Culture: Working with idiots?
We all have days that it seems we have to work with idiots. Of course, that’s not true! Sometimes we have more difficulty coping with different styles. That’s okay. As long as we don’t blame the others - but catch ourselves before we do and adjust communication.
Thomas Erickson explains the styles and how to work with your colleagues in his book, Surrounded by idiots. The four types were developed by psychologist W.M. Marston and our well-known as DISC. The DISC color-coding system maps the four behavioral styles for a certain context. It’s not to say that you always behave according to this style! Most people have two dominant styles. The simple DISC styles help to understand yourself and others. You can accommodate your style to better collaborate with others.
What’s your style at work? And does that match the culture?
So, what will we do!!
In one of my culture workshops, the participants were interrupted a lot by one person who asked: “So, what will we DO with this culture profile?” “How’s our culture going to change?” “Stop explaining and give me some actions and outcomes!”
It was clear that he was very committed and engaged - even though he disrupted the dialogue and collective reflection that the group needed to come to conclusions. He tried to speed up the process - and caused irritation. The group wanted results as well - but they also wanted to make sure that all voices were heard and all (dis)advantages of actions taken into account.
The impatient person had a Dominant style - he was an extreme “Red” oriented person who craved concrete actions and outcomes, preferably yesterday.
He saw himself as determined, efficient, and very smart. He thought the others were too slow, talking too much, and too cautious about what could go wrong and what employees might think.
The others started to see him as too critical, insensitive, and pushy. They responded with irritation. We had to get back to a productive dialogue, but how?
It helped to point out the DISC different behavior styles - especially since they align with the four archetypes of culture: the Competing Values Framework that we were working with right then and there.
My behaviors rock
The DISC invites you to select descriptors that are most and least like yourself. It’s a self-assessment based on two scales. The first scale is a measure of how much information you need before you make a decision, indicating your risk/caution orientation. The second is how you prioritize task/people orientation - the pragmatic process of ‘getting the job done’ set against sensitivity towards ‘how people feel about things.’
Combining these two scales creates a grid with four behavioral styles:
Task and Risk orientation – tagged the Dominant style,
People and Risk orientation – tagged the Influencing style,
Caution and People orientation – tagged the Steady style,
Caution and Task orientation – tagged the Conscientious style.
The DISC is based on self-perception and entails great qualities:
Red, the Dominant style: Competitive, results-focused, independent, ambitious, determined, effective, purposeful
Yellow, the Influencing style: Inspiring, enthusiastic, outgoing, persuasive, dynamic, energetic
Green, the Steady style: Friendly, supportive, caring, sharing, patient, encouraging
Blue, the Conscientious style: Diligent, thoughtful, thorough, persistent, precise, formal
Your behaviors - not so much
The same behaviors, tagged in a positive way in your self-assessment, might be perceived in a less positive, even negative, light by others:
Red, the Dominant style: pushy, critical, tough, dictatorial, insensitive
Yellow, the Influencing style: manipulative, undisciplined, dreamers
Green, the Steady style: stubborn, uncertain, compliant, dependent, time-wasting
Blue, the Conscientious style: critical, indecisive, narrow-minded, fastidious, moralizing
In a great team, you have them all. We all bring value to the table with our different perspectives and contributions. The Yellow proposes an idea; the Red translates to how this can be done, the Greens start helping and enroll their colleagues, the Blue checks the details and improves the plan - and evaluates once the action is done.
The culture helps or hinders
There’s a connection with the Competing Values Framework that’s the basis of the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument. You might find more Yellows in Create culture, more Reds in Compete culture, more Blues in Control culture, and more Greens in Collaborate culture. Of course, these are rough generalizations. But the culture tends to favor some behaviors over others.
The Red person in my workshop example, doesn’t fit an over-the-top people-oriented Collaborate culture where relationships prevail over tasks. He would thrive in a results-oriented Compete culture. Once you understand, you may appreciate the quality this Red colleague brings to the table (though he could improve and adjust his style around the others).
The Reds want to get things done and prefer immediate results and solutions. They are frustrated by talking too much or details. They are impatient and direct.
The Greens want to understand the others, be appreciated, and achieve consensus. They often don’t take action and don’t like conflict.
The Yellows are enthusiastic and have great ideas. They might find it hard to follow through with what they promised.
The Blues have an eye for detail, but might miss the ‘big picture’ and focus on what might go wrong. They need time to process information and want to do further research.
Just listen to the language, look at meeting behaviors, and the interactions taking place. Do people agree and encourage each other? Do people provoke and challenge each other? Do they raise questions and doubts regarding details and risks? Do they jump to conclusions and new ideas?
Despite personal differences in style, the culture will reward some behaviors and suppress others. It will reinforce certain behaviors and interactions.
What’s the dominant meeting style in your team? If you want to shift that, you might present the DISC styles. Or simply start asking different questions.
Yellow - What is possible if…? What else works well?
Green - Who else could be involved? How can I help you? What would you need?
Blue - Yes, but have we thought of this…? How can we avoid this?
Red - What will we do? How to solve this? How can we make this happen?
There’s value in all styles and culture types. Work toward the right mix and beware of a too extreme, single-focused dominance. Working with behavioral styles is a great exercise to practice understanding, respect, and appreciation at work - and to get things done in the best possible way.
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© Marcella Bremer, 2020. All rights reserved.