We all know someone like Mike, whose idea of a dream job is sitting alone at his computer, headphones on and focused on his data entry.
And we also know people like Janice, who is constantly in motion, chatting with vendors and pushing her latest idea to increase production.
While they happen to be on the same team, their job skills, titles and requirements are vastly different. As their leader, it’s your job to make sure their work styles complement, not conflict.
If you have a foundation that establishes clear goals, builds on the strengths of your team members, and offers them autonomy, you may have the ingredients for a successful multi-disciplined team.
ONE: Set goals for each job and the team
Be clear from the start what each person’s job entails. Job descriptions, as well as performance expectations, should be shared with each employee and the team.
As the leader, you will establish clarity of purpose and goals: Determine why the team exists and what its objectives are. These objectives should be tied to the business’s objectives, values and mission.
Although your team members perform different tasks, they’re all working toward a common outcome. Explain how each contributes to the overall plan to get their buy-in and give them a sense of purpose.
TWO: Build on the strengths of individuals
You can make things work if you take the time to learn about your employees: What motivates them, how do they communicate and what are they passionate about?
Not everyone’s work style is going to be the same. How someone prefers to work is often a result of their personality or character strengths. You can determine this through an assessment tool such as DISC, Strengths Finder or Myers-Briggs. The main objective is to highlight their strengths, not root out their weaknesses.
Once you’ve given an assessment, you can develop your team based on the strengths of its members. Consider the example at the beginning of this post: Mike is analytical and rules-based, while Janice is demanding and competitive. They both play an important role on your team – and by knowing what motivates them, you can play to their strengths. Let Mike take care of the details while Janice works to increase productivity. Then, praise them both when things go well. But remember, how you praise or thank each for a job well done may differ based on their personality and work style.
Assessing work styles and personality types can also bring peace to the ranks. You and your team will learn how to work and communicate with others who have different strengths.
If Mike and Janice have a hard time collaborating, it’s no longer a mystery why. You likely can tie their conflict to their work style. When it becomes a matter of how they work and what motivates them, it sheds light on why discord happens.
Use this information as a place to start to mend fences: “OK, see here where it says Mike prefers to stick to the task at hand? He doesn’t understand why Janice needs to have a friendly talk before getting down to business.”
However, there’s a limit to what you can blame on work style and personality. If you find yourself continuously dismissing bad behavior because “that’s just who they are,” then it’s time to take a closer look.
Every employee, no matter their style, has an obligation to get along with others – and it should be tied to their performance review. They don’t have to be friends, but they do have to conduct business.
THREE: Give them autonomy – even if it’s scary
As your business grows, it is sometimes scary to hand things over to others. But, you hired your people because of their experience, ability and potential. Now it’s time to let them do their jobs.
It begins with trust – and you should go first. Humility distinguishes a great leader. When you acknowledge that you may not be the smartest person in the room, you open the door to collaboration and problem-solving within the team.
As a mentor of mine once said, set the banks of the river and let your people flow within them. What that means is establish guidelines, then step back and let them succeed.
Giving your people autonomy not only gives them room to succeed, but it’s a factor in whether your employees are engaged in their job and your company. Employee engagement is a good measure of whether employees are productive and if they’ll stay in the job.
For example, you might ask Mike to develop a report that shows recent client activity. Share why you need the information, how it will be used and what you hope to gain from it. Then let him take that information and figure out how to create the report. This gives him autonomy, shows trust and frees up your time from getting into the details of the job.
As the leader, you won’t be able to control all things at all times, so don’t try. No matter what you do, mistakes will happen. It’s how you respond that makes a difference.
If you treat mistakes as a reason to take back control, you’ll lose the trust, autonomy, teamwork and engagement that you worked so hard to build. Learn from mistakes and possibly change processes or guidelines to ensure that particular mistake doesn’t happen again.
A tip for getting everyone to contribute
Not everyone will enthusiastically step up to the plate. There will be those who are gregarious and share at every opportunity. Then, there are those who are more observational who take time to process information.
Make this work for you by setting ground rules for meetings and how your team communicates. For example, provide an agenda before meetings so those who require more time for thought are prepared. Let them know whether decisions will be made at the meeting, or if there will be time for input afterward. Sometimes, it’s the individual conversations that happen after a meeting that inspire great ideas.
One final thought
As a leader, it’s up to you to balance the big picture with individual needs. You establish the guidelines for how your team works together, performance expectations and goals. Then, give them the latitude to get it done.
Good leaders recognize that success comes from the chemistry of different strengths and viewpoints.
For more information about how to be a good leader and get the most out of your workforce, check out How to Develop a Top-Notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.