Let’s be honest: We all have aspects of our jobs that we love and others we loathe. Some people thrive when delving into research, while others are lovers of the creative process. This does not necessarily mean the latter group is not capable or skilled in analytical processes, but rather they have a finite amount of energy to spend on those projects before reaching their burnout point. The bottom line is that both of those areas of focus are necessary to the overall success of most projects, and aligning individuals on the assignments that best reflect their natural working styles will allow teams to be more productive, efficient and satisfied in their work. The added bonus for the C-suite? Happy employees are much less likely to leave their jobs. A company incurs substantial costs when employees are frustrated, conflicted or working on things that oppose their natural work styles. When considering the loss of a trained employee is about 213% of their annual salary, that’s motivation enough to take a closer look at team makeups and collaboration.
Let’s take a look at a fictitious (but likely familiar) team and how their work preferences show up as the they move through their day-to-day tasks.
Damon prefers to spend long days and nights living in the world of ideas and possibilities. He often asks the question, “What if?”. He has high interest in creative concepts and causes, and he does not like being rushed or fenced in. Repetitive tasks suck the life out of him, especially if he believes that these tasks have been put in place just so someone else can hold him accountable. When he has the freedom to create and he understands how his creation serves the greater whole, he is happy. But when he is given a directive and asked to work on a task without knowing how it aligns with other ongoing initiatives, he is anxious and unsettled. His energy drops, and his work suffers as a result.
Gavin’s energy rises when he is able to move ideas forward by getting others on board. People are a core focus for him, thriving on human interaction and suffering when forced to work solo for extended periods of time. He is charming and adaptable, and he sees the world through people, relationships, stories, and inspiration. When championing projects and getting others behind them, his energy is high and he is happy in his work. When forced to focus on research and spreadsheets for extended periods of time, however, his energy tanks and he is dissatisfied.
Elizabeth has an interest in facts and details that are backed by hard data. She loves conducting research and she trusts what is tried and true. She listens carefully, but she is the ultimate skeptic. She has an intense ability to focus and her thinking is rigorous and thorough. She can easily lose herself in complex problems, spending hours on end sorting through data and looking for logical conclusions. She studies what is possible and impossible through these analyses, and is able to spot potential problems from a mile away. This is her gift, and she enjoys sharing it. Her energy is at an optimal level when she is able to spend time this way, but that can quickly change when she is rushed to move to a decision too quickly – without having the benefit of complete and thorough analysis. She dislikes taking risks without data and has no patience for sloppiness. When forced to sit for hours on end living in the world of possibilities, her energy wanes and she becomes restless.
Anthony wants to know what: What are we doing? What are the milestones? What am I responsible for? What are others responsible for? He seeks results through challenge, competition, and confrontation. He is able to get things done with amazing efficiency, and he is able to get others to accomplish tasks as well. He thrives on this role of enacting and driving. His energy is high, as well as his productivity. Tolerating too many options and twists and turns exhausts him as it impedes his progress. He is direct and to the point and expects others to be as well, and he has little time and less patience for people problems. He just wants to get things done and is surprised when people take that personally.
Damon, Gavin, Elizabeth, and Anthony enjoy different aspects of any project or process. What energizes one, drains another. Now that we know what aspect of work each person enjoys, the logical next step is to allow them to focus on the phases of work that give them energy. It’s safe to assume they will be more productive and more satisfied if they are able to do so, and to ignore these natural work styles will only perpetuate the burnout challenge that has been a growing concern in teams across industries and skill sets. It is not so much a result of overwork, but of inefficient processes and team makeups that conflict with an employee’s natural working styles.
Now, it’s not always possible to focus only on the things we enjoy doing the most all of the time. But, imagine a world where we can spend a large percentage of our time focused on those tasks that give us energy, instead of on those that deplete it. You have heard the saying that the sum is greater than the parts, and this holds true for corporate teams as well. The most successful teams are dynamically represented by people who enjoy various aspects of work, but only if they understand their strengths and the strengths of others and they align around those strengths. Business leaders that have figured this out and have invested in tools that simplify this process are already reaping the financial and cultural benefits of teams that are high-functioning, productive, and most of all, happy contributors to their organization.