We’ve all been there: You are hovering over a colleague’s desk discussing a project you’re collaborating on, and suddenly, you’re aghast! You involuntarily gawk, and balk at the realization that someone you thought you knew could practice a wholly opposing workstyle to your own. Whether your life goal is “inbox zero”, or you simply can’t be bothered by the seemingly time-wasting practice of organizing emails, we’re here to explain that an old adage rings ever-true in the modern workplace ー “different strokes for different folks”. These are important words to live by. Embracing your differences with colleagues ー and your own inner critic ー can actually work to both of your advantages.
We’re down in ATL today for a conversation with Beth and April, a dynamic ー and highly productive duo ー that does not attribute its success to always being in sync! How does this work? We’ll let them explain! This is a topic of passionate debate around here (especially the notion of inbox O vs in box chaos!), and we know we’re not alone! Beth and April however, exemplify a pairing that is able to embrace each other’s work style differences in order to reach gains for their team ー and themselves.
Communications Team: Let’s hear a bit about your roles ー we know you’re both down in ATL to build Clarity’s presence in the Atlanta market. What are you each responsible for day-to-day?
Beth: My main focus is on the candidate side for Clarity, so I get to interact with candidates all the way from “the hunt” for the perfect person, through the client-candidate interview process, and into the final stages of the offer extension/acceptance. That means that at most points during the day, I’m either researching for talent, meeting candidates in person, or pre- or de-briefing with candidates who are interviewing with our clients. And on the best days, I’m getting to extend an offer to a candidate on behalf of my client, so I get to urge her/him to kick off the celebration. *cue party hats and streamers*
April: That is definitely the best part of our job! My role is focused more on building client relationships. I am spreading the Clarity name around ATL! I forge and maintain relationships with the client, and earn their trust in order to gain a full understanding of the culture at their company and qualifications of their open roles. From there, I partner with Beth who works the candidate side of things to interview potential candidates for the positions I bring in from our clients. I work very closely with my clients through every step of the process. Beth and I attend the meetings with the clients together so that we both have a full understanding of Clarity’s role in any given search. From there, we work very closely and constantly collaborate on the searches and the candidates we are presenting to the client.
Communications Team: Thanks for that! So in essence, there is a lot of collaboration going on! While working so closely, yet also independently, how do you each keep your workflows organized?
Beth: Despite April managing the client side while I manage the candidate side, those two halves really cannot operate independently; they’re truly two halves of a whole, and one can’t be done without the other. It’s why you’ll frequently find April and myself sitting together at tables across from both candidates and clients, and why you’ll often see both of us copied on emails to candidates and clients. These two halves come together most successfully when transparency and cohesion are at the forefront.
April: You’d think that we had very similar work styles since we operate really well as a unit, but in truth, we manage our days and our processes very differently…
Beth: VERY differently! :: laughs:: I tend to use my inbox and my browser tabs as my “to-do” lists. I typically have about 5 tabs TOTAL open on my browser, and at the end of the day, I may have 2 or 3 emails left in my inbox, and those remaining emails serve as my reminder to follow up on something the next day. I don’t delete an email or close a tab until that function or task is complete, so it’s very easy for me to pick up where I left off, or see what I still need to address. I basically live and die by my calendar and by my inbox.
April: I also live by my calendarーI respond almost immediately to emails that come in and follow the appropriate tasks needed to check it off my to do listー but I’ll never believe in “Inbox Zero” … please! I have folders, but don’t always file things away. I find it easier to search for and find emails needed by keeping them all in my inbox. I don’t view my inbox as my “to do list” either. I do take the appropriate action needed in a very timely manner, whether it be, set reminders, follow up with client, forward action to Beth, schedule interviews, write thank you notes, etc. Beth and I are able to view each other’s calendars and this helps us stay abreast on what is happening across the board. I use my tabs when on different sites, as reminders to myself through the day on client searches or people to reach out to, so we share that one as well!
Communications Team: Quite a few work style differences! How do you work through these differences? How do you manage them?
Beth: April and I will probably always laugh about the day she called me over to her computer to check something and my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw how many tabs she had open at once. But we did just that: we laughed. Immediately. And for a long time. Because although I myself couldn’t operate well using her system, her system completely works for her. I think the thing that keeps me from stressing about our different work styles is that although she has a lot of tabs open (ha!), April is incredibly on top of things. She’s great at making sure nothing slips through the cracks, she’s incredibly conscientious about being on time, and she’s always 100% prepared. And I’ve learned that the fact that she CAN operate seamlessly with a million tabs open is largely tied to the fact that she can multitask like no one I’ve ever met. I hope that, one day, I’m the multitasking maven she is… I may have to leave a few more tabs open here and there, to test myself. 😉
April: We definitely chuckle often as our work styles are so different and sometimes overwhelmingly so! Our ways are different but they flow together and balance eachother out. My weaknesses are her strengths and visa versa. We joke that we go together like peanut butter and jelly :). Communication is key in our working relationships, and that’s the best advice I could give anyone trying to work with someone that shares dramatically different working styles. We work very closely in our office together but even when working remotely we do our morning and sometimes when needed, afternoon touch base so that expectations are set and things flow flawlessly. I know her ways work for her and my ways work for me, and along with communicating a LOT, we trust each other. We know that even though we do things differently, the work will always get done so long as we don’t try to take control of how the other actually gets it done.
Beth: Agreed! And it’s the intangibles are what makes April the best coworker: This job, at the end of the day, isn’t about lists and checking things off and calendar appointments…
April: It’s about the people.
Beth: Exactly! See? We finish each others sentences! This job is about the clients and the candidates and the synergy that happens when you pair the right people together. And it’s about how you treat those people and those relationships. To borrow an old cliche, THAT’S “where the magic really happens.” So while April’s 20 tabs are open on her browser, she’s typing or saying words to say to clients that are better than I could say them myself, and she has an insight into candidates that often seriously weigh into my candidate management process.
I still don’t quite know how she does it… I still don’t understand how she keeps it all together with a full inbox and so many open tabs. But I also have come to the realization that I don’t NEED to understand. And through that process, I’ve learned how to loosen the reins, trust a little more, and laugh a LOT more.
Communications Team: What have been some of the most positive outcomes of sharing workspace, and work responsibilities with someone who approaches the work so differently?
April: Working so closely together we do pick up things from each other but also it gives us the ability to see each other work and understand how the other does things ー honestly I have learned something new every single day by observing Beth and asking her questions ー and not being afraid to ask them. I have also learned that certain parts of the job benefit when I take “Beth’s Style” and integrate it into a given task ー sometimes that extra level of organization is the only way to do the most efficient job, and that encouragement she gives me in a non-judgmental way has meant a lot to me. I know when Beth is looking over my shoulder at something we are working through together, all the tabs open on my laptop make her crazy, but we chuckle about it and stay the course. At the end of the say, we understand the differences in “our own systems” but we find common ground on bringing it all together for the success of the team. I truly believe what makes it all work, we both want the same outcome, success for Clarity, our clients, our candidates ー
Beth: And each other! Couldn’t have said it better myself.