Posted: 16 May 2024 2 min. read

Who’s in Charge Here? How Primary and Secondary Business Chemistry Types Work Together

I’m occasionally asked about how a person’s primary and secondary Business Chemistry types work together, or whether they sometimes don’t. I find this question particularly intriguing, as many people shine a bright light on their primary types—claiming and identifying with them—while their secondary types lurk in the shadows. However, the influence of one’s secondary type can be quite strong. I’ve previously shared that I’m a Guardian and also a Dreamer (a sub-type of Integrator), so I’ve got a double-dose of introversion in that combination. But in some ways my Dreamer side—empathic, meaning-seeking, free-spirited—is quite different from my structured, detail-oriented Guardian side. Here’s a take from my own perspective on how these sides work together.

Over the past few years I’ve completed several big writing projects. (In other words, books!) Each time, throughout the process my Guardian side has created lists upon spreadsheets upon Gantt charts, obsessed with getting everything just right. She’s been sure a book would feel, and indeed be incomplete if it didn’t include every thought she’s ever had about the topic at hand. She has often been paralyzed by her need for completeness and tried to compensate by adding more and more structure in the form of many-layered outlines, to-do-lists, and timelines.

Working on something as unwieldly as a book can make my Guardian side feel quite uncomfortable, for weeks and months at a time. As a result, she often gets very little actual work done. Instead, she seems to hold out a vague hope that through her organizational efforts a perfectly executed piece will somehow emerge complete from her stacks of paper or will coalesce on its own within the copious files on her computer. My Guardian side has always felt a bit in over her head whenever she’s trying to write a book.

But here's the thing. My Guardian side isn't really the one who writes books. Shhhhh... don't tell her because she thinks she's in control. What really happens is that all that organizing and trying to force something into existence eventually exhausts her, and when she finally quiets down...slowly...very slowly, my Dreamer side comes out of hiding. And she's the writer.

My Dreamer side has all the stuff in those papers and files in her mind too, and the thoughts dance and swirl, weaving together and then unraveling, and then braiding themselves back together again. It can sometimes be hard for her to get ahold of anything concrete, but luckily, she is patient as her thoughts do their thing. She knows the words can't be forced, and she waits, unconcerned with my Guardian side's lists and timelines. My Dreamer side is in her own world.

While my Guardian side would hope to write in a structured, linear way, my Dreamer side wants none of that. Instead, she writes whatever she feels like writing in the moment—a little here, a little there. Because the words seem to flow out of her of their own accord, they aren't usually in the order my Guardian side thought they'd be. She’s not always working on what’s most important or urgent, but what most compels her. Like this little piece for instance. My Dreamer side just started writing it and my Guardian side still can't figure out why. It wasn't in the plan, but she’s too busy to argue.

Left alone, my Dreamer side just may drift off into the ether, but she’s never alone for long. Once she’s got something down on paper (or screen), she moves over to make space for my Guardian side again. She pats the seat next to her—come join me! And my Guardian side then checks everything against the spreadsheets and lists. She points out what’s missing. She adds relevant research, data, and citations. She makes sure all the things my Dreamer side wrote are real, accurate, and supportable. She rereads and rewrites again and again until things feel buttoned-up, and the piece isn’t done until they both agree it’s complete. Together, they make a pretty good pair.

Even better, my Guardian and Dreamer sides often aren’t working together alone, but in concert with other people, who have their own unique primary-secondary type combinations. Quite quickly two or three of us can become a Motley Crew! I co-authored two of my books with Kim Christfort, who just happens to have a type combination that’s quite different from mine. In Business Chemistry we wrote about how our opposite types make for a great partnership (that can sometimes be challenging too). In the next post, Kim will share how her Pioneer and Driver sides work together. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, explore your own type combination…

Talk it Over

This can be a fun and informative discussion with your colleagues. Consider reflecting on and sharing your answers to these questions:

  • What’s your secondary type? Is it strong and/or influential or does your primary type dominate?
  • What tensions do you feel between your primary and secondary types? How do they support each other?
  • When might it be to your benefit to let your secondary type step forward and share the spotlight? When might it be better for it to stay in the shadows?


Subscribe to the Business Chemistry Blog

Get in touch

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte 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 or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. 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 is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. 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.