Posted: 21 Feb. 2020 5 min. read

Top 10 ways Business Chemistry can help you craft powerful work relationships

2020 marks the 10th year of Business Chemistry⁠—Happy Birthday BC! As part of the celebration, we're relaunching and reinvigorating our blog on this new, improved platform. If this is your first time visiting the Business Chemistry blog, you might want to go back to some of the posts from previous years, which we've conveniently packed up and moved with us to our new home. Check out the posts describing each of the four Business Chemistry types⁠—Pioneer, Guardian, Driver, Integrator⁠—or maybe read about Business Chemistry and leadership, change, or decision-making.

If you're a Business Chemistry veteran, you can stay here to pick right up where we last left off. Since milestone birthdays are a great time for reflection, for my inaugural post at this new address I thought I'd spend a bit of time reflecting on the value Business Chemistry brings. Here are the top 10 ways Business Chemistry can help you craft powerful work relationships.

10. Remind you of what you already know: Guess what? Not everyone is like you. I realize chances are pretty good that you've previously discovered this, and yet, many of us treat others as if they are indeed just like us. I like to have very clear directions when taking on a project, so maybe in my effort to be a good manager I tell everyone on my team not only what they need to do but how they should go about doing it. This might be fine, or maybe even ideal for some who share my Guardian tendencies, but it's likely to be a real buzz-kill for the Pioneers on my team who tend to chafe under any kind of constraint. Keeping in mind the Business Chemistry types of my team members could help me spot this kind of pitfall before I tumble into it.

9. Build empathy: Some people seem to be born with a surplus of empathy, but those who aren't can develop more of it. If the first step is simply to acknowledge that people aren't all the same, the second is learning about how they can differ. While the list of potential differences between people is endless, Business Chemistry provides a simple framework that outlines some of the most meaningful differences for interactions in the workplace. So a Driver might learn that Integrators sometimes perceive bluntness as hostility, and this knowledge could make it a little easier for the Driver to understand the next time an Integrator responds negatively to a direct statement that they've made. 

8. Guide behavior: With a better understanding of how the types differ, we can use that information to guide how we flex our behavior to work better together. So ultimately, the Driver who has learned something new about Integrators may pay a bit more attention to how they deliver a message. Or a Pioneer who learns that Guardians often prefer to prepare before a meeting might make an effort to provide a pre-read. The point is to shift slightly away from doing what is easiest or most natural for us, to provide the other person more of what they want or need from an interaction or environment.

7. Categorize consciously: Our brains are wired to simplify the overload of information coming our way. Since most of us encounter too many people each day to get to know them all individually, these automatic processes can lead us to stereotype and jump to conclusions. As I'm speaking among a group of people, the various brains in the room might be registering 'woman,' 'gen x,' 'midwesterner,' 'blonde,' and drawing conclusions based on those unconscious and arguably workplace-irrelevant categorizations. One way to combat such biases is to consciously categorize people, based on workplace relevant factors. While it pays to be aware that if we're not careful this can still lead to making some inaccurate assumptions, knowing I'm a Guardian-Integrator will provide a lot more useful information in this context than where I was raised or the color of my hair.

6. Uncover the source of tension: Sometimes people have difficulty working together and they're not sure why. It might feel like the other person just doesn’t ‘get it.’ But reflecting on Business Chemistry often reveals that conflict stems from differences in perspective. One leader who is frustrated by another may realize that the other's reluctance to make quick decisions is the focal point of the disconnect and further that this is a common tension between an emphasis on forward progress (often prioritized by Drivers) and an emphasis on ensuring the full context of a situation is understood and taken into account (often prioritized by Integrators).

5. Depersonalize conflict: If you discover that your conflict with someone does stem from a difference of perspective, it may be easier to discuss it within that frame of reference. The conversation can be less about ‘you don't get it,’ and more about finding a balance between priorities. A discussion might start something like this: ’Knowing that you're an Integrator, I'd guess maybe you're not yet willing to commit to a decision because you don't feel you have enough information. Is that accurate? If so, what do you need to be comfortable deciding, because I'll admit that the Driver in me is feeling the pressure to move forward with this.'

4. Provide a common language: While you could certainly have the conversation suggested in the previous point without using the words Integrator and Driver, sharing an understanding of what those labels mean can make talking about these things a whole heck of a lot easier. A common language can also serve as a useful shortcut in efforts to infuse one perspective or another into discussions. If I want to encourage a bit more creativity in a brainstorming session, I might ask people to 'think like Pioneer,' or if I want people to consider potential downstream implications of a decision, I might ask 'what would a Guardian be focused on here?' 

3. Highlight potential blind spots: Working with those who share our Business Chemistry type can feel pretty good. For example, two Integrators might appreciate that they don't need to explain to each other why it's important to get everyone on the same page before proceeding. But two Integrators are also likely to share a tendency toward conflict avoidance, which could mean difficult and important issues don't get discussed. Recognizing that we tend to share both strengths and vulnerabilities with our like-type colleagues can help us identify where we may need to lean in when we're working with those who are a lot like us.

2. Appreciate the benefits of diversity: It's not always easy to work with those who are different from us. That's why I encourage teams to do a simple exercise that involves those with like types listing out what they appreciate most about their opposite type colleagues. What's often revealed is that we most appreciate how others bolster areas in which we may not be as strong. Guardians appreciate Pioneers' optimism and Pioneers appreciate Guardians' serving as a reality check. Drivers appreciate Integrators' keeping an eye on team morale, while Integrators appreciate Drivers' willingness to ask challenging questions. Highlighting the value of opposites can serve as a good reminder of why it's worth the effort to work across our differences.

1. Assess team norms: Your team isn't likely to reap the rewards of its diversity if the ways in which you work together are a great fit for some types but not others. Think about your team meetings. Is there a rigid structure that leads Pioneers to disengage, or a surplus of small talk that makes Drivers feel impatient? Is the lack of an agenda making it impossible for Guardians to prepare, or does a combative tone keep Integrators from contributing? Considering your working norms through a Business Chemistry lens can help you balance the preferences and needs of all types so you can create a team environment where everyone can thrive.

If any of these benefits of Business Chemistry sound valuable to you, I hope you'll come back for more. Stay tuned for my next post, which will kick off a series about Business Chemistry, problem-solving, and the Deloitte Greenhouse Breakthrough Manifesto.




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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte LLP

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which she uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.