Deloitte's Business Chemistry®
Using Working Styles to Build Better Teams
Picture a team where the mix of people just doesn't work.
Perhaps there's a dominant individual who ignores consensus and insists that things are done their way. Or a blue-sky thinker who's always flying off on tangents. Or maybe there's a team leader who's great with detail and planning, but can't communicate their decisions.
Now imagine a team where everyone works together effectively, playing to their strengths to achieve the best results, even when they have conflicting priorities and needs.
Deloitte's Business Chemistry® gives you a framework that can make that vision a reality. In this article, we examine how the model works, and how you can implement it using five simple steps.
What Is Deloitte's Business Chemistry?
The Business Chemistry model was first outlined by Deloitte colleagues Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg, in their 2018 book, "Business Chemistry."
It's a tool for developing emotional intelligence within teams, so that co-workers can recognize one another's preferences and working styles, and understand and adapt their own behaviors accordingly. It can also enable managers to foster better relationships and reduce conflict in their teams.
Business Chemistry has much in common with other tools that categorize people by thinking styles or behavior – models such as Belbin's Team Roles, Benne and Sheats' Group Roles, Bonchek and Steele's Thinking Styles, The DiSC® Model, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™.
But the crucial difference is that Business Chemistry concentrates on observing the way that people work, rather than on their personalities or thinking types. And it requires no time-consuming tests or experiments!
Before you use Business Chemistry with your team, check with your line manager or Human Resources department that it aligns with your organization's established ways of working. Your company may already follow The DiSC Model or Belbin's Team Roles, for example.
The Four Working Styles of Business Chemistry
The Business Chemistry model divides behavior into four groups, called "working styles." The four working styles – Pioneer, Driver, Guardian, and Integrator – are arranged in a circle, as shown in figure 1 (click on the image to see a larger version).
Figure 1 – Business Chemistry Working Styles.
Adapted from Christfort, K. and Vickberg, S. (2018). ‘Business Chemistry®,’ Hoboken: Wiley. Used with permission.
Let's take a closer look at each working style:
Pioneers are open to possibilities, and they revel in taking risks. They tend to dislike thinking through the finer details, or doing things "by the book."
Pioneers offer imagination, "big-picture" thinking, creativity, spontaneity, and the ability to think on their feet. The downside is that they may not spare the feelings of those who they believe are holding them back.
Drivers relish challenge, taking ideas forward, and making decisions. They think logically and quantitatively, and demand clear data to inspect before deciding on a course of action, though they try to make decisions quickly.
Drivers don't like to be held back by rules and regulations, and they may lack empathy.
There are two "sub-types" of Drivers: "Commanders," who specialize in getting things done; and "Scientists," who value exploration, experiment and deduction.
Guardians seek stability and thrive on order and structure. They tend to be methodical, meticulous, and keenly aware of the practical requirements of any job.
Guardians may be reserved, but they also tend to be loyal. They are often good at handling data, quality assurance, and planning, although they may not always be the strongest communicators.
Integrators value their connections. They enjoy team-building and forging strong relationships, and they bring empathy and mediation skills to their groups. Integrators are less likely "driven by numbers," and they prefer leaving decision-making to others.
Integrators also fall into two sub-types: "Teamers" and "Dreamers." Teamers tend to be outgoing, and proactive about bringing others together. Dreamers are more inward-looking. They dislike confrontation, but they are good at analyzing the feelings of those around them.
Despite these categorizations, it's important to avoid "pigeonholing" people according to their dominant working style. Few people fit into just one category. As figure 1 shows, most have "shared traits" from two or more.
How to Use Deloitte's Business Chemistry
To get the best from Deloitte's Business Chemistry, follow these five steps:
1. Assess Your Team Members' Working Styles
Observe your colleagues' behavior at work and ask yourself the sequence of 20 questions that you will find on the Deloitte Business Chemistry website. (You'll need to register with the website to access them.)
Answering these questions enables you to form what Business Chemistry calls "hunches" about your team members' working styles.
If you're not convinced that your initial hunches accurately reflect your colleagues' working styles, you can repeat the 20 questions to refine them.
2. Assess Your Own Working Style
Next, apply the same 20 questions to yourself, to identify and understand your own working style. This enables you to analyze the way that you interact with other styles.
Answer the questions honestly, and remember that the way that you see yourself may be different from the way that others see you.
3. Explore How Your Team Works
This step is to develop your understanding of your team dynamics, and of how they could improve. To do this, keep your hunches about your team members in mind, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your current team environment like? Are your roles clearly defined, for example, and do you work together effectively? Are there any "flashpoints" where conflict arises? A SWOT Analysis may help here.
- What is your team's role, and what are its goals? For example, are you involved in change management, or product development, or planning? Which working styles are best suited to take the lead?
- Who are your main stakeholders, and how do they view your team? Are your stakeholders freewheeling creatives or data-driven finishers? Which working styles would each one prefer to deal with? (See our article, Stakeholder Analysis, for more information on identifying and understanding your stakeholders.)
- What is the current composition of your team? Do you have more people with one style than another, or is there an even split? Are all of the different working styles effectively deployed?
As you work through these questions, you'll gain insights into how to utilize your team's blend of styles more effectively.
4. Learn to "Flex" Your Own Working Style
Business Chemistry emphasizes the importance of "flexing" your working style when you engage with people who have a different style. Flexing your style doesn't mean changing it completely – that would be tricky, as it's part of your personality. But you can adapt your working style to fit the situation.
For example, it's important for Drivers to understand the value of patience when they work with Guardians. Guardians like to set the context for discussions, so they don't always "get to the punchline" as quickly as Drivers like. But both styles tend to be interested in data, so focusing on that can be a good starting point for a discussion.
5. Apply Business Chemistry to Your Team
The final step is to discuss what you've learned. Encourage your co-workers to consider how they could flex their own styles to improve teamwork.
You could begin by highlighting specific situations in which flexing would be valuable. For example, if team meetings are dominated by one or two Pioneers or Drivers, your team could be at risk of groupthink. Challenge these individuals to consider their co-workers' points of view, and urge the team's Integrators and Guardians to stand their ground.
Chances are, some people will need to flex more than others. For example, a team with a strong Pioneer component may need to pay greater attention to their Guardian colleagues when it comes to planning and scheduling.
You could also consider redefining certain roles based on your team members' individual strengths. You could make Drivers responsible for hitting milestones, for example, or charge Integrators with running better meetings.
Enabling each person to concentrate on what they are best can increase productivity, job satisfaction and cohesion in your team.
Deloitte's Business Chemistry model identifies four "working styles" that exist within a team: Pioneer, Guardian, Driver, and Integrator.
Understanding these working styles can enable managers to build emotionally intelligent teams that work with a unified purpose, despite their varying needs, priorities and preferences.
To implement Business Chemistry, use the following five steps:
- Assess individuals' working styles.
- Evaluate your own working style.
- Assess how your team currently operates, and how it interacts with stakeholders.
- Learn to "flex" your own working style.
- Encourage others to "flex," and to take on the roles and responsibilities that are best suited to their working styles.
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