Getting to Know You: Ways to Assess Your Team’s Working Style

Each time I come into a new startup, one of the first things that I am trying to figure out is “how the heck am I going to work effectively with these new people?” Now, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best and brightest startup minds in Boston, which made this process a bit easier. But there was always an adjustment period from when I started until I felt like we had hit our stride. 

Humans are unique; we have our own working styles, personal preferences, and outside work commitments. Some members of the team will be better at communicating these than others, which makes the task of working together a challenge but not impossible. 

I have found a few different ways that help when you are trying to assess your team’s working styles and want to highlight two of my go-tos: Individual User Manuals or “Ultimate Guide to Understanding X”, and Team Agreements. 

Individual User Manuals

I was a bit later to the game discovering the power of User Manuals than some of my People Operations colleagues. In fact, it wasn’t until I got to Privy and met Dave Gerhardt that I really got to know the ins and outs of a User Manual. On Dave’s first day, he shared “The Ultimate Guide to Understanding DG” in a Google doc with everyone on the leadership team. In this guide he talked about himself, his family, and his passion for marketing. In addition he shared more about his previous roles and his guiding principles on general marketing and how he likes to work on a team. Some of the things in the doc I had known from talking with him but others were new pieces of information that helped me to get to know him better and ultimately work more effectively with him.  

After he shared this doc with us, as a leadership team we decided to each put together our own “Ultimate Guide to Understanding {my name}”, a version of which I still use to this day. When I was first making my guide, I struggled a bit to know how much personal family information I wanted to share and how detailed I wanted to get when it came to my working styles and pet peeves, but in the end one of my goals was to “deliver and present results publicly” so I knew that to be the most helpful to my team I needed to share a bit more than I might usually be comfortable sharing. 

The big things you want to make sure to cover in a User Manual or an Ultimate Guide to Understanding {insert your name here} when it comes to your working styles are:

  • Preferred communication style
  • How do you like to receive feedback
  • How do you like to be recognized for your success 
  • What are your pet peeves when working with others/what will suck your productivity 
  • When/How are you most productive
  • What kinds of projects motivate you
  • How do you learn something new or take in new information 

All of this information will help your teams to know you a bit better on a personal and professional level. They will understand when to send you a Slack vs an email vs set up a meeting and they will know the best ways to communicate critical feedback as well as praise you for your efforts. 

Team Agreements 

Now that your team has learned more about each other’s working styles you can set up a Team Agreement to have a common language and mutual expectations when it comes to the roles and responsibilities each member of the team will play at the company, expected behavior towards one another, and clear alignment on the metrics measured for performance. The other great thing about having everyone agree to the terms in a Team Agreement is that people feel empowered to speak up if someone happens to break something in the agreement. If you have “we will respect the working hours of each individual on this team by either not messaging them or by not requiring a response until their next working day”, then the pressure to always respond to a Slack even outside of your working hours can be reduced.    

So how do you build a Team Agreement? First you need to remember that Team Agreements need to be a team effort. This cannot be a top-down or bottom-up approach if you want to get the most buy-in. 

Have a discussion. Start off the conversation by having a brainstorming meeting. This gives everyone involved a chance to talk about the norms they want to establish within the team. You should write it all down and encourage participants that at this stage no detail is too small. If they want to make sure “all team meetings before noon can be camera optional” or that “everyone shuts down their computer when a member of the team is presenting in a meeting”, write it down. After that you can have a dialogue on what is going to work best for your team and then agree to the norms that you want to uphold in your Team Agreement. At this stage it is important to make sure that you set clear norms that everyone can agree to with the understanding that the Team Agreement will support the team working more productively together. 

Talk about your team norms frequently. Reference the team norms in meetings, post your Team Agreement on a wall or on your team Notion page, talk about the norms in performance conversations or when giving feedback, and share the Team Agreement with other departments. The best way to build this habit and keep everyone aligned is to talk about your Team Agreement often. 

Keep yourself and members of your team accountable. Be responsible for how you follow the specific in Team Agreement and be honest about when you break it. This will encourage others to follow your lead and if it comes to it respectfully point out when someone is breaking the Team Agreement. This changes the conversation from “you need to do x” to “we all agreed to do x and want to be true to our word in the Team Agreement”. 

Things to remember

To have an effective, productive, and collaborative team, it is crucial to understand each team member’s unique working style. As a PeopleOps leader I have learned firsthand how fostering these conversations is essential to a company’s success. Two very valuable ways to gain an understanding of your team’s working styles are to create Individual User Manuals and Team Agreements. Having each person on the team create a User Manual can help to build personal and professional rapport among team members, thus ensuring the best interactions between members of the team. Conversely, Team Agreements will help to establish common team norms and create a shared language and mutual understanding. To ensure that these documents are still relevant as your team grows and evolves, you should treat these as living documents and have regular discussions around what norms still ring true and any that should be updated. Having these conversations often will increase team cohesion and make it easier for everyone to work together in a productive way. 

Learn more about our Author: With a master’s degree in Opera, Jen Paxton didn’t think she would have a career in Talent Acquisition or PeopleOps, however, she fell in love with helping candidates find the right role. She started her career at JobSpring Partners placing technical professionals then moved on to Robert Half before deciding to move to an in-house recruiting team. She has grown teams at later-stage startups like Fiksu and LevelUp and built Recruiting and PeopleOps strategies from scratch at small startups like Logentries, TrueMotion, Privy, and Smile. She took a slight detour from her usual Head of People roles to Co-Found a video content platform called Jamyr which was recently acquired by Recruitics. She has been a part of four successful acquisitions and almost all of her companies have won “Best Place to Work” awards at least once while she was there. She loves coaching managers, fostering a feedback culture, and building programs that will help develop a sense of belonging. In addition to her career, Jen is a mom of two girls, loves being outdoors, eating tacos, and drinking her weight in loose-leaf teas.

*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.