these working styles as a guide, they can help you determine your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, even if they don’t precisely match the description.

Even when your team members have similar working styles, you need different perspectives on your team. If that’s the case, you may wish to assign roles to team members to encourage divergent thinking.

Whether these working styles occur naturally, or whether you create them, one thing’s for sure: by managing different working styles effectively, you’ll learn something from everyone, and your team will work more cohesively as a result.

Want to bring your innovative team to a space where they can do their best work? Get in touch to explore workspace at CIC.

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