Coaching & Development Solutions

Should You Flex Your Working Style Or Always Stay Authentic?



Flexing your style depending on the person and situation is one of the key ideas of situational leadership. A directive approach can help people who are new to a field and have enthusiasm, but little experience, and a supportive manner would benefit those who already have a good level of knowledge. In contrast, being authentic to your true self is one of the ideas frequently mentioned in deciding on the right job or career. At team building workshops I run the attendees often struggle to real with these seemingly contradictory ideas. Should our working styles always be flexible or authentic?

Difficult Extremes for Teamwork

If you take each at the extreme then the implications are problematic for teamwork. By continually flexing everything about the way you work to the point that you become a chameleon then people won't know who you are, and might wonder what you stand for. However, if you are entirely authentic and never change your approach in any way, in vastly different situations, then you'll miss out on how to bring the most from the different people you work with. Some people need to hear carefully constructed and logical business arguments, and others will want to know how certain options would affect people.

The answer, as in so much of how we interact with other people, is finding the right balance. Imagine a line which stretches from 100% authentic in your behaviour to 100% flexible. How do you know where to be on this line?

When to Increase Your Flexibility

The signals to become more flexible are external:

  • The people you are working with are outwardly very different to you eg you are loud and talkative, and they are quiet and thoughtful
  • Most of the other people in a room are showing one way of working, and you are showing another eg they keep focusing on the details, and you keep switching back to the big picture
  • People give you feedback that you are difficult to work with

When to be More Authentic

The signals to become more authentic are often internal:

  • You feel uncomfortable or unnatural during a team meeting
  • When you write down what you did and then read it back it seems like a description of someone else
  • Work leaves you drained and needing a big recharge

Coaching to Improve Teamwork

I'm naturally a loud, optimistic and talkative person. Feedback early in my career showed that this worked well for some people, and badly for others. Through coaching and some self-coaching I've learnt to turn my volume down sometimes, but still retain my values and sense of humour otherwise I wouldn't be true to myself. When I meet new people and I'm not sure of their working style I sometimes ask them to let me know if I'm being too loud, or whether they would like to take the discussion more slowly.

About The Author

Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.

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