People approach their jobs differently. One person may be fast-paced and decisive, while another is moderately-paced and cautious. This mix of behaviors can create balance in the workplace and lead to innovation, but can also create tension or frustration.
Leaders must understand these behaviors and how to adapt to them to create a supportive, productive environment for the whole team. At Proteus, we use the SOCIAL STYLE Model as a practical tool to help our clients better manage and adapt to the differences between people.
By understanding SOCIAL STYLE, leaders can become more self-aware, recognize and build on their style-based strengths, mitigate the impact of their Style-based weaknesses, and better manage employees of all Styles.
The Four SOCIAL STYLES
The SOCIAL STYLE Model uses three behavioral dimensions—areas of behavior within which people make different choices and have different capabilities—to map how individuals will tend to behave and prefer to approach tasks. These dimensions are Assertiveness, Responsiveness, and Versatility. They can predict behaviors like how an individual will approach a project, their interpersonal interactions, and even the types of work they may be drawn to.
Assertiveness is “the extent to which other people perceive you as trying to persuade or convince them of your point of view.” Highly assertive people are more likely to directly influence others to achieve their goals. Less assertive people will use other means, like creating new processes. Assertiveness is presented as a scale of “asks” to “tells.”
In contrast, Responsiveness refers to “the level to which you are perceived as controlling or revealing your emotions” on a scale of “controls” to “emotes.” Individuals whose emotions are very clear, such as through facial expressions, tone, and body language, are considered “emotive” or highly responsive. More “controlled” people are likely to provide fewer cues to their emotions, focusing instead on facts.
The third dimension is Versatility. It is measured on a scale of “Not Consistent” to “Very Consistent,” the extent to which someone relies on the preferred behaviors of their own Style or temporarily adapts their behaviors based on the Styles of those around them. This critical Versatility dimension is expanded upon later in the article.
Consider your own Assertiveness and Responsiveness to self-assess your SOCIAL STYLE, but keep in mind that SOCIAL STYLE is about how others perceive you, which may or may not align with your own perceptions.
Understanding Your SOCIAL STYLE
From meeting productivity to assigned roles, SOCIAL STYLE can help individuals see themselves as others see them, and behave accordingly to create more productive, enjoyable relationships.
When put together, Assertiveness and Responsiveness form the SOCIAL STYLE matrix.
- Low assertiveness and low responsiveness is “Analytical.”
- High assertiveness and low responsiveness is “Driving.”
- Low assertiveness and high responsiveness is “Amiable.”
- High assertiveness and high responsiveness is “Expressive.”
Analytical people approach their work with facts, logic, and consistency. They work systematically, which makes them good problem-solvers and planners. Often, they come across as reserved and logical, which can make them seem cool or detached to others. Their preference is to work within what they know, but will cooperate well with others and aim to reach outcomes that are rational and realistic.
Driving people know what they want, share their opinions, and work quickly and efficiently. They are goal-oriented, and focus on the present moment, rather than the past or future. In their ideal state, they will initiate change and challenge the status quo, and be cool under pressure. To others, they appear to be work-oriented and efficient.
Amiable people are considerate, supportive, and relationship-oriented. They are collaborative, and will advocate on behalf of the people or groups that are important to their goals. Their preference is to reach a consensus, because they see the best solution as one where everyone agrees. Others see them as kind, good people.
Expressive people focus on forward progress, and are often fast-moving. They want to be bold and innovative, while remaining warm and approachable. They spark enthusiasm in others, and prefer to share a vision and get the support of others by sharing the benefits of their vision. They’re risk takers, but others see them as high-energy and creative people, too.
Applying SOCIAL STYLE for Better Collaboration
At Proteus, we use the SOCIAL STYLE Model as a framework to help leaders better interpret the intent of others who tend to behave differently, and how to best collaborate with them. To empower an effective team, consider how you can adapt to the Styles of others. For example, if your tendency is to work rapidly, do you temporarily moderate your pace to work better with Amiable people? That kind of helpful shift is an example of Versatility.
Versatility indicates “the level to which you are perceived as being willing to change your preferred behaviors to make others more comfortable in an interaction.” In other words, do those around you experience you as adapting your preferred behaviors when needed or not?
Versatility is by far the most important dimension in a developmental sense. While there is really no better or worse place to be with respect to Assertiveness or Responsiveness—no better or worse Style—it is definitely better to demonstrate high Versatility.
High Versatility equips you to build trust and rapport and work more successfully with a wider variety of people. Build your Versatility by: behaving neutrally at the beginning of interactions, reading others’ Styles to anticipate their behavioral preferences, and temporarily moving on one of both of the other dimensions—Assertiveness and Responsiveness—to “meet them where they’re at.”
As you review the ways you can use SOCIAL STYLE to be a more effective leader, ask yourself how you can temporarily adjust your preferred behaviors to match the Styles of those around you—particularly in difficult situations with people who are a different style from you. When working with each Style, here are practical ways to adapt, or be more Versatile.
For Analytical Style
Pace yourself deliberately and stay on task. When speaking to Analytical people, don’t overstate advantage, and focus on facts. Give them time to think through problems and ask questions like, “What information do you need to make this decision?”
For Driving Style
Respect the time of Driving people. Do what you say you will, be straightforward, and focus on outcomes. Prioritize directness while remaining succinct. Show Driving people how what you want relates to their own goals.
For Amiable Style
Take time for personal conversations to build rapport, and stay connected throughout a project. Emphasize a team approach in their work, and discuss the context and human impact of their work. Be patient and flexible, even if you need to take extra time for them to get comfortable with the work.
For Expressive Style
Move quickly with Expressive people, pacing yourself fast. Be empathetic and curious about them as people. Give them opportunities to focus on the big picture. Acknowledge their contributions and successes while providing the flexibility to let them work in their own way. Encourage them to think out loud, and do the same.
Build Leadership Skills with Proteus
Your SOCIAL STYLE indicates preferences and behaviors, but it does not determine how effective you are as a leader. Regardless of your Style, building Versatility will help you improve your leadership. By taking others’ SOCIAL STYLE into account and adapting to them in the moment, you create more efficient, productive working relationships and teams.
Are you ready to level up your leadership? We incorporate SOCIAL STYLE into our Coaching practice and Leadership Development training to help leaders and teams better understand and work with one another. Contact us to learn how understanding SOCIAL STYLES can improve collaboration in your organization.