Polar Opposites

The upside to getting down with other people’s working styles.

In a job interview nobody ever says they don’t like working with other people. That’s generally a clear warning sign that they might be anti-social, selfish, or generally unable to work with others. The truth of the matter, however, is that collaboration is never easy. Everyone has different working styles, unique motivations, and personal preferences for how to get things done.

When Chris and I started R. Alliance we spent several months getting used to working polarizingtogether as equal partners. Her background is in change management and human resources, mine is with building computers and software. Anyone who has worked with both of us will tell you that Chris is always positive and upbeat. I tend to be more introspective, focusing on things that can go wrong and how to fix them. I often say that my job is to find out what is wrong and tell people how to fix it, and Chris is there to make them feel good about it.

We knew that our diverse backgrounds and ways of working would form the basis for the strong services that we now offer our clients, but we quickly learned that it also makes for challenging working conditions.

A recent study uncovered that both positive and negative thinking are effective tools for achieving success – but that each works best for different people. Some need to visualize positive results in order to accomplish them, and others thrive when focusing on the negative – because it inspires them to avoid disaster. (I encourage you to click through and give the article a read, it is eye opening for anyone who can self-identify their working style as either positive or negative).

The big takeaways from this? I have two:

Embrace Your Style
It’s easy to be judgmental about how other people work, especially when their style differs from yours. I’m well aware that when discussing new ideas I tend to focus more on the negative (what can go wrong) rather than the positive (what can go right). It’s not that I don’t see or appreciate the positive, it’s just that I don’t feel the need to dwell on it. Once I see the value in something I’m all about making it happen, which to me means sweeping away the things that could negatively affect it from happening. That’s how I work best. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what works best for me.

The terms “positive” and “negative” are very subjective, however, and can make it sound like one way is better than the other. What’s best for you is what works best for you, so figure that out and use it to your advantage. Just be careful not to get sucked too deeply into the negativity if you work like me, and avoid being too pie-in-the-sky if you are on the other end of the spectrum.

Make Room for Others
I’m fully aware that my approach to problem solving can be off-putting to other people. Instantly jumping to discussion about things that could go wrong can have the effect of deflating a positive-thinker’s balloon, even while being energizing to someone who thinks like I do. To avoid conflict, I’ve learned to couch my approach to problem solving in more positive language when working with others.

So while you’re working your way, make sure to leave room for others to work theirs. This means letting them do what they do without judging them for it, and it also means not overdoing their working style with your own.

Knowing that both methods of self-inspiration exist is the first step towards working more effectively with others. Identifying and embracing yours without affecting how others prefer to work is the next step. Are you a positive or negative thinker? Will being aware of how you work best help you become more successful?


What type of motivation drives you to success?  It’s something to consider when working towards your Best Self.  Journal your thoughts about it at www.MeetMaple.com.

Originally published on December 12, 2013

Written by Scott

Scott Waletzko is the managing partner responsible for all things technical at R. Alliance, including the design and development of Maple.

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