Guardians: How to spot one and what to do about it


Now that you’ve learned how to recognize and better work with Drivers, Pioneers, and Integrators, this final post in the series will address spotting and working with Guardians. After reading all four you’ll be that much closer to Business Chemistry ninja status.

Spotting a Guardian

Guardian motto: Changing the World, One Spreadsheet at a Time

Methodical. That’s the number one characteristic of the Guardian. They’re also structured, meticulous, focused on the details, and practical. If you’re paying attention to these things a Guardian is easy to spot, but because they’re also reserved, they don’t always make themselves known. You may need to be on the lookout for them.

Guardians are also likely to be conventional, hierarchical, disciplined, and frugal. They’re likely to speak slowly, or, as the most introverted of the four types, not at all, especially if others are dominating the conversation or fighting for the floor.

When it comes to making decisions, a Guardian usually isn’t in a hurry. They’re most comfortable with what’s familiar and they tend to be risk averse, so when making a decision that involves a new direction they’re going to want to check every detail. They may seek out benchmarks and best practices to ground the decision and make them more comfortable with a change. They’ll likely use a deliberate and methodical process for reaching a decision and once they’ve made up their mind they’re unlikely to change it. I’ve written before about the Guardian’s tendency to go with the status quo.

Tips for Working with a Guardian

Guardians respond well to concrete facts, proven principles, and established practices, so offer those up if they’re available. When you make a plan with a Guardian they’re going to expect you to stick with it. If you don’t, they may see you as unreliable. They also highly value loyalty, so demonstrating that can take you far. A Guardian craves details, so be ready with those and be prepared to answer lots of questions, address possible risks, and clarify uncertainties. Stay calm and if you can, take the emotion out of your arguments.

Depending on your own type, you may need to flex more or less to meet a Guardian where they are:

If you’re an Integrator, a Guardian will likely appreciate your tendency to be introspective and considered-its something you have in common. Your non-confrontational style can also be an asset, because a Guardian is likely to be as conflict-avoidant as you are. Just make sure that important issues do get addressed when they need to, even if they’re difficult to broach. You may need to adjust your level of structure and focus a bit to fit with a Guardian-your non-linear thinking style can feel scattered to them and your big-picture focus won’t give them the specifics they’re likely to need.

If you’re a Driver, you may need to access your reserve tank of patience. Like you, Guardians thrive on facts and data, but they’re likely to need more of both than you are and they’ll probably take longer in considering them. Be prepared to continue reviewing the details even if you’ve already reached a conclusion yourself, and don’t attempt to take short-cuts.

If you’re a Pioneer, maybe bring it down a notch. Not only are Guardians composed themselves, but they value composure in others and your high energy approach may be off-putting. Guardians also tend to have a high level of respect for rules and hierarchy, so now is not the time to flaunt your propensity toward rule-breaking. Try to be on time, follow through with your commitments, stick to the process, and ground your big ideas in facts. And please, don’t neglect the details.

If you’re a Guardian yourself, you’ll likely appreciate being with someone who gets you. But two Guardians together may soon find themselves drowning in details. Watch out for analysis paralysis and encourage each other to move forward. You may run into difficulty if your “way of doing things” is different from your Guardian colleague’s way, as you’re both likely to want to stick to what you know best. So flex where you can and maybe they’ll do the same.

Guardians out there, any other advice?

Read the other posts in this series, on Pioneers, Drivers, and Integrators. Subscribe to be sure you don’t miss future posts!

Dr. Suz

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz)
Dr. Suz is the LCC’s very own social-personality psychologist, which means she studies how people’s thoughts, behaviors and preferences are influenced by both who they are and the situations they’re in. She uses Business Chemistry to help teams explore how the mix of perspectives brought by their individual members influences their work together. Follow her on Twitter @DrSuzBizChem

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30 thoughts on “Guardians: How to spot one and what to do about it

  1. Guardian: “Speak … not at all (for months), … use a deliberate and methodical process for reaching a decision and once they’ve made up their mind they’re unlikely to change it.” That is Dr. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, according to the U.S. Forbes Magazine the most powerful woman in the world, and overall the #5. She was reelected twice already, and the Germans love her. Not too bad for a Guardian.


  2. Interesting comment on Dr. Angela Merkel, as a guardian. A woman to admire, also a woman with an open mind to change. My experience of a person who sits in the category of guardian has more to do with being unable to cope with change and progress.


    1. Thanks Judy. Yes, generally Guardians are more hesitant about change than the other types. I’m no expert on Dr. Merkel, so I can’t say for sure whether she’s a Guardian or not. But since the types represent likely clusters of characteristics (rather than strict categories) it’s very possible to have many, but not all of the traits of a type. So she may be a Guardian who embraces change more than a typical Guardian (or she may not be a Guardian at all!) Which type do you think she is?


  3. As a Pioneer/Driver-type leader, I find my Guardians’ wisdom really shines when I give them plenty of time to reflect and process. Even in brainstorming-type meetings, I give them advanced notice of the challenges to be solved in that meeting, and encourage them to give me the best info they have at the time (rather than PERFECT info or insight). The Pioneers in the group really appreciate it when Guardians acknowledge the energy or insight behind an idea or solution, BEFORE they share why it won’t work. I rely on my Guardians to help me mitigate risks and see invisible (to me) barriers. Their analytical abilities are a tremendous asset so long as we appreciate that their critical view helps shape big changes so that they are more effective.


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