#b#Merrick Rosenberg#/b#, president and chief learning officer of Team Builders Plus in Marlton, would claim that the Golden Rule doesn’t exactly work in a business environment. The reason is simple: other people may want to be treated differently than you want to be treated.
Suppose, for example, that you are a manager who is sociable, enthusiastic, and a good motivator. When you delegate projects to your employees, you tend to give them lots of latitude, giving them the bottom line and, you think, empowering them to complete the task as they see fit. But if the employee receiving your instructions is a conscientious, detail-oriented person, she likely would prefer very clear guidelines: how to structure the work, whmom to talk to, and how to organize the data. Your loose specification of the project, then, will probably leave that person feeling overwhelmed.
What you’ve done wrong is to mistake someone else’s needs for your own. Your conscientious employee would have profited from very detailed instructions, but you assumed instead that she would appreciate the kind of loosely specified assignment that you love. You are projecting onto her your own hatred of detailed instructions that make you feel as if you are being micro-managed and not trusted to figure out the process on your own.
To help managers understand how the needs of their reports differ from their own, Rosenberg uses a paradigm called the disc system in his team-building business. It specifies four behavioral styles that describe how people act and react to the world around them. These styles have been around for a long time and in many different cultures. Similar styles, says Rosenberg, are apparent in Aristotle, the Celtic wheel of being, Hippocrates’ four humors, the native American medicine wheel, and even terms like “left or right-brained” and “Type A or Type B.”
Rosenberg will present “Taking Flight: Unleash the Power of Behavioral Styles in Work and in Life,” on Wednesday, November 17, at 7:30 a.m. at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business Before Business Breakfast at the Nassau Club. Cost: $40. Call 609-924-1776.
The four styles that make up the disc system include:
#b#Dominant (or D-style)#/b#. This person focuses on results and the bottom line. “They are direct, independent, risk takers; someone who is take charge and make it happen,” says Rosenberg. They are also very decisive and driven.
#b#Interactive (or I-style)#/b#. This person is upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, very social, and very motivational. “They motivate others to get things done, have a lot of energy, and are very charismatic,” he says, adding that their motto is “Come on; we can do it.”
#b#Supportive (or S-style)#/b#. This person is empathetic and patient, but likes to maintain the status quo and not rock the boat. “They are all about harmony,” says Rosenberg. “They care about people getting along and are cooperative, helpful, and good listeners.”
#b#Conscientious (or C-style)#/b#. This person is logical, analytical, and detail oriented. “They are systematic, like a process and a plan, and not winging it,” he says. “They like to think things through before they act.”
Knowing what these behavioral styles are and how they interact can help managers to make the right decisions in the workplace. Here are a few take-home lessons:
#b#All for one#/b#. If a group is missing one of the styles, it may suffer in terms of quality. Suppose, for example, that your team does not have a member with the conscientious style, who likes to think things through. When a random idea arises in a staff meeting, an interactive person may say enthusiastically, “Hey, let’s do it,” and then the dominant person takes charge and pushes the idea.
“But if there is no conscientious person,” cautions Rosenberg, “you may not realize that the C would say, ‘Let’s think this through before we act, considering the implications of how it will affect the department, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. Not having a C could be a potential blind spot.”
#b#Get to know#/b#. Simply understanding the people you work with allows managers to better motivate direct reports. Consider a situation in which an I-style manager must give feedback to a C-style employee. The interactive person tends to give feedback that is high energy, optimistic, and enthusiastic: “You did a fantastic job, above and beyond the call of duty, and I really appreciate your efforts.” But that’s not what the C wants to hear. Instead he is interested in specific details: “What did I do right? Specifically what can I do better next time?”
“We speak from our own style perspective,” says Rosenberg. “By understanding this, the manager could give feedback to the C in a way that he is likely to hear it and be motivated by it.”
Or take another example of a bad decision, based on the manager’s lack of understanding of his group’s needs. The dominant-style manager, who is a hard-driving risk taker, is implementing a large-scale change in the organization. After he announces the change, that the new system would be implemented the following week and everyone’s roles would change, he asks whether there are any questions. When no hands are raised, he assumes everyone is on board (thinking, of course, that if he himself had had any issues, under similar circumstances, he would certainly have raised his hand).
But what if his group consists entirely of supportive types, who are reserved and need time to process what he has told them? They would find change a little scary, but as they are not very verbal, especially in a large group setting, they would not raise their hands. Had the manager understood better where his group was coming from, he would have empathized with his group’s fear of change and been more reassuring. Maybe he would have also set up individual meetings after the group announcement to work through the impact of the new decision one on one.
#b#Up and down#/b#. When we are using our natural styles, we are energized; when we use other styles, they tend to drain us. Managers should keep this in mind as they assign projects to their employees. Putting interactive people on a task that requires sitting behind a computer all day, for example, is likely to exhaust them and put them on edge.
However, our strengths, when overused, tend to create our weaknesses. When people get boxed in by their styles, qualities that are essentially positive can become extreme. If a person has a dominant style and is very direct, overuse can make her blunt and insensitive. An optimistic style may go over the edge into a lack of realism. A supportive person, who is very patient, may sit around, passively, waiting for things to happen instead of taking proactive steps to achieve a goal. A conscientious person may get bogged down in analysis and not be able to make a decision, what Rosenberg calls “analysis paralysis.”
To manage the interplay of styles in the workplace and avoid feeling hurt or angry when styles do not mesh smoothly, managers and employees should try to judge people’s motivations rather than their behaviors. “Sometimes by looking at intention, you can remove the sting behind people’s actions,” says Rosenberg.
Rosenberg grew up in Cherry Hill. His parents are entrepreneurs who own Just Kids Clothing in Philadelphia, which offers specialty clothes and formal wear for children. Both of his grandfathers also owned businesses, one a hat business and the other a men’s clothing store.
Rosenberg graduated from George Washington University in 1989 with a bachelor’s in communications. His first job was as a management consultant for the Federal Communications Commission, where he helped restructure work flow and redesign departments. But these changes did not always yield significant improvements. “I realized quickly,” he says, “that you can restructure and reorganize, but if you don’t have good leaders and teamwork, it’s not going to matter much.” So he enrolled at Drexel University, where he completed an MBA focused on organizational behavior.
While at Drexel he met the man who is now his business partner, Jeffrey Backal. For their marketing classes they created marketing materials for their business, and when they had to do research on an industry, it was on the team building industry.
Having designed the company, each one put $2,000 in a bank account, and the company has grown organically since then. The only additional money the company had to come up with was for the purchase of another team-building company. It now has 15 employees.
As co-owner of Team Builders Plus (www.teambuildersplus.com), Rosenberg travels throughout the world to conduct training programs to teach people how to work better with their coworkers and be better leaders by understanding the four behavioral styles. Rosenberg relates that often after doing one of these gigs, people will tell him that his program not only improved their understanding at work, but also their relationships with their spouses and children.
Once people understand the four behavioral styles, says Rosenberg, they are easy to apply. In fact when his children were six, he taught them about disc theory, and they would come home and talk about the styles of their teacher and classmates.
“Once you have shined a light on the four behavioral styles, you see them everywhere you go,” says Rosenberg. “You can meet someone and in minutes know what their behavioral style is, and that unlocks what their needs are.”