How to Work Virtually and Effectively With All Four Styles
“People can practice SOCIAL STYLE® concepts even when they work remotely. In fact, the remote working we’ve all been encouraged to do now has given us a new window into things we perhaps didn’t see with the people that we were working with before.” – Lisa Jones, Senior Instructional Designer, Global, Ernst & Young LLP
Many teams are functioning from a distance, communicating through virtual platforms, email and by phone.
These can be effective ways to connect with colleagues, but communication breakdowns are more common with virtual teams than when people are working together in the same space. Research shows that 65 percent of the information humans absorb during in-person interactions comes through interpreting the body language of the speaker. People working remotely may lose much of the information they’d normally retain during in-person interactions, even if they pick up some of that body language on the small screen.
With this in mind, it becomes very important that we understand the dynamics of virtual teams and practice specific strategies to increase their effectiveness.
In many ways, people’s natural Style-related work preferences will carry over to virtual teams. When interacting through virtual methods, you should be aware of how people’s Style preferences are displayed in subtle ways.
Here are some suggestions for working with each Style of person in the virtual world:
Driving Style people will work independently. This can be helpful since you won’t need to spend too much time overseeing their efforts. However, they may move forward without spending time to understand details of assignments, and this can result in wasted effort and having to redo some of their work. Counteract this by clearly communicating with them and making sure that they understand exactly what their priorities and objectives are. Ask them to describe their assignments to you. By spending time with this upfront, you will be able to leave them to their work without unnecessary interference.
Due to their independent and sometimes competitive ways, Driving Style people may be less collaborative with team members virtually than they are with them in-person. Keep them engaged with the team by relating their work to the team and organization goals. Regularly reinforce how their efforts contribute to team objectives. Though they like to work independently, at times make collaboration with other team members a part of their work. This will help keep them involved with others and will show them the value of teamwork.
Expressive Style people can make progress on tasks by themselves, but they will want to maintain regular contact with you. They are likely to phone and email regularly. You can use this as an opportunity to not only talk about their work but get to know them personally by holding less-formal discussions. They can be somewhat disorganized in their methods, so you may need to spend time helping them to develop a focus or strategy for achieving their objectives.
Since Expressive Style people prefer to work with others, they’ll want to collaborate and interact with other team members. Though the team is virtual, whenever possible create opportunities for these individuals to work with others. Even in a virtual environment, Expressive Style individuals can achieve personal connections with their fellow team members, and since this is important for them, it will help keep them engaged and motivated.
Amiable Style people are good at creating camaraderie within teams, and their cheerfulness and enthusiasm can help team members feel optimistic and personable with one another. Even on virtual teams, they can display their abilities to enhance collaboration and commitment among the team. They are likely to seek out other team members and be cooperative with them. When possible, find opportunities for these people to collaborate with others since it is a natural ability for them.
Since Amiable Style people are quieter than some other Styles, so they may be reluctant to take an active role in important team matters. By nature they are agreeable, and in a virtual environment they may be very hesitant to disagree or offer their viewpoints if they think this will be contrary to the opinions of the rest of the team. This can be a problem for others on the team who are relying on them for their active input and contribution. Find ways to make it safe for these individuals to assert themselves and offer their opinions. This can often be accomplished by explicitly asking them to offer their input. You can do this in private with them, and then encourage them to provide their input to the rest of the team.
Analytical Style people are comfortable working alone, so in certain ways virtual teams may be naturally appealing to them. They do not crave personal interaction as much as some others, so they will approach the virtual team in much the same way they approach in-person teams. This can be an advantage for you since you will not have to spend much time overseeing them. However, they can be slow to act and this may hinder the team’s progress. You can help them meet timelines and commitments by clearly specifying these on team documents (e.g., agendas, project plans).
Their methodical approach can be particularly helpful for virtual teams, since these teams often require greater structure and processes than normal teams. While this can be a strength, Analytical Style people are also cautious by nature and may hesitate to move forward, even when the rest of the team is ready. You can help meet their need to be right by involving them in the development of team processes. By helping to create processes and procedures, they will be assured that the team is paying attention to important matters.
Succeeding in the “next normal” requires us to understand other people’s behavioral preferences and change our behavior to work most effectively with them in a virtual work environment. Learn more about the SOCIAL STYLE® Model and assessments to begin your Social Intelligence journey.