When working in a group, it is important to recognize that these four styles are complimentary. They balance each other. Teams are most effective when there is a balance of all four styles. However, it can be rare to be part of a group that is perfectly balanced. Many times we have no choice about who is or is not part of a group tasked with accomplishing something. This is where versatility is important.
To reiterate, these styles are preferences. We “prefer” to lead and interact one way over the other three. However, we are not incapable of taking on a different style. It is simply less comfortable. This principle is the key to one’s progress in being an effective leader.
By understanding each of your non-preferred styles, you become able to effectively step into a different style when it is needed.
“Be Like Me” Syndrome
One of the great difficulties in dealing with group interactions and leadership is that everyone feels their style is best. They ask, “Why can’t everyone be like me?” Your preference is always most comfortable. However, as mentioned before, balance is the key to effectiveness in a group. If you fall into a situation where everyone is the same style, you will see two things:
1. Individuals in the group will splinter off into their secondary style preference.
2. The group will likely be dysfunctional.
Different combinations of styles provide different composite pictures of interactions. Here are some simple imbalances and ways to assist your group in becoming more balanced and thus more functional.
In this scenario, a group will systematically move toward accomplishing its task. The group’s plan will be sound. Everyone will feel included. The process will be well organized, but the group will be very predictable in its progress. If new ideas are needed to solve a problem, the group may come to a grinding halt.
In this situation, you will need to step into the Expressive role:
• Idea people
Think “pie-in-the-sky.” Many groups include “brainstorming” in their process. This is a technique that tries to get non-Expressive people to think like Expressives. Try to make connections that might not seem obvious. To use a cliché, think outside the box. This is what Expressives do naturally. If you can bring these strengths to a group, your group will break out of its roadblock and be back on its way to productivity.
In this scenario, a group will appear to be very competitive rather than collaborative. The goal will be to get results as soon as possible. There will be little concern for people’s feelings. There may be arguments. Members of the group may want to leave or actually will leave. This group may have great ideas and organization on how to achieve the goal, but they may leave behind a wreckage of angry co-workers.
In this situation, you will need to step into the Supportive role:
Help the group focus on the process as well as the product.
Your product is a function of your process. If you have a terrible process that you use in achieving your outcomes, do not expect your outcomes to be very impressive. Great processes yield great products. Make sure that group members are not “sniping” each other, shooting down everyone’s ideas, making personal or inappropriate comments and generally not caring about other people’s feelings. Be intentional about making sure everyone in the group feels as if they are a valuable part of the process.
In this scenario, a group will have a wonderful social experience. Everyone will feel included. Everyone’s ideas will be heard. The group may establish a fantastic vision for the future but they will be totally disorganized and have no idea how to get the group from the current state to that fantastic vision in the future. You will notice the group will talk “around” ideas like moons orbiting a planet. The group will talk provisionally and be reluctant to commit to a plan.
In this situation, you will need to step into the Driver role:
Try to find and summarize the main point of the meeting or the discussion. Lay out a step-by step plan of how the group will accomplish its plan or come to a decision. Keep the plan on track. Use tools to help you be more organized if they are available. Personal planners, project planning software, spreadsheets, scheduling software, and meeting agendas were all originally designed by Drivers. This is what they do best. Get organized, decide on a plan and keep moving forward.
In this scenario, a group will be motivated to accomplish their goals. Members will feel included and the tasks will be organized. It will be a fun, energetic group that will always finish before any other group. However, this group will, many times, finish with the wrong answer. They are so motivated to finish first that they neglect to look at the soundness of their plan.
In this situation, you will need to step into the Analytic role:
Your job is to think. If you tend to talk a lot, try not to talk at all. Think about what everyone else is saying. Before any plan is enacted, have the group stop to consider each step. As painful as it may be to the group, suggest taking the time to research areas of uncertainty. Have discussions with the group about various outcomes of the plan. Are those the best outcomes? Are there others that the group can conceive of? Be thorough.
Leave little to chance in the plan.
Pausing to think or gather new information will give Expressives a chance to envision new solutions, new connections and new possibilities in your plan. It will prevent “group think” and rushing to solutions. These Analytic traits will either uncover unseen problems or validate what the group is planning. Both of these outcomes lead a group, not just to a solution, but to the best solution.
All of these scenarios are painted in primary colors. Groups are complex and fluid in their interactions. However, leadership is a practice. With this guidance and practice, you will hone these leadership tools in such a way that you can make nearly any group functional. In conversations with those who practice all four styles, they say that they have reached a level where they hardly think about modifying their style anymore. They construct work teams with these principles in mind. And when they have the opportunity to use the style that they prefer, they excel. Not only do they do what is comfortable, but they also know what limits to place on themselves for the overall functionality of the group.