Setting the Pace

Management professor Abbie Shipp’s new tool measures workers’ ability to adapt to the tempo of a team.

synchrony preference

Synchrony preference is a person's preferred speed of work and willingness to change pace to match the tempo of the team. (Illustration by Bizvector/Adobe Stock)

Setting the Pace

Management professor Abbie Shipp’s new tool measures workers’ ability to adapt to the tempo of a team.

Everyone has a preferred pace of working and a desire (or aversion) to adjust that pace to the speed of a team. It’s called synchrony preference, and Abbie Shipp, associate professor of management, helped research and develop a tool to measure it.

“Traditionally, workplace time was based on how well people followed schedules and met deadlines. But as the pace of work has gotten faster, projects more complex and deadlines less predictable, success depends on the ability to adapt,” said Shipp, who co-authored a research paper on the subject for Personnel Psychology, a peer-reviewed management journal.


Recruiting switch-hitters

Abbie Shipp

Abbie Shipp, associate professor of management. (photo by Carolyn Cruz)

Supervisors can use Shipp’s measurement tool to identify synchrony types and then use the insights to assemble teams including switch-hitters, who display high synchrony. The professor said those employees “are proficient multitaskers, and they tend to be focused on the present moment.”

When high synchrony people make up a large percentage of a team, their individual traits become the overall characteristics of the group. “For professionals to be successful in the rapidly changing business environment, they must be able to build ideas off of each other, adjust for changes and turnarounds, and work interdependently to facilitate the best outcomes for the project and the organization,” Shipp said.

If individual employees learn about their desired work speeds, as well as the preferences of co-workers, they can develop strategies to improve or compensate for those styles. “Progress on projects isn’t straightforward, and teammates don’t work in a vacuum,” Shipp said. “Progress includes interruptions and adjustments to coordinate with your team. The better people understand synchrony preferences – their own and others’ – the better they can work together.”


Taking the lead

Human resources can use the synchrony preference tool to select people with a high synchrony preference for leadership roles. A leader must be able to manage effectively, which includes meeting the time demands placed on a group or organization.

Synchrony preference also may be a critical tool to help new leaders who have been promoted from an individual contributor role.

“After being rewarded for individualistic efforts, they may have difficulty transitioning into leadership roles, where accommodation and synchronization are required,” Shipp said. “These transitions are easier for people naturally high on synchrony preference, but developmental programs can help those who are low in synchrony preference.”