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Be the Colleague People Want to Work With

by Lynette Silva

Recognize This! – As humans, we all bring different personality tendencies to our teams. We can choose how to amplify those that contribute to the greater good.

Relationships. We all have them. Relationships with others are a condition of being human. From superficial to very deep connections, we cannot navigate this life without deep relationships with others. That’s no less true for being our most effective selves at work.

I just read a terrific article in Strategy+Business by the person who might have the best view into work-based relationships – Reid Hoffman, executive chairman and cofounder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital fund in Silicon Valley. Reminiscent of WorkHuman speaker Adam Grant’s work in Give and Take, Reid describes how we choose to form alliances at work based on four categories of how people typically behave:

  1. “I’ll do something for you, if you’ll do something for me.” Very short-term thinkers who must see the immediate return/benefit to them in order to engage with you.
  2. “I’ll do something for you, but I’m keeping track of what you owe me.” Similar to the first group, but are willing to let the payback be on a longer time-scale (but the payback will come due).
  3. “I’ll invest in this relationship, and I expect you to invest commensurately over time.” Understands the importance of the relationships, and trusts that it will be mutually beneficial.
  4. “I’ll invest in this relationship because it’s the right thing to do.” The most altruistic in that there is no expectation of payback.

This got me thinking about four collaborative types of working I tend to see. I’m sure there are more, but these four have been much in mind the last several months.

  1. Connectors see the invisible lines between people, ideas, and potential outcomes. They go out of their way to bring the right people together. Connectors can be the most valuable team members because of their insight into the skills, talents and abilities of everyone. Their primary goals: to help people succeed, to get things done, to create cool stuff.
  2. Disruptors tend to be the negative voice in the room, raising the potential challenges, roadblocks and less desirable outcomes. Because of this, they get a bad rap. They are not the enemy. In fact, they are critical to ultimate success by forcing consideration of all angles. Their primary goals: to contribute to success by eliminating pitfalls up front.
  3. Contributors may not take the lead, but they are vested in helping achieve the goal. They want to help “get the job done.” They often work tirelessly and are committed to the success of the team and the project. Their primary goals: to add value with their unique skills.
  4. Blockers stall progress. These are critics who do not suggest solutions. If Disruptors are not the enemy, Blockers very well may be. For whatever reason of ego, ownership or fear, Blockers stop progress in its tracks. Their primary goals are hard to define as motivations can be as diverse as they are divisive.

I don’t have much use for Blockers. I tend to hold the line on, “You’re welcome to bring up all the potential challenges and problems you want, but you must also offer some ideas towards a solution, too.” Or Harry Kraemer’s management approach: “For every problem you bring, you get 1 point. For every solution, you get 1,000 points. The person with the most points wins.”

That said, we all likely have the tendencies of all of these types. An awareness of ourselves, the four types and when we may default to a particular type (or strategically apply a type when needed) can help us all work more human together.

How do you tend to form alliances (based on Reid’s take)? What’s your typical collaborative work style?


About the Author

Lynette Silva is a principal consultant on Workhuman’s Strategy & Consulting team, partnering with clients on change strategies to make work more human.

Profile Photo of Lynette Silva Heelan