One of the key factors that can enhance collaboration in a workplace is to identify the work styles of each member of a team. Each member of a team may have different work styles, which involve personality, focus, and even the way in which information is processed.

Although the word “diversity” in corporate life is often used to refer to gender and ethnic group representation, different work styles are a form of diversity that needs to be acknowledged and striven for. Ideally, employees bringing different styles to the table would create synergy. However, far too often, teams may founder and those with leadership skills are without the knowledge they need to lead in their group situation.A recent Harvard Business Review article identifies four primary work styles that all employees fall into. They are:

  • Pioneers – Pioneers see the big picture and like to go with their gut
  • Guardians – Guardians are the protectors of order; they like stability
  • Drivers – Drivers are results-oriented and comfortable with challenge and momentum
  • Integrators – Integrators prize connection and draw teams together

Teams may well realize synergies from the integration of a team leader who is a Pioneer and moves toward the company’s goals with able assists from an Integrator as the sounding board for the rest of the team.

But they can also founder as the Guardians see the Drivers as disruptive of a well-thought-out system or the Integrators see a Pioneer as lacking respect for long-time employees.

How to Manage

So how to manage? The authors, in fact, call for active management using the four types. (A questionnaire to determine one’s type can be found here.)

There are three potential active management strategies:

  1. Pull the opposites closer. Pioneers and Guardians are opposites, and so are Drivers and Integrators. That can lead to friction, as each member might feel balked and frustrated by the opposite. The solution? Talk to each, and have them talk to each other, about potential solutions to roadblocks, using the work style terminology. The goal is to have them develop more trust and safety around each other’s work style.
  2. Actively reach out to team members who are nondominant. It is never a given that teams will have equal representation! On a team of 10, three might be Drivers and all the rest Guardians. Or 4 might be Pioneers, 4 Integrators, 1 a Driver, and 1 a Guardian. If a team is lopsided with one or even two particular styles, it can lead to group think, in which other perspectives never come to the fore. Managers can balance this out by making sure the nondominant work styles are represented.
  3. Pay attention to the introverts. People who are introverted have great strengths in observation and reflection. However, they may not be swift to give input, preferring to reflect first. As a result, they may have insights of value that are drowned out. The authors suggest methods to maximize their input — for example, giving them a heads-up on meetings so they can have time to reflect first.

Managing team members by knowing their work style will ensure that corporate leaders maximize the contribution of each and avoid conflicts that could sink a team.