Business Chemistry matters when change is afoot…

Chameloen.One of my favorite things about teaching Business Chemistry to teams is myth-busting. And one of the most common myths we need to bust is that Pioneers are “good” at change and no one else is. Now, it may be true that Pioneers are naturally more comfortable with change, or that they even relish it more than the other types. And it may also be that their adaptable natures make it a bit easier on them. But, thinking through the strengths and challenges of each type reveals that they all have something important to contribute in times of change, and also that they all may need a bit of help adjusting, in one way or another. So if you’ve got a big change coming, or you’re in the middle of one right now, keep the following in mind.

When it comes to change each type brings something of value to the team:

  • Pioneers will bring enthusiasm and lots of new ideas. Since they’re excited by novelty, change keeps them from getting restless and bored. Their imaginative natures mean they can envision lots of ways that the change will bring good things, and their high energy and expressiveness means they’ll likely spread that attitude to others.
  • Guardians will keep a close eye on risk management. It’s not that Guardians don’t ever take risks, but they do tend to first carefully consider the implications. In times of change their tendency to do so may be heightened, which can protect the team from making big mistakes.
  • Drivers will keep you from getting stuck in the discussion phase. They’ll push for action and forward progress. They’ll maybe suggest experimenting with different ways of doing things. And if there’s any sense of competition involved, they just may push even harder. Why just talk about change when you could be doing it?
  • Integrators will make sure everyone is on the same page. They’ll keep an eye out for those who may be getting left behind and they can help determine what those people need to bring them up to speed.

Each type is likely to need a bit of help as well:

  • Pioneers may need help translating their creative vision into an actionable plan. This is one of the complaints we get about Pioneers–they’re visionary alright, but people are sometimes left clueless about how the vision might become a reality, and what their individual role in that transformation might be. A very creative Pioneer often benefits from a strong partner of a more practical type, who can help with this translation.
  • Guardians may need help with letting go of the status quo. I’ve suggested before that one way to help bridge the gap from what is known to what is new is to emphasize the similarities more than the differences–that is, what’s NOT changing? Talking about that may help the Guardian loosen their grip on the past and be more open to embracing the future.
  • Drivers may need help making sure others are along for the ride—and recognizing whether they’re at risk of driving a bus with no one on it. They’re sometimes pushing so hard to make progress they may miss signs that others aren’t moving forward with them. Frequent check-ins or pulse surveys may help to keep them informed.
  • Integrators may need help letting go of the idea that everyone is going to agree. While it’s important to work toward a healthy support base in times of change, total consensus may be an unrealistic goal. Instead, emphasizing procedural justice and great communication about how and why decisions are made (as I’ve discussed before) may help them to agree that sometimes you just need to push forward.

So if you’re the one leading a change, what might you do to encourage individuals of each type to get on board?

  • Pioneers probably are more likely to be comfortable with change, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily see things the way you do. Asking them to brainstorm with you may help get them on your path rather than running off on their own.
  • Guardians will be more comfortable if you provide them with details, facts, and sources. They’ll also do better if you give them some time to process and adjust to what’s happening. Rushing things here is not well-advised.
  • Drivers will be more comfortable if they can see the logical path from action to outcome, and they’ll likely get on board quicker if you share how the change will help them meet their own goals.
  • Integrators will be more comfortable if they know how people will be impacted by a change. And if you hope to get them to jump in feet first, it’s a good idea to address how the change in question fits into the broader context of the team, the organization, the world, the past, and the future.

Now that you’ve got some strategies for managing change through a Business Chemistry lens, I want to leave you with something that’s maybe a little less practical. I recently challenged a team I was working with to compose a series of Haikus about the Business Chemistry types during times of change. No, really! They had a good time and came up with some great poems. Four of my favorites follow. By agreement with the team, I’ll attribute all four to “Unknown.”


Details, facts & sources
Guardians seek all these things
To make decisions


In times of changes
We make sure all are on board
And then we hug all


Let us forge a path
Into the unknown unknown
Time to innovate!!!


Structure and end goals
Taking it to the end zone
We will get stuff done!

Do you have a change Haiku of your own?

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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