When individual identities of a team are valued, ideas proliferate, harmony breeds creativity and learning, and empathy allows groups to flourish.
And in many settings, including leadership teams, classrooms, and businesses, the roles that people take on contribute to the success of the collective. In order for a team to work at its best, it’s helpful to periodically slow down and reflect on strengths, areas for growth, and relationships to other leadership or working styles.
In that spirit, Jute recently held its first annual Project Manager Summit—a two-day series of workshops designed to set aside time for valuing our hard-working, remote team of project managers.
Our goals for the two days were to help our team:
- Develop an individual and valued identity as a project manager
- Build connections and develop a team identity
- Foster a collaborative, receptive, and organic culture
As a jumping-off point to individual and group exploration, we identified and developed four project manager (PM) styles, and created an activity that invited the team to investigate the dynamics of each work style. Here are the styles that we came up with, representative of our team.
These are people who thrive on relationships with both their clients and co-workers. They’re the ones likely to rally the team for happy hour and are especially attuned to making sure all voices are heard at meetings.
Who loves a checklist? These folks! Processors love to create systems and play by plays for others to maximize efficiency. You’ll see processors taking copious notes and combing through the details of a project.
These are the product-oriented types. They’ll perfect a process and then execute repeatedly with efficiency and high quality. They love clear roles and working within a framework.
These are your customer-service-oriented taskmasters who have no problem holding a million details in their head. They love knowing how all the pieces connect to a master plan.
After acknowledging that people wax and wane within work styles based on the project, the day, season or how much caffeine they’ve ingested, we asked the PMs to self identity one of the four PM styles that most resonated with the way they see themselves. Then we asked breakout groups to explore this PM style and create a mini presentation about the following:
- Strengths: What is this particular PM style good at? What do they have to offer a team that is unique from the other PM styles?
- Challenges: What does this PM style struggle with? What are things that can derail this type of PM from being their best? Where are their blind spots or areas that require more energy to be successful?
- Happiness: What does this PM style need to be happy? What helps them thrive?
- Compliments & Clashes: What PM style(s) does this PM style work well with and why? What PM style(s) does this PM style struggle with sometimes and why?
Jute Creative values relationships between members of their team. So to preserve the safety and trust among the group, we stressed that the exploration in small groups was not about an individual, but rather about a work style. In other words, not only is the analysis of a PM style not personal, but differences are crucial to the balance and vitality of a workspace.
Each distinct group operated in a harmonious yet characteristically unique way. One group wanted to talk the whole time and created an abstract poster with drawings and arrows and words and phrases written every which way. Another group found themselves writing meticulous lists, so detailed that the poster was covered in bullet points from top to bottom. The personality of the style matched the presentation and offered a unique glimpse into the working style of others through the content but also through visuals.
For the Jute Creative team, we came to understand so much more about our organization and were able to:
- Flag imbalance in the team and look ahead to strive for more balanced teams
- Gain insight into hiring in the future
- Reach out to and value individuals who think in a different way
- Assign the right task to match a person’s strengths
For the Jute Creative individual, they were able to:
- Request and allot time for shadowing and professional development in areas of growth
- Learn language for articulating personal needs
- Validate their personal strengths and set goals for personal and professional growth
Considering the impact of this work on our day to day, we found new ways to interact with respect for each member’s style contribution. For instance, the Connectors realized that Processors need space and time to think through the details of a project. They can relax knowing that although Processors may not reveal all out loud, their attention to detail will pay off.
Reflecting on the working styles of an organization gives us insight into understanding that not all of us are alike, but we are all valuable and have our place within the team. At your next off-site, spend some time exploring work styles; you’ll find that it goes a long way toward creating more effective collaboration.
Use our Understanding Team Work Styles worksheet to plan and host this workshop with your team!
Do you have a team that could benefit from an outside group hosting the exercise? It’s not only for PMs! We’d love to work with you to customize the experience. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacque has a decade of experience guiding and coaching communities to create compassionate and effective spaces for learning and growth. Getting her start in public education, she loves bringing her organizational and interpersonal talents to project management and workshop facilitation to foster healthy communication and culture. She is also a writer who believes in the power of stories to shift hearts and minds.