Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

E-Alerts: Organizational Effectiveness Archives

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Working with Your Organization’s Behavioral Style

Increasingly in my work with firms and the individuals and teams within them, I have been focusing on the value of identifying and using one's personal style or behavioral style for a number of benefits: to understand oneself better, learn to read other people, and build better relationships with clients, prospective clients, and colleagues in the workplace. We use assessment tools and exercises to do this. In order to better navigate the politics of your firm (any organization comprised of more than one person has politics), it's also important to analyze the organization's style.

How Do You Determine Style?

An organization's style is not the sum of the individual behavioral styles of the people who work there and not necessarily the most frequently represented style of the individuals. It may reflect the style and values of the founders, especially if they are characterized by the "dominant" style. Location - city, rural, region of the U.S. - is likely to have some impact on style. Other factors are size, longevity and the type of ownership. As with personal styles, an organization's style can change situationally. However, there tends to be one that is observable in the majority of situations.

If "culture" is defined as a mix of customs, values, rules and rituals, organizational "style" relates to the behavior, personality, and appearance factors. Culture and style are related, but not synonymous.

Tom, Ritchey, author of "I'm Stuck, You're Stuck," suggests asking the following three questions to identify an organization's style:

  1. What does the organization present to its constituents as the right or desirable way to do things?
  2. What does the organization reward?
  3. What does the organization criticize?

Key Attributes of Primary Styles

Using the DiSC behavioral styles -(a common and well-researched behavioral style assessment in use since the 1920s,) to categorize styles, you will find organizations that exhibit the following four primary styles:

Dominance or Directness - You will observe self-confidence, risk-takers rewarded, praise for innovation, pressure to achieve, decisiveness, things get done - fast. Negative attributes can include impatience, lack of concern for others, impulsiveness.

Influencer - Enthusiasm, expression of emotion, socializing and fun activities, optimism, a lot of long meetings, a minimum of procedures and rules, admiration for good presenters and "selling" prevail at this style of organization. However, you may observe lack of follow-through, a sense of being disorganized, and impulsiveness.

Steadiness or Supportiveness - Here the pace is slower, people are obliging and exhibit sincere concern for others, often even before themselves. Conflicts are avoided (and rarely out in the open), teamwork is the preferred way to work, people listen and cooperate. Organizations with this primary style may lack for strong leadership, and there is a resistance to change. Stability is highly valued.

Conscientiousness - These firms are characterized by a sense of caution, high standards for accuracy and analysis, a business-like, more formal atmosphere, expectations clearly defined, and attention to detail. There is a lot of planning and data-gathering, often delaying decision-making indefinitely. People can be perfectionist, critical and emotionally restrained or detached

All organizations have some elements of each of these styles, but as with individuals, one is more prevalent than the others.

How Can Knowing the Organization's Style Help?

Ritchey suggests that knowing one's organization's style can potentially strengthen both the individual and the firm by anticipating opportunities or threats and how to adapt, or concluding that it won't be a match and moving on. Individuals can ask themselves:

  1. How can I use my special strengths most effectively here?
  2. How can I help this firm perform more effectively?
  3. In what areas are misunderstandings about me most likely to develop?
  4. Is this organization likely to give me messages of value?
  5. How might I adapt my behavior to improve the way I am perceived in the organization and the way I work within it?
  6. Is there a gap between what I need and what the firm needs? How might I close the gap?
  7. Will this organization ever be right for me - and vice versa?

An organization's style is an important factor in the studies that relate to true branding efforts. Branding is not a superficial visual identity, tagline or advertising campaign. A brand represents the organization's personality and promise that each individual can expect to experience through contact with it, whether as a client, employee, supplier or any other stakeholder.


For Management:

  • Be aware of how the firm's style will be perceived by prospective recruits and clients. That will help to achieve better matches and longer tenure and loyalty.
  • Consider and integrate behavioral style factors into recognition and reward systems
  • Be aware that any organization, regardless of its overall style, can benefit from a diversity of individual styles. Find ways to accommodate them

For individuals:

  • Be aware of the organization's style when making presentations for new business. Modify your style to address your prospects in the manner and language they relate to and prefer
  • Make it a priority to identify the style of any organization you think you want to work for and ask yourself Ritchey's "seven" questions
  • If there are aspects of the firm's style you don't think will best serve clients, think about whether change in behavior is possible and how that might be achieved. Can it be done by as small group, or does the overall style have to change?

Style matters. People make most of their ultimate buying and relationship decisions on the basis of rapport and chemistry. Behavior can change with awareness.

If you want to know more about styles, contact me about assessment tools and resources.
Please e-mail me your comments to start a dialogue at or "Contact Us" at For a brief description, see Training and Coaching Tools.

In response to requests from speaking and individual coaching work, Phyllis is starting coaching groups and tele-classes on:
1) Influencing Without Power; 2) Personal Styles; and 3) Dealing Successfully with Internal Politics.
These are valuable and appropriate for partners and practice heads as well as directors and managers. The groups will be limited in size to promote confidential sharing and coaching on individual concerns at a lower price than individual coaching. For information and to register, contact Phyllis at or


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, Practice Development Counsel, 2003. All rights reserved.

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