Last updated: 25 November 2021
As a good leader, you strive to build a culture of high productivity, positive change, and a united workforce for your organization. To succeed in doing this, it is up to you to determine how to get the best out of the people you lead, and how to get the most out of your leadership style.
One of the many factors that motivates you and your coworkers, that affects everything, from how you meet a deadline to how you work with others, is your working style. Knowing what drives you, lights you up and inspires you means you need to know: what is your work style?
What is a Work Style?
Your work style is the way you go about your daily tasks, and your general approach to work as an overarching strategy.
For example, do you prefer working solo and looking after your own tasks and schedules?
Or, do you prefer being surrounded by your team, collaborating on ideas with plenty of feedback and lots of support to keep you on task?
Do you work in a cool-as-a-cucumber, stoic fashion, focussing on facts, or do you bring emotion into the workplace?
Are you detail oriented, or do you look at the big picture when problem solving?
Identifying and consistently building upon your work style helps you to be productive.
By knowing where your skills lie you get to develop them, exponentially increasing your value as you skill-up, and play-up your strengths and advantages.
Knowing what is your work style, and knowing your coworkers’ styles means you build positive work relationships, because being super familiar with the way your people roll, as individuals and members of a group, means you can situate them in roles that are to their advantage.
This means greater job satisfaction for your team and greater overall productivity for your business.
Not only that, knowing your teams’ work style demonstrates a greater level of understanding on your part – every single one of your people wants to be understood.
Good understanding is a cornerstone of good leadership. And what better starting-point for playing to your colleagues strengths than developing your understanding?
For example, have you ever looked around a meeting table, seeing and noticing all the different styles and approaches and wondered what drives and motivates some of your team and simultaneously shuts down others?
You might have noticed those that jump on future obstacles and turn them into opportunities. Or, those that are versatile and adaptable, able to take on an array of different roles, while connecting with their colleagues and remaining on task.
Then there are the people who depend on feedback and collaboration, and others who are best left to their own devices with a little guidance, to fly solo on self led initiatives.
Getting familiar with the different styles is your way to maximize individual and team productivity and reinforce the cohesion, unity, between the team.
Different work styles respond and communicate differently, as you see in any meeting or group situation (when you’re paying attention!).
For example there are those who naturally listen very deeply (the supportive style) and those who talk all over others in their enthusiasm to share the next concept or idea (the big picture type). Sounds familiar?
This article is your guide to the five work styles: independent, cooperative, proximity, supportive and big picture, as identified by the NLP specialist, author and renowned Performance Coach, Tony Robbins.
Using Robbin’s work style model you will get to know how unique individuals’ work styles can be harnessed to promote a super productive, harmonious work environment for your organization.
The five types are all different examples of work styles, there is no “right” or “wrong” style – there are simply different approaches.
And it is knowing these differences that allows you as a leader to situate your people at their most advantageous. In fact, it is in your interest to have a range of different styles in your team.
Having a team of predominantly one style is a pitfall – can you imagine a team meeting where all members are big picture types, talking over each other in a push to pitch the “next-best-thing”?
You might have some great and perhaps visionary thinking, but other crucial elements would be lacking.
Elements such as bouncing around feedback, organization, detail oriented product or market research, empathy or social connection. To lead a successful team requires a variety of styles that are aptly placed to bring out the best qualities in each.
Although the global covid pandemic has seen some drastic change in where and how you work; gone are the cubicles and offices, and now remote working is now the new normal. Yet there are some things that will always stay the same; namely working styles.
So, what is your work style? And how do you recognise the styles in others? Let’s dive in for a close up.
What is Your Work Style?
According to Robbins, the five work styles (in no order of preference!) are: independent, cooperative, proximity, supportive and big picture.
The Independent Work Style
As an Independent worker, you are not happy unless you are working solo. You have difficulty working closely alongside others. You like to call your own shots and don’t work well under supervision. You like to follow your own instincts and see where they take you.
Independent workers are autonomous, self-reliant, instinctive, entrepreneurial, visionary. They are disciplined and productive. Often found in creative or scientific fields; the up-all-night writer, or an engineers’ intense focus on solving a problem.
Independent workers are autonomous, self-reliant, instinctive, entrepreneurial, and visionary.
As the name suggests you have an independent working style which means you work best with the autonomy to call your own shots, and make your own schedules. You are disciplined, efficient and productive.
The independents amongst you are often found in creative or scientific fields. Think of the up-all-night writer, or a scientists’ intense focus on solving a problem, working solo with a singular focus.
Your independent work style is best when you are set a brief and left to your own self-governing means to reach your endpoint. You need the latitude and trust to go ahead and get things done, within your own framework. This style is self-led which makes you effective entrepreneurs, creating and managing your own business.
The Shadow Side
As an independent worker you don’t work well under close supervision and would rather go it alone, which means you are not best situated working closely within a team.
You work better solo, doing things the way you want to do them, when you want to do them. If you are micromanaged you will likely shut-down, get frustrated, or leave.
Such is your autonomy and self-leadership that you would rather be left to do things your own way – which means that you might find yourself constantly going against the grain if you work within a group, especially without the avenue of expression for your independence.
You might find yourself unhappy at work, or driving others crazy. It might be that you are brilliant, just not cut out to be an employee.
The Key to Working with the Independent Worker:
To adapt your leadership style to the independent worker you will need to be very direct according to Inspersity.
Tell your independent where they stand, what needs to be done and then get out of the way to let them get on with it – by themselves. Your independent worker is all about getting it done – solo.
So don’t even think about micromanaging! The best thing you can do to maximise their talents is offer an avenue of expression, in other words offer them as much autonomy as possible.
Keep them off the group projects, for everyone’s benefit.
Key questions for this detail oriented work style, says Carson Tate in the Harvard Business Review, are: “What is your goal?”
And “What are you seeking to achieve?”
If you give this employee as much of a free-reign as possible you will have a valuable, efficient and brilliant team member, who’s never afraid to go it alone.
The Cooperative Work Style
The Cooperative worker is best as part of a group. You enjoy working together on projects, collaborating on tasks and bouncing feedback off others. You are a team player and happiest working closely alongside others.
Cooperative workers are natural communicators and are, by nature, diplomatic. They are also organized, collaborative and work best as a part of a group.
They are found in relationship-oriented roles such as HR, account executives, and project managers.
Cooperative workers are natural communicators, diplomatic and collaborative in their approach.
As a cooperative worker, you work best as part of a group where you can bounce off others and work together on projects. You are also organized, collaborative and happy to give and receive regular feedback – in fact you will do this as a natural tendency – not just at an annual review!
You are best suited to relationship-oriented roles such as HR, account executives, and project managers.
Because you are naturally communicative you are a strong team player. Your organized, cooperative strengths are in establishing order, structuring projects and facilitating team interaction says Tate in the HBR.
Your style ensures that work is completed on time and that everyone is on board and up to date.
The Shadow Side
Being a cooperative worker means that you don’t thrive in autonomous new venture type roles, or where you are expected to work solo.
You are better at working within a team and being involved in a communicative back-and-forth. Because you need to work in a group, switching to working in a remote post, such as working from home where interaction with others is minimized, is not likely to bring out the best in you.
It may also be that you shy away from leadership roles, preferring to stay as part of the group, however just because your style is relationship-oriented doesn’t mean you can’t thrive as a leader.
The Key to Working with the Cooperative Worker:
To get the best from your cooperative employee, place them in group projects where building relationships is key.
Allowing them to facilitate team interaction and share group ideas, facilitating brainstorming or feedback sessions is ideally oriented to their people skills.
Your cooperative worker will structure projects and disseminate information making sure that the communications reach everyone, team and stakeholders alike.
Remember they themselves need large amounts of feedback and human interaction to thrive, says Robbins.
So don’t be tempted to put them in charge of an autonomous new venture or set them to work solo on their own project.
The key questions to ask this communication-oriented type, according to Tate in the HBR are: “How will you decide which step to take next?”
And “How can you make — work more effectively?” Your cooperatives are your people people!
Have them manage your people, collaborate on projects, and watch them shine.
The Proximity Work Style
The Proximity work style is in-between the independent and the cooperative styles. You like the best of both these worlds: to work with other people yet with sole responsibility for your own tasks.
You have a social connection with your other team members while pursuing your own projects.
Proximity types are typically found in all aspects of business because they are versatile and adaptable.
They are the bridge between the independent and cooperative types, they strengthen a team by uniting those two diverse styles.
They are a strong cohesive force in a workplace because they bring people together.
Proximity types are versatile and adaptable and so are typically found in all aspects of business.
In fact, you are the bridge between the independent and cooperative types. Because of your social and flexible nature you are able to bring together a cohesive team by uniting those two diverse styles. You work well solo, on your own projects, yet enjoy the social connection with your team members – and the both sides are important – independence and connection.
You are self-reliant and efficient, able to prioritize your own workload and projects. When collaboration is called for you are a willing participant and will freely interact and feedback, as long as you get to go back to your own territory after the session.
You enjoy the autonomy of taking responsibility for your own tasks and are a people person able to thrive in a wide variety of roles because of this versatility.
The Shadow Side
As a proximity worker you want to be a part of the team but do your work alone; you may find that balance hard to come by.
Working too closely within a group where you are unable to express your independent side will leave you feeling frustrated and micro managed.
If you are in a role that is isolated by nature you may feel that you are missing out on a part of your inspiration or motivation that you get by connecting with a team.
Find, or create the balance in your role that satisfies both your need to be connected to a team, and your drive to do your work alone – otherwise you could drive yourself and your coworkers to distraction.
The Key to Working with the Proximity Worker
To get your proximity worker on board, you need a foot in both the independent and collaborative mindsets.
In other words, because they like to work independently with a connection to the group, set them to work on their own project, let them get on with it, and stay connected.
For example, offer them the option to participate the team in get-togethers, feedback sessions, and invite them to relevant meetings and brainstorming opportunities.
The key questions to ask this type, according to Tate in the HBR are
“Where can you find the data that will help you make that decision?” And “What has worked for you in the past?”
Make sure they get the feedback they need to stay on track, to keep focusing on their own work, and at the same time allow them an ample avenue of expression to be responsible for their own tasks.
If you do this you will have a brilliant and versatile worker who is the glue between your independent styles (independent and big picture) and supportive styles (collaborative and supportive).
The Supportive Work Style
As a Supportive work style is an emotional connection. Your goal is to create deep connections with your coworkers and clients, you thrive on collaboration and are most happy celebrating team successes.
Supportive types have a supportive, expressive, and emotional working style. They are very emotionally aware and form deep connections with those around them.
Because of their emotional awareness, they have a natural aptitude for facilitating group interactions and will always notice when someone is having an “off” day.
They are most happy celebrating successes with others in the team.
Supportive types have a supportive working style. You are expressive and emotionally oriented and typically found in roles where facilitating interactions, between team or clients, is crucial.
You are able to do this easily because you are very emotionally aware of others, and form deep connections with those around you.
Because of your emotional awareness, you have a natural instinct for working closely with people, knowing what they need, and you will always notice when one of your colleagues is having an “off” day.
You are most happy celebrating successes with others in the team because you thrive on collaboration rather than competition.
The Shadow Side
As a supportive worker, you are naturally expressive and emotionally oriented, which means that at times emotions can run strong.
As you may have already noticed, this can alienate some of your more fact-oriented colleagues who aren’t cut out to thrive in an emotional exchange like you are.
Because you are supportive by nature and clearly see what others need in order to do their work, you may have a tendency to forget to ensure your own support, which might leave you feeling somewhat adrift. Make sure that you have what you need so that you are able to keep building strong relationships with all your coworkers.
The Key to Working with the Supportive Worker
Your expressive, emotionally aware, and supportive colleague is super skilled at building relationships.
They are best situated in roles where they are facilitating team interactions and spotting what is needed for others to make things happen.
They are your emotional guidance system and will let you know if something is amiss with someone in the group. Trust their emotional and intuitive acumen.
Key questions when working with your supportive types are:
“Who can support you in this?” “How is your behaviour impacting others?”
And “Who else needs to be involved?”
Your supportive types are your deep bond-builders; give them the support they need to come alive as the expressive facilitators that they naturally are.
The Big Picture Work Style
The Big Picture work style is all about vision – you are able to see the company’s vision and drive change by integrating distinct ideas into a cohesive strategy. You anticipate future issues and convert them into opportunities.
Big picture types are the visionaries who literally see the bigger picture. They are entrepreneurial and embrace the wider vision, often driving change and creating opportunities.
They are often found running their own business or heading organizations.
Big picture workers are visionaries by nature who naturally see the bigger picture.
Because you are able to see the wider perspective you are naturally entrepreneurial, and can drive change by integrating opposing ideas to create opportunities.
As a result, you are at your best when you are running your own business, heading teams, or organizations. You like to do things your own way and reach for the bigger view and all the potential it contains, rather than getting bogged down with details.
As you have skill for integrative thinking you act as a catalyst for change, bringing solutions to problems with ease. You are innovative and forward-focused.
The Shadow Side
As a big picture worker, you are not detail-oriented. You think in broad strokes. Because you see the wider perspective, an overarching direction, or solution, you can have a tendency to talk over others and dominate airtime with your big ideas.
Your challenge is to sit back and develop your listening skills before jumping in.
You might find yourself frustrated at work if your role doesn’t allow you sufficient opportunity to express yourself in your own way and work autonomously with your big plans.
Such is the scope of your vision that you don’t work well under close supervision, nor work closely within a group. In this kind of setting, you will feel frustrated and unhappy, and your team will all know about it.
The Key to Working with the Big Picture Worker:
If you have a big picture worker on your team, much like the independent style, it is your role as a leader to provide them with as much autonomy as possible to maximize their talents.
Give them as much independence as is feasible, no group projects for the big picture style.
They thrive in autonomous roles where they are catalyzing change; brainstorming for solutions, and problem solving.
They are skilled innovators and can easily drive change with their capacity to see a wide perspective and synthesize an array of diverse ideas.
Key questions for the big picture types, according to Tate in the HBR are: “If there were something else you could do, what would it be?” And “what ideas do you have for addressing —?”
Leveraging your big picture workers’ skills will ensure they flourish while offering you a fresh approach to keep your business moving forward.
The Work Styles – Your Key Takeaways
Knowing what is your work style gives you the edge in understanding what drives and motivates you, so that you can leverage your own natural skills and abilities to your best advantage. This allows you to thrive in your own style and capitalize on your strengths.
Knowing the work styles of your team also gives you an advantage because it means you get to situate your people and recruit newcomers, for roles where they can authentically be their best.
This is a double bonus because they will not only find immense satisfaction in their work, they will also know that because you understand what makes them tick that you have their back. This all makes for an upturn in productivity and a lower staff turnover.
Filling your staff with a variety of styles, where they are positioned according to their work-style skill-sets, ensures that you have the right people in the right jobs.
The big picture thinkers are holding the vision and driving change; your independents are forging ahead on autonomous new ventures.
Meanwhile, your collaborators are drawing up the details on project structures and making sure everyone knows their role; your supportive team members are keeping a tab on who’s not ok, and who needs what to succeed.
Your proximity workers are versatile and are found all in between the other styles, unifying the team and facilitating the flow of information and action.
Understanding and applying work styles is about unifying your team – by celebrating and making the most of your peoples’ differences.
There are some things that motivate some people, yet turn others off. Bringing awareness to these differences takes the “right” or “wrong” out of diverse approaches and different orientations of skills.
Utilizing work styles is playing to your team’s individual strengths by allowing them the scope to shine in roles that suit their own authentic style, creating a positive and proactive work environment for all.