Four types of productivity styles and why it’s hard to get stuff done at work

Working with Different Productivity Styles

Per here, the four types of work productivity styles are:

  • Prioritizer: Logical, analytical, fact-based thinking is preferred.
  • Planner: Organized, sequential, planned, detailed thinking is preferential.
  • Arranger: Focus is on supportive, expressive, and emotional thinking.
  • Visualizer: Holistic, intuitive, and integrated thinking is key.

There are no doubt a lot of buzzwords above, and the four listed probably don’t even fully capture the range of productivity styles at your office. (I’d argue the range is far greater at most places I’ve worked.)

If I had to slot myself into one of these, I’d probably be an arranger, although I think maybe with a 10-20% slice of prioritizer and planner. (Again, this isn’t a hard-and-fast thing like Meyers-Briggs where you get a four-letter combination; I’m sure everyone is a mix of these things on different projects.)

Regardless of whether you believe the four categories above, you can see what it leads to, right? Basically on different projects, people are different aspects of the above. So if you’re a “prioritizer,” and you’re on a team with a lot of “visualizers,” frustration could potentially result.

In a nutshell, this is why it’s hard to get stuff done at work. 

This rolls up a little bit with “maximizer vs. satisficer” discussions, although that applies typically more at a managerial level. (As does the “orthopraxic vs. orthodox” discussion.)

That Fast Company article recommends you discuss “what” with prioritizers, “how” with planners, “who” with arrangers, and “why” with visualizers. This almost directly counters Simon Sinek and his thought leadership, which indicates most discussions should begin with “why.” This is arguing that it varies by type of person you’re dealing with, which has merit. Thought leadership as a concept is all about finding something that broadly resonates, so that you can easily grow your audience. That, in turn, helps you get conference gigs and sell books. If you’re too narrow (“Well, most of the time you should start with why, but admittedly it can vary by audience or team…”), you don’t get as many of those opportunities.

I almost think this idea of “how to work with different styles” goes back to a couple of other central tenets of work in general: first of all, regardless of what your formal rank is at an organization, your goal should be to gain some type of influence around an area you work in. That leads to more opportunities and chances to have purposeful impact. Most of the ways you gain said influence (see the link just before this sentence) involve listening to others and meeting them where they’re at; that’s the same way you do an effective presentation too.

If you want people to listen to you, here are the things you need.

So yes, you can be on a work team with people very different than you in terms of how they like to focus on getting things done. In fact, most of the work teams you’re ever on will be that way. So, rather than worry about “Well, this person is a planner, and that means I need to…” (which can send you down a rabbit hole), think of it in simpler terms: human beings are social animals. They want to know that their needs and concerns are being heard and being responded to, and they want to believe some of what they’re saying is having influence.

Think about it in those terms — listening and influence — as opposed to narrow definitions of your work style.

Ted Bauer