Guardians in Hell: How to Stop Killing Their Potential

*This second post in a four-part series is about a Guardian (one of four Business Chemistry types), how the wrong work environment kills her potential, and what could be done about it. Search #BCstories for post one of the series, about a Pioneer, and stay tuned for posts three and four, about a Driver and an Integrator, respectively (which I’ll also tag #BCstories).

Once a Guardian named Gwendolyn was given one month to coordinate the creation of a website illustrating her organization’s vision and how they were living it. This was a high-profile project dreamt up by the board, and one that lots of stakeholders deeply cared about. Was Gwen an expert on websites with a deep understanding of the vision? Did she have a broad network of connections to draw upon? Did she thrive in the role of herding cats? Not at all. She was highly skilled in other areas, but she got this particular project because she happened to be standing nearby when it was assigned. From her Guardian lens, this wasn’t a fairytale about being handed a golden opportunity. It was a horror story.

The good news was that because of the tight time frame, there were lots of resources (also known as people) assigned to the project. This was also bad news—lots of people to coordinate, and every one of them with strong opinions, hellbent on expressing them energetically, and all at the same time. Everyone was looking to her to make quick decisions but Gwen could barely think straight in their presence. And they seemed to be present all the time.

Gwen and her team were provided the “gift” of a dedicated section of their open-space work environment in which to collaborate. Because so many important people had a stake in the project, the team was expected to be visibly working together on site as much as possible. But that meant constant interruptions and no quiet place to think or to focus on the heads-down, detailed work that she, as a Guardian, typically excelled at. When she pointed this out to leadership they told her to stop being so inflexible—this is how innovative work gets done.

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Pioneers in Hell: How to Stop Killing Their Potential

*This first post in a four-part series is about a Pioneer (one of four Business Chemistry types), how the wrong work environment kills his potential, and what could be done about it. Stay tuned for posts two, three and four, about a Guardian, a Driver, and an Integrator, respectively (which I’ll tag #BCstories).

Last year, a Pioneer–let’s call him Jack—was being lauded by his company for boldly departing from convention and leading his business unit to new heights of innovation. Shortly thereafter, Jack got a new boss. Before their first in-person meeting, his boss asked him to put together a plan for the upcoming year. And populate a detailed template. In a spreadsheet. With multiple pivot tables and complex macros. 

Jack, a consummate Pioneer, put off completing it as long as he could; he didn’t have a particular aversion to numbers, but he felt they missed the bigger point of his ideas. Not to mention how his eyes would cross and his mind would wander every time he looked at row upon row of inputs and outputs and compounding variables. If he could have used a tool to visualize the data that would have helped. He finally got it done just in time for the meeting, but the process sucked the life out of him. 

On the day of the meeting, Jack entered his boss’s office relieved to have the whole spreadsheet ordeal behind him and ready to brainstorm possibilities for the year. But he barely began to wax enthusiastically when his boss shut him down with the words, “Let’s just walk through the template, shall we?” And they did. Line by line. Cell. By. Cell. And at every stop his boss would question the numbers, the assumptions, the formatting. Every time Jack would ask her to “imagine this” or “picture that” she would simply sit there with a grim expression, whereas she positively lit up when she found a rounding error!

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Why people think you don’t appreciate them, even when you do

shutterstock_22905142 [thank you] (3) - Copy

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.“ –Gladys Bronwyn Stern

When did you last ask someone how they like to be recognized? Maybe you don’t think you need to ask, because you already know what people want. They want money. Or they want to be acknowledged by leaders. Or, when they hit it out of the park, they want everyone to know about it.

Do they really?

We surveyed more than 16,000 professionals about how they want to be recognized, and for what, and by whom. We found that what one person wants is often different from what someone else wants. And further, that those differences are related to one’s generation, gender, organizational level, and Business Chemistry type. Read the full report for all the findings: The practical magic of ‘thank you’: How your people want to be recognized, and for what, and by whom. Read on here for a summary.

Business Chemistry® is Deloitte’s framework for understanding and engaging different working styles, which was highlighted in HBR in March-April 2017. There are four primary Business Chemistry types, each with unique perspectives and strengths. Pioneers value possibilities and they spark energy and imagination. Guardians value stability and they bring order and rigor. Drivers value challenge and they generate momentum. Integrators value connection and they draw teams together.

Understanding individual worker preferences can be critical to creating an employee experience that is personalized, flexible, and customizable. And using Business Chemistry to frame these preferences helps us identify practical strategies for creating stronger working relationships and inclusive environments where all types excel and thrive.

So, what do people want?

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Integrators value connection and they draw teams together

*This is the final post in a four-part series about the Business Chemistry types. Check out the first, second, and third posts in the series, about Pioneers, Guardians, and Drivers respectively. Subscribe here so you don’t miss future posts! 

CONNECTION—that’s what it’s all about for Integrators, and connector is the role they often play on a team. Sometimes an Integrator is focused on creating connections between people, and other times on connections between ideas. Either way, Integrators like working on teams more than toiling away in solitude. They’re trusting and they forge deep relationships—beyond networking or teamwork—getting up close and personal to form real friendships with colleagues. 

And there are lots of reasons you’d want to be friends with an Integrator. For one thing, they go out of their way to be helpful. You know that one colleague who’s always happy to pitch in and does so with a smile? They’re probably an Integrator.

Integrators are great listeners and observers too. They pay close attention to what’s being said and can often sense even unspoken emotions and reactions. And then they take others’ feelings into account. An Integrator knows that sticks and stones aren’t the only things that can hurt relationships—words can too, and they bear this in mind when they consider how to deliver a message. Integrators place a high value on traditions, and this too reflects their sensitivity to the feelings of others. After all, where do traditions come from? People. And from the Integrator’s perspective, things that are important to people deserve respect.

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Drivers value challenge and they generate momentum

*This is the third post in a four-part series about the Business Chemistry types. Check out the first and second posts in the series, about Pioneers and Guardians, respectively, and watch for the upcoming post about Integrators. Subscribe here so you don’t miss it! 

Ask people the best thing about Drivers, and a clear theme emerges: They get sh*t done. Even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult. Because if you had to capture the spirit of Drivers in a word, it would be CHALLENGE. Drivers love a challenge, and they love to challenge. They are focused and competitive. To get the results they want, Drivers will calculate the shortest possible path and stay on course despite whatever, or whoever, gets in their way. This directness infuses everything they do, from the way they make decisions to the way they interact with others. They like to get to the point.

Drivers are not the warmest and fuzziest of the types. They don’t mince words and they don’t sugarcoat. Expecting small talk? Drivers see it as a waste of time. No clear agenda? Come back when you have one. Vague ambitions? Intuitive conclusions? Emotional interpretations? Good luck with that. Drivers are logical, technical, and quantitative. They want data and structure. Try to engage them without these things, and they have no qualms voicing their displeasure. Even if you do arrive armed with facts, don’t expect Drivers to accept them at face value. They will likely question your data, dispute your premise, and argue with your conclusion. But often that’s not a bad sign. Drivers are competitive and love to debate. They respect someone that can go toe to toe with them—and they don’t give out points to people who are self-eff acing. Tell a Driver you’re not that good at something and, chances are, they will believe you.

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Guardians value stability and they bring order and rigor

This is the second post in a four-part series about the Business Chemistry types. Read the post first in the series, about Pioneers, and watch out for the upcoming posts about Drivers and Integrators. Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!

If we had to pick one word to represent what the Guardian values, it would be STABILITY. A Guardian knows it’s essential to forge a solid foundation before building anything skyward. And when it comes to how the Guardian does things, many aspects of their working style serve to establish and maintain such stability. They’re methodical, careful, disciplined, meticulous, and exacting. (How else to ensure a foundation is sound?) Guardians believe it’s important to follow a structured process when completing a task, and they like a bit of structure in their work environments and meetings too.

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Pioneers value possibilities and spark energy and imagination

*This first post in a four-part series about the Business Chemistry types. Post two, about Guardians, has since been posted as well. Watch out for posts three (about Drivers), and four (about Integrators). Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!

If we could capture the essence of the Pioneer in one word, it would be POSSIBILITIES. Pioneers love imagining what could be and don’t hesitate to reach beyond the status quo. Expressions like “What if…?”, “Picture this…”, “Yes, and…”, and “Why not?” are music to a Pioneer’s ears, and often are lead-ins to lively brainstorms. Pioneers are big fans of collaborative idea generation. They’re very comfortable with ambiguity, and highly adaptable to change—whether they’re the ones initiating it, as is often the case, or not.

Strong Pioneers tend to be easy to spot because they’re typically high energy and outgoing. They’re the ones you can hear all the way down the hallway before you even get to the conference room. Or more likely, you’ll hear them coming down the hallway as you wait in the conference room, because they’ll be running late. They have little regard for rigid structure, and an almost allergic aversion to details. That agenda the team put together so painstakingly? Don’t expect the Pioneers to follow it. Their thinking can be non-linear and resists constraint. That detailed review of the pivot table analysis you had planned? Their eyes will blur and their minds will wander as you strain what paltry patience they possess. But give them a juicy, open-ended challenge and a whiteboard, and they’ll be formidable idea generators.

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