Four Ways of Working: And Why Your Team Needs Them All

By: Randy Myers

How and where work gets done has changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing business leaders to make fast and far-reaching decisions in a novel environment. More than a year after the pandemic’s onset, much remains unsettled. Supply chains are in turmoil, employers are still debating whether it makes sense to return to the office, and travel is resuming in fits and starts as pandemic conditions ebb and flow around the world.

Both a physician and engineer (mechanical and biomedical) by training, Doctor Sangwan is the CEO and founder of Intuitive Intelligence, a leadership consulting firm.  With this rich background, she predicts that the organizations and business leaders who will do best in this new environment are those who take time to reflect on themselves and how they connect and communicate with others. Doing those things will be easier, Sangwan told participants at the SVIA’s virtual 2021 Spring Seminar in April, if they learn to recognize key differences in how people think about and approach work.

In the course of her work, Sangwan said, she has identified four different work styles. She contends that understanding how they differ—and knowing which style aligns most closely with you and which with your colleagues—can foster better and more empathetic communication and success in the workplace.

Work style #1: Doers
“Doers” are hard workers whose currency is accomplishments. They tend to work quickly and like structure, Sangwan said, and their “superpower” is getting things done on time and on budget. But like all people, doers have fears. Their biggest fear, she said, is of being vulnerable—of not being in control. Doers can maximize their productivity and satisfaction, Sangwan suggested, by working in a dedicated office space, segmenting their tasks into blocks of time, and recharging when necessary through physical activity.

Work style #2: Thinkers
“Thinkers” deal in details, numbers, and data. They like things in order, analyze before acting, and enjoy solving complex problems. Not surprisingly, they tend to act less quickly than doers. Their motto, Sangwan said, could be “do it once and do it right.” Their fear is looking foolish, which sometimes leads them to delay drawing conclusions until they’re sure of their analysis. A good way for thinkers to maximize their day, Sangwan said, is by organizing something in the morning and then batching tasks to stay on track. Watching a fun video or doing something physical like taking a walk can be good stress relievers for thinkers, Sangwan said.

Work style #3: Seers
“Seers” are visionaries—creative thinkers and innovators who like to explore new ideas and possibilities. Their motto, Sangwan said, might be the phrase often attributed to entrepreneur Walt Disney: “If you can dream it you can do it.” A seer’s biggest fear is being trapped into one course of action, which can make them hesitant to commit to something because there may be other, better choices out there. Seers tend to appreciate aesthetics, Sangwan added, so they can get their day started on the right foot by dressing nicely and creating a schedule that incorporates plenty of flexibility. To recharge, seers may find it helpful  to do something fun, new or innovative.

Work style #4: Feelers
“Feelers” focus on people and relationships and are often the glue holding teams together. “They’re the ones who really enjoy client services, managing clients, making sure customers are satisfied,” Sangwan said. Like thinkers, feelers tend to work at a slower pace than doers because connecting with people can take time. An appropriate motto for feelers, Sangwan said, might be the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Feelers’ biggest fear is being rejected because they care deeply about the group and about others’ opinions. Sangwan advises feelers to start their day by reaching out to someone they care about, and later, if they’re feeling stuck or need a break, asking a buddy for help. To recharge, she says, feelers like to celebrate with others.

Putting it all together
Sangwan acknowledged that some people may exhibit a blend of two or more work styles, which can be productive: a doer/feeler, for example, might be good both at getting things done and making sure the rest of the team works with her.

Challenges can arise, of course. When doers and thinkers are working together, for example, with one moving fast and the other slow, it may trigger some frustration. “But what’s important is that each person recognize the other’s fear,” Sangwan said. “If you understand that, it can help you value the other person, move in the same direction, and get across the finish line.” The best teams, she added, have at least one of each work style represented among their members.

Beyond considering work styles, Sangwan encouraged Spring Seminar participants to think carefully about how they communicate at work. Communication consists of multiple components, she said: body language, tone of voice, and the actual words being used. Communications that incorporate all three components, like an in-person conversation, are least likely to be misunderstood. At the other extreme, a text or email is just words and omits the valuable context that body language and tone can provide.

“If it’s an important communication, then it should feature body language, tone and words,” Sangwan concluded. “If it’s of medium importance, maybe you could do it on the phone or a video call. If it’s not that important and you don’t think there’s going to be any conflict, shoot off an email or a text.”

Watch the recorded presentation here