The Chemistry of Trust: 8 Ways to Build More of It

What if you could be the kind of leader whose team had increased energy, was more productive, collaborated better with their colleagues, and stayed with your organization longer? What if your people suffered less chronic stress and were happier with their lives?

In the Neuroscience of Trust, published in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Paul Zak suggests that you can be that kind of leader by increasing trust on your team. He proposes eight management behaviors to help you do so. In considering his ideas, I matched his suggestions up against the Business Chemistry types, knowing that different things make the various types tick. Here are the eight proposed behaviors and the types with which they’re most likely to be effective…

Induce “challenge” stress. Zak suggests that challenge stress, brought on by assigning teams difficult but achievable tasks, releases chemicals in our brains that increase social connections. This technique may be particularly effective for Drivers, who are more likely than the other types to report that they thrive in the face of challenging tasks. 1

Give people discretion in how they do their work. In other words, enable autonomy by allowing people to complete projects in their own way—if you trust your people, they’re more likely to trust you. When asked about autonomy, Pioneers and Drivers (particularly D-Scientists) say it’s more important to them than Integrators and Guardians do.

Enable job crafting. Job crafting means, in part, empowering people to choose which projects they work on. This technique may be particularly successful with Pioneers, who are the most likely type to say they thrive when they have opportunities to learn and try new things. Who knows better which work has the right level of “new” than your people themselves?

Share information widely. Zak suggests that lack of information about an organization’s direction can cause chronic stress among employees. Cultivating trust by sharing such information may be most essential with Guardians, who our research suggests experience the highest levels of stress, and are also the type most likely to say clear expectations are important to them.

Recognize excellence. A little recognition is likely to go long a long way for all types of people, but our research shows that Guardians and Integrators are more likely than Pioneers and Drivers to say that recognition is a key ingredient for them to thrive at work. Given that the work of these types can sometimes go unseen, acknowledging their contributions could be a particularly effective trust-builder with them.

Intentionally build relationships. Zak cites his own research suggesting that creating social ties at work improves performance. This may be particularly valuable with Integrators, who are the most relationship-focused type and also the most likely to say that working with people they enjoy is a priority for them. A little bit of focused attention to relationship-building can help in creating mutual trust.

Facilitate whole person growth. By whole-person growth Zak means helping people grow both professionally and personally, and that can mean different things for different people. While all the types put a high priority on a feeling of accomplishment, Drivers, particularly D-Commanders, are more likely than the other types to say advancement is important to them, while Guardians and Integrators prioritize work-life balance more than others, and Pioneers are the most likely type to say it’s important to know they’re making a difference in the world. When your people know you understand them and see them as people, not just employees, they’re more likely to put their trust in you.

Show vulnerability: As a leader, being vulnerable enough to ask for help when you need it is perhaps one of the scariest but most effective means of role-modeling trust. Doing so demonstrates to all types of people that asking for help is okay, that they can trust you enough to ask when they need it. By asking your people to have your back, you’ll show them that you’re going to have theirs. And isn’t that really what trust is all about?

Dr. Suz

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz)

Dr. Suz is the Greenhouse Team’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

1Research findings in this post are based on a study with 13,885 professionals of varying levels working outside Deloitte, in the US and elsewhere. Participants represent more than 1,200 organizations across various industries, and 115 countries overall. During the period of February, 2016 to November, 2016 participants completed the Business Chemistry assessment online and also answered questions about their career aspirations, career priorities, and the working conditions under which they thrive. For each question, respondents were asked to select their top three options out of a list of 10. The margin error for this sample is less than two percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level, for all Business Chemistry types.

Business Chemistry Featured in Harvard Business Review Spotlight on the New Science of Teamwork

1417 MarApr17 Cover_CMYK.inddPioneers, Drivers, Integrators, and Guardians

Every team is a mix of these personality types. Here’s how to get the best out of any combination.

by Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort

Published in Harvard Business Review, March/April, 2017

Organizations aren’t getting the performance they need from their teams. That’s the message we hear from many of our clients, who wrestle with complex challenges ranging from strategic planning to change management. But often, the fault doesn’t lie with the team members, our research suggests. Rather, it’s often leaders who fail to effectively tap diverse work styles and perspectives—even at the senior-most levels. Business Chemistry can help.

A first step is to identify the work styles of your team members and begin to consider how similarities and differences are beneficial or problematic. How many detail-oriented Guardians do you have versus big picture Pioneers? What’s the balance of competitive Drivers with consensus-oriented Integrators? How are these diverse styles complementing or conflicting with one another?

Next, it’s time to actively manage those similarities and differences. Read our full article in Harvard Business Review for more detail on these strategies for doing so.

  • Pull your opposites closer. Often, the biggest pain points are in one-on-one relationships, when opposite styles collide. By pulling your opposites closer—having them work together on small projects, and then bigger ones if it’s working out—you can begin to create complementary partnerships on your teams. It’s also important to pull your own opposites closer to you, to balance your tendencies as a leader.
  • Elevate the “tokens” on your team. When a team’s makeup is lopsided, cognitive bias can creep in, often leading to “cascades” or momentum that carries the team in the direction of the most common viewpoint. Your goal here should be to elevate minority perspectives on the team without turning others off. This way you can benefit from all the perspectives represented, not just those in the majority.
  • Pay close attention to your sensitive introverts. While a cascading team may lose out on contributions from any style that’s in the minority, members who are most introverted or sensitive can be at greatest risk of being drowned out. So that you don’t lose out on the unique strengths brought by these types, make an effort to understand how the team’s ways of working are supporting them to make their best contribution, or not.

Dr. Suz

Suzanne Vickberg, PhD (aka Dr. Suz)

Dr. Suz is the Greenhouse Team’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


This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of DTTL and its member firms. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

Copyright © 2017 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.

The Business Chemistry guide to navigating office holiday parties

‘Tis the sThe Business Chemistry guide to navigating office holiday partieseason for requisite office holiday parties, with the associated potential for social awkwardness as you mingle. At work parties, while there are many things to avoid doing in general (drunken karaoke probably being high on that list), there are also things that are particularly unappealing to specific individuals based on their different working styles. So to help make your interactions as pleasant as possible this season, here’s a quick list of what to do, and more importantly what NOT do, with each of the four main working styles you’ll see across your bosses and co-workers.

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Creating a psychological safety net for your team

“Can you describe a time when you were on a team that was really successful?”

That’s more than just a leading question in a job interview. Answering that prompt can begin to give us clues into why some team experiences–and outcomes–are just better.

I bet you could probably list some of the characteristics that define the highest performing teams—things like goal focus, dependability, and complementary skills.

But what if the key to high team performance is something far more basic and subtle?

Newer research1 suggests that what distinguishes top teams is actually “psychological safety.” Said another way, we do our best work when we feel safe enough to take risks and contribute without holding back. And in a truly psychologically safe work climate, people aren’t just comfortable expressing themselves, they’re comfortable being themselves—complete with quirks and peccadillos. It’s also important to consider what we’re *not* doing on a team we deem safe. Harvard business professor Amy Edmondson describes psychologically safe teams as ones where “people are less likely to focus on self-protection.”

When we’re not constantly calculating whether we’ll lose face by taking a risk, we can more easily lean into our desire to engage with others and to learn. Research1 supports that a psychologically safe team leads to better overall engagement and an openness to learning. Indeed, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles3.

So how could your team start to build more safety, interpersonally speaking?

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How to plan a meeting that people won’t dread—Part II

Planning a meeting that people won't dread—Part IIRole Plays. Skits. Improv. These words strike fear into my heart. I know these methods can be great ways to work through a tricky problem, and many people love the opportunity to actively engage with an idea or challenge by getting up and acting it out. Even I’ll admit that I love the fun and energy in the room when my colleagues perform (I have many talented and hilarious colleagues). But I’ll do just about anything to stay off the stage myself.

Last week I wrote about some ways that you can plan meetings and events that meet the needs of more Business Chemistry types more of the time. This week I’ll continue that theme, starting with a discussion of these anxiety-producing (for me) kinds of activities.

When quieter types hesitate to get involved we sometimes implore them to “get out of their comfort zone” and “stretch” This kind of encouragement can be helpful if someone just needs a little push to get there. However, for others, improv and role plays are too far from comfort, and if someone’s totally preoccupied by performance anxiety, they’re probably not focused on learning. On the flip-side, for others, sitting too long and listening or discussing is boring, boring, boring. And if someone is bored, they’re not learning much either. For many of these folks, the chance to use their creativity and acting chops keeps them interested.

A key here is to make it okay for people to participate in different ways. While some people can’t wait to get into the spotlight (ahem, Pioneers), others are more comfortable participating offstage, developing a script, suggesting an improv scenario, creating a prop, recording a video, cheering their colleagues on, or summarizing learning in a wrap-up conversation. So yes, let’s all stretch a little, but not so far that we pull any muscles.

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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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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 a Driver isn’t just a Driver—Scientists and Commanders


A while back I shared some hints for recognizing a Driver, as well as some suggestions for flexing your own style to theirs. As a quick reminder, generally speaking Drivers are logical, competitive, and tolerant of confrontation. They’re often skilled with numbers and technically-oriented.

You might also recall that I recently revealed there are actually two sub-types of Integrators—Teamers and Dreamers. Well, as it turns out there are also two sub-types of Drivers. We call them Scientists and Commanders. As with the Integrator subtypes, drilling down the level of these Driver sub-types provides us with even clearer guidance on how to flex our style to theirs or to create the kind of environment in which they’ll thrive.
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