How to plan a meeting that people won’t dread

Planning a meeting that people won't dread My closest teammates sometimes tease me about the time they found me standing in a corner with my headphones on, while a sea of people socialized around me. We were two days into a three-day series of meetings with about 100 of our colleagues, and my extrovert side had totally given up the ghost. I’m a Guardian and a Dreamer (a combination of internally-focused types) who works primarily from home, and I’m not used to quite so much togetherness. You might wonder why I didn’t just take a little bit of alone time. The short answer is, I didn’t want to miss out on anything! What can I say, people are complicated.

A few weeks ago it was time again for these annual meetings, and I looked forward to the event with equal measures of excitement and dread. Among the many things our team does well is engage people, and I knew the event would be valuable and fun. But I also knew that sometimes I need a chance to disengage, or at least to engage differently. And that can be hard to do at these kinds of things. Which raises the question, how can you plan a meeting or event that meets the needs of everyone participating, when the needs of everyone aren’t the same? When people have conflicting needs, how do you appeal to all types without turning anyone off? And how can you do so while delivering an exceptional experience rather than one that feels watered down?

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Who are you when you’re stressed?

Who are you when you're stressed?Last week was really stressful for me. I’m in the midst of several writing projects at once, nothing I would recommend, and it seemed there was also a hurricane blowing, full of other responsibilities, inquiries, requests, and demands swirling around me. You probably know how that feels.

So what did I do? I hunkered down, and spent several hours organizing my calendar–obviously–one of the more Guardian-like tasks a person can engage in. Because that’s what I do when I’m stressed.

And how about you? When you’re stressed, what do you do? Do your typical behaviors intensify? Or do you tend to act a bit out of character? Do you think your Business Chemistry type changes? Or does it get more extreme? We’re often asked by our clients just these questions. So we set out to answer them.

We asked people to complete our Business Chemistry assessment while imagining they were under stress, and 111 people did just that. Specifically, we asked people to “respond to each item as if you’re in the midst of a very stressful time. You might think back to a specific stressful time you’ve actually experienced, imagine a stressful time, or just focus in on the feeling of being under stress in general.” We then compared people’s stressed results to their original Business Chemistry results, to see if they were different.

The majority of respondents (70 percent) indicated they had recalled a specific stressful time they’d actually experienced, while 23 percent thought about being under stress in general, and just 7 percent imagined a specific stressful experience. Most respondents indicated they were thinking about looming deadlines and time pressure, critical and high profile projects involving clients and/or leadership, the need for multi-tasking, and/or a heavy work-load. In other words, they were thinking about the typical day at work for most of us.

In short, we found no evidence that any of the Business Chemistry types intensify under stress, but we did find evidence of changes in people’s behaviors and preferences.

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How leaders achieve harmony in business

harmony in business

I recently saw a TED talk that fascinated me, Itay Talgam’s much-watched “Lead Like the Great Conductors”.1 During his talk, Talgam, a conductor and business consultant, expertly weaves the conductor-orchestra metaphor through a discussion of leadership as could be applied to any team. As a former orchestra flutist, what really struck me about this talk was that it’s a fantastic illustration of one of the main tenets of Business Chemistry, that each of us is a unique combination of all four types, and it’s our ability to flex between these styles that may be our greatest strength as leaders. Indeed, research shows that great leaders use a variety of styles, depending on the situation, to get results.2

Consider the responsibilities of a conductor: define the tone and set the tempo, unify 100 independent musicians while bringing out the best in each performer, provide real-time performance feedback, and create an experience for the audience. How do conductors achieve all this…without a saying a word? Talgam guides us through a tour of the leadership styles of some of the world’s greatest conductors, and explores the possible pitfalls of leaning too heavily on one style.

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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.
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When You’ve Got Tough Feedback to Give, Flex Your Style


An old maxim cautions: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” We live in a world where feedback is unavoidable. And for most of us who deliver feedback to others, our default tendency is to give praise or constructive criticism in the way we like to hear it.

The trouble is, taking a universal approach to communicating with others works to our detriment. When we use a “standard template” for conveying praise or corrective advice, we’re practically inviting misunderstandings and broken trust. Just imagine the aftermath of giving hard-hitting feedback–with little context–to your most sensitive but reliable worker. More than just hurt feelings, we can actually distract a person from our main message with an ill-chosen delivery!

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It’s a Trap! Avert decision-making biases with Business Chemistry


I recently wrote about how to recognize each of the Business Chemistry types, with their approach to decision-making being among the clues that can help.

Each of these is a reasonable way to approach decisions–there is no right way. And combining these approaches–making decisions in a diverse team–can be a great way to combat some of the cognitive biases, or decision-making traps, that sometimes lead us to make faulty decisions.

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The Power of Opposites

The Power of Opposites

If given the choice, would you work with someone who’s similar to you and shares your views? Or would you choose someone who’s quite dissimilar, and has a different perspective?

Research suggests that we make better decisions in diverse groups than in homogeneous ones, but that we feel less confident in those decisions1. Why? Maybe because making decisions with people similar to us feels easy; if we’re all on the same page from the start it must be the right page, mustn’t it? The overconfidence that we’re prone to individually, gets multiplied in homogeneous groups.

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

Guardians

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.

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

Integrators

I previously shared thoughts on how to recognize and work with Drivers and Pioneers. In this third installment I’ll address how to know when you’re working with an Integrator, and what to do about it. Because of course, doing something about it is really the point of Business Chemistry.

Spotting an Integrator

Integrator motto: Consensus Rules!

The Integrator’s strongest traits are their tendency to avoid confrontation and seek consensus, their empathy, and their tolerance of ambiguity.

Integrators are connectors. They connect with people, emphasizing relationships and striving to be helpful. And they connect ideas. Their way of thinking is nonlinear, big-picture, and contextual. They’re also traditional, trusting, and dutiful.

Integrators tend to think through decisions carefully and to seek a lot of input from others, trying to get a sense of whether people are in agreement. They’re not particularly keen on risk-taking, but if they see the group heading in that direction they may be inclined to get on board. The people-implications of a decision are likely to be important to an Integrator and they’ll consider these carefully. They’re also prone to changing their mind, which I’ve written about before.

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

Pioneers_HighRes

A few days ago I wrote about how to know a Driver when you see one, as well as a few tips for working with them. In this second post of the series I offer the same kind of perspective about Pioneers. After all, Business Chemistry wasn’t developed for introspection, it was developed for action!


Spotting a Pioneer

Pioneer motto: Have fun. It’s just work.

More than anything, a Pioneer can be recognized by their spontaneity and penchant for brainstorming.

As the most extroverted of the four types, Pioneers are also energetic and expressive, and have broad networks and collaborative styles. They adapt easily to change and like to jump in and lead the charge toward new horizons.

When it comes to decision-making, Pioneers don’t belabor it. They tend to make quick decisions going with their gut, have a high tolerance for ambiguity and risk, and aren’t afraid to change their minds.

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