How to adapt your ways of working to get the best out of your team

Krista Krumina 16.06.2022
ways of working

Regardless of size, a team brings together numerous people with diverse ways of working and behavioral patterns. As a result, the traditional one-approach-fits-all method of managing a team no longer cuts it for productivity in the modern workplace. 

People just don’t have the same way of working. Instead, they’re efficient with different work methods – some may be time-blocking to get things done, while others prefer to go with the flow and plan nothing.

There are no right or wrong ways of working, as long as things are getting done. And as a manager, it’s your responsibility to create an environment in which every team member can work the way they’re most productive. 

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A key component of a productive work environment is harmony between employee and managerial work styles. So, as a team lead you might need to be adaptable in your ways of working. 

But what does “way of working” even mean?

Ways of working – definition and key principles

What is the definition of ways of working? At the management level, the term ”ways of working” refers to how a team collaborates and executes tasks. According to executive coach and advisor Marc Sniukas, there are five principles of ways of working that help high-performance teams to thrive:

  • Be purpose-driven – have a clear focus, and well-defined shared set of goals that all the team is committed to
  • Focus on progress and outcomes – measure and evaluate progress and results instead of processes and procedures; this will ensure constant improvement
  • Collaborate – prioritize building a cohesive team that supports and works towards a shared goal
  • Work in the open – ensure complete transparency in communicating with your team for it to be able to do its job
  • Be people positive – give autonomy and end-to-end responsibility to your team; it’s a way to show trust.
Happy employees are talking at the office after the implementation of the new ways of working framework

Ways of working: common examples

When talking about individual ways of working, the term refers to how each employee interacts and collaborates with others at work. Some examples of ways of working include:

  • How you do a certain task and what tools you use. For example, someone may prefer Google Docs for drafting notes, while others – pen and paper
  • The sequence in which you carry out tasks – some people start with the easiest tasks first, while others prefer to start the morning by ‘‘eating the frog
  • The frequency of certain work processes, activities, and events – eg., how often you organize meetings, fill out reports, etc.
  • And other examples of ways of working that are common when performing different tasks.

How to modify your ways of working to maximize team productivity

To work with a team – and even more so to manage a team – requires being flexible and open to a variety of different ways of working. And in order to maximize your team’s productivity, you may need to adjust your individual way of working to the majority of your team’s. 

For example, you may be obsessed with time-blocking, while the majority of your team prefers to leave their working days unplanned and open to whatever task comes their way. If you’d request everyone to adjust to your way of working, it would lead to frustration, dissatisfaction, and even high turnover. 

So, in such a situation, you may want to modify your way of working for greater benefit – higher productivity and employee satisfaction. Here’s the step-by-step process to approach this:

Step 1: Evaluate your employee’s current performance

An employee is tracking productivity with the Desktime app to adapt to a new way of working with the team

The first thing you should do before changing your way of working is to measure your team’s productivity to have your starting point. Otherwise, you won’t know whether these changes help or hinder your staff’s performance. 

The easiest way to measure your team’s work performance is by using a time tracking app for employees, such as DeskTime, that will automatically calculate their productivity. All you’ll be left to do is to make the comparison and draw conclusions.

Step 2: Survey your team

Create a survey for your team to find out what they think is working well and what needs to be improved. Maybe there are things in your way of working that your colleagues don’t want you to change. You can create a simple framework for auditing your current way of working like this:

– Be more responsive
– Set realistic deadlines
– etc. 
– Micromanage
– Focus on failures and not enough on successes
– etc.
– Be honest
– Provide constructive criticism
– etc.

Allow your team members to submit their answers anonymously, as respondents then are more inclined to provide more detailed and honest feedback.

Step 3: Create your new way-of-working framework

Now that you’re aware of how your team performs and what they want you to change or keep in the way you work, you can create your new way-of-working framework. It should roughly define how you will work from now on and state some basic guidelines, rules, or behaviors you agree to follow in specific work situations, eg., when you:

  • Delegate tasks
  • Provide feedback
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Resolve crisis situations
  • Make large decisions
  • Ensure work quality
  • etc.

For example, when providing feedback, you’re expected to be honest and provide constructive criticism, as well as focus not only on the failures but also on what’s been done well. Or, when ensuring work quality, you’d trust your team’s expertise and avoid micromanaging, and also be responsive when they ask for help and reply to all questions within 24 hours.

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Step 4: Share your new way-of-working framework with your team

Your team deserves to know what they can expect from you, especially if that’s something you’ve just recently added to your way of working. If, for example, you’ve so far been slow with answering emails, then your team should know that from now on, they can expect a reply from you within 24 hours.

The manager is working with the team in the office

Step 5: Implement, test, and refine

Implement your new way of working and analyze if and how it affects your team’s performance. The first step was to measure their productivity, remember? Now, make sure you compare the before and after data to draw your conclusions. If necessary, do this ”exercise” again – survey your team to find out what’s working well and what’s missing, then refine your way of working and add new improvements.

Final thoughts on ways of working

It doesn’t always have to be broken to be fixed. Even if your team’s performance already is excellent, there is always room for improvement. A tiny adjustment in your way of working framework can help you take your company’s success to the next level.

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