Secret Tool for Building Transparent, Open Teams: The Workstyle Guide

with Yasmeen Duncan, Chief People Officer at Magnolia Bakery


Written by CT, Host of the HR Impact Show podcast.

Interview Key Takeaways


  • Implement a work style guide as part of the onboarding process to set clear expectations and communication preferences.

  • The work style guide serves as a social contract between managers and employees, promoting open communication and understanding.

  • Sharing work style guides among team members fosters a deeper understanding of each other's preferences and work styles, leading to more efficient collaboration.

  • Regularly review and update work style guides to accommodate changes in preferences and work dynamics.

Building a transparent and open culture within a team is a crucial aspect of fostering a high-performance environment. But how can HR leaders effectively achieve this?

In this article, we will explore the power of a work style guide as a secret and underrated tool for creating transparency and openness within teams.

We will delve into the insights shared by Yasmeen Duncan, Chief People Officer at Magnolia Bakery, as she discusses her experience and the impact of implementing a work style guide in her organization. 


Being The First Chief People Officer 

As the first Chief People Officer at Magnolia Bakery, Yasmeen Duncan was brought on board to scale the company forward by focusing on the people side of the business. With her extensive experience in human resources across various industries, Yasmeen brings a unique perspective to the role. She emphasizes the importance of blending people, processes, and strategies to maximize organizational effectiveness. 

Setting Clear Role and Communication Expectations 

Yasmeen highlights the need for HR leaders to change how they manage their teams. Instead of waiting for performance issues to arise and then implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), she suggests setting clear expectations from the beginning. This proactive approach involves providing employees with a comprehensive understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and team dynamics. 


Why are we giving the PIP when there's a problem? Give it up front. Set your new hire up for success from Day One."

Yasmeen Duncan


Yasmeen introduces the concept of a Work Style Guide, which serves as a social contract between managers and employees. This guide outlines how managers communicate, their preferences, and expectations. It also allows employees to express their own work preferences, communication styles, and boundaries. By providing this clarity upfront, both managers and employees can work together more effectively and avoid the guesswork that often accompanies new working relationships. 




Implementation of the Work Style Guide 

To successfully implement the work style guide, Yasmeen Duncan recommends the following steps: 

1. Complete the work style guide yourself and encourage your direct reports to do the same. 

2. Share your completed work style guide with your team members to set an example and foster open communication. 

3. Present the work style guide to senior leadership to gain their support and ensure alignment across the organization. 

4. Inform hiring managers about the work style guide and make it a part of the onboarding process. 

5. Dedicate time during orientation for managers and new hires to review and discuss the work style guide. 


The Work Style Guide serves as a social contract for the manager to the employee and from the employee to the manager"

Yasmeen Duncan


The Power of the Work Style Guide 

The Work Style Guide serves as a powerful tool for building transparency, openness, and understanding within teams. Providing a clear framework for communication, expectations, and preferences, eliminates the need for guesswork and reduces anxiety for new hires. It also allows managers to tailor their coaching and development plans to each individual’s needs, leading to more strategic and effective development. 

Moreover, the work style guide promotes self-reflection and self-awareness among employees. It encourages them to think about their own work preferences, boundaries, and communication styles. This level of introspection helps individuals become more well-rounded professionals and fosters a culture of continuous improvement. 


How often do you start a job and you are struggling to guess how to work with your manager and your team?"

Yasmeen Duncan


Style Guide Implications and Potential Impact 

Implementing a work style guide can have several positive implications for organizations.

Firstly, it sets a strong foundation for effective communication and collaboration within teams. By clearly defining expectations and preferences, it minimizes misunderstandings and conflicts, leading to smoother workflows and increased productivity. 

Secondly, the work style guide promotes a culture of trust and psychological safety. When employees feel heard, understood, and valued, they are more likely to contribute their best work and take ownership of their roles. This, in turn, leads to higher employee engagement and retention. 

Lastly, the work style guide supports the development of high-performance teams. By understanding each team member’s work style, managers can tailor their coaching and feedback to maximize individual growth and contribution. This personalized approach fosters a sense of belonging and empowers employees to reach their full potential. 


Conclusion and Future Outlook 

The implementation of a work style guide can be a game-changer in building a transparent and open culture within teams. By setting clear expectations, fostering open communication, and promoting self-awareness, organizations can create an environment that supports high performance and employee development. 

As HR leaders continue to navigate the new world of work, it is essential to embrace innovative approaches like the work style guide. By leveraging this tool, organizations can unlock the full potential of their teams and drive sustainable growth in the ever-evolving business landscape. 


Yasmeen Duncan

Chief People Officer at Magnolia Bakery


yasmeen duncan


Yasmeen Duncan is a seasoned Human Resources Executive leader with 18 years of diversified experience.  She has worked in all HR functions across various industries such as start-ups, beauty, retail, hospitality, and non-profit. 

Currently, Yasmeen serves as the Chief People Officer for Magnolia Bakery.  In her current role, Yasmeen is responsible for leading Magnolia Bakery's human resources strategy, employee & leadership development, organizational design, employee relations, culture strategy, and execution.   Yasmeen has changed the function, culture, and impact of HR across the company to support business goals and strategies. 

In addition, she is the Founder & CEO of The Sisterhood Society for Women of Color.  A non-profit safe-space community built on HR leadership development principles to create an environment for women of color to share, be embraced, and gain tools to learn how to thrive.

Yasmeen Duncan holds degrees in counseling and business.  She obtained her Master's in Counseling from Manhattan College and a Bachelor's in Organizational Management from Alliance University (formerly Nyack College).  In 2024, she will complete her MBA from Western Governors University.

Connect with Yasmeen on LinkedIn



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