Managing Styles While Working Remotely


Whether we are social distancing on our couches or conducting 500-person offsites, we all operate with different behavioral styles. No two people are alike, but individuals typically fall into one of four different styles – based on whether we have a tendency to “speak first” or “think first” and whether we are more “task oriented” or “relationship oriented.”

Here’s the thing: when we work remotely, it may feel like we get more time to ourselves. But in a sense, the uncertainty around how we work together actually amplifies these different styles.

Below are some tips for how to manage the four styles – taken directly from our DISC workshop – during these uncertain times.

Managing a Dominant (Director) Style

This is the style most likely to be motivated by ownership and challenge. While they will be likely to respond and tackle any challenges ahead, make sure there is clarity over what they own – and if you don’t have a clear path, find one. These people are often “fixers” in a time of crisis, so give them something that needs to be fixed. A communication strategy with outside customers. A new process for delivering a product without face-to-face interaction. Coordination of the supply chain. The more you can challenge them with a specific task, the more likely they are to thrive – and they’re not afraid of it.

Be mindful that dominant styles are not particularly motivated by what they perceive to be frivolous conversation, but this age of remote work might call for more social gathering from a distance than usual. If you are going to hold meetings that are meant primarily for social connection, be sure to clarify that that is the purpose.

Above all, you’ll want to:

  • Create opportunities for challenge
  • Make sure that the bottom line is communicated at the top of the email when sending emails out
  • Draw clear lines around ownership of different projects
  • Clearly communicate the purpose of each meeting so it doesn’t feel like time is being wasted

Managing an Influencer (Expresser) Style

Social distancing is going to be tough for these people, as they are largely motivated by contact with others. Anything that can be done to engage their emotions and add some energy to their day – video calls, group chats, funny memes – will help tremendously. Make these individuals your go-to “people interfacing” people as much as you can, whether you need client calls, meeting facilitators, or someone to send follow-up emails. This is going to be hard for them, so look for ways to engage them socially as much as possible.

When motivating an influencer from a distance, try to:

  • Create as many opportunities for human interaction as possible – whether they are engaging with internal employees or external stakeholders, they will need the interaction in order to stay engaged.
  • Show a sense of energy in your interactions – humor, emojis, colors in presentation slide decks – anything to shake things up.
  • Keep things positive, whenever you can

Managing a Steadiness (Relator) Style

Driven by mission, vision, and one-on-one interactions, these people are going to be the “fixers” in your organization. This style craves connection, particularly in a small group setting, and responds best to real-time feedback and appreciation for their help with the team. Be mindful of your written communication, however – “S” styles are most likely to misconstrue or overanalyze any possible language choices that may be perceived as confrontational. These are the people who are the most likely to turn over a conversation in their head, over and over, and this is only magnified when they are suddenly faced with text communication that doesn’t disappear. Don’t overthink it, but maybe re-read that two-word instant message before you hit “send.”

These individuals will also be the most likely to check in with others, and make sure everyone else is okay. I actually have a strong “S” style colleague who has been organizing weekly “how are you feeling” calls with his remote team, and I’m pretty sure that he is the one getting the most out of it.

Above all:

  • Check in periodically on existing projects for feedback – be it via phone, text, or Slack. Don’t wait until a project is done, and don’t hesitate to give kudos when it’s warranted.
  • When delegating tasks, try to connect the dots whenever possible on how their work will benefit others. This style is particularly mission-driven.
  • Create plenty of opportunity for one-on-one social connection.

Managing a Conscientiousness (Analyzer) Style

Analyzers are generally process-driven, detail-oriented, and motivated by expertise and precision. While the work from home environment may be conducive to their task-focused nature, this style is motivated by having a process, and is generally the least adept to large-scale unprecedented changes.

Additionally, this style is generally thoughtful with their responses, and perhaps less likely to vocalize their opinions in meetings. To mitigate these challenges:

  • Always provide a meeting agenda in advance, with an outline of desired outcomes for each agenda item.
  • If you do decide to implement any changes, communicate these changes as soon as possible in order for them to prepare. Be especially mindful of any ripple effects that may occur down the line, as this style has probably thought about the cause/effect relationships of changes already.
  • Provide the context or the “why” for any decisions that are made, as this might not be as obvious in a remote setting.

Remember, these are trying times for everyone, so remember to be patient with everyone – including yourself! And if you need some additional help in how to manage others – remotely or in-person – don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What are your best trips for managing people remotely?

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