How and why teams work

 This is a review of “Pioneers, Drivers, Integrators, & Guardians” by Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort which appeared in the Harvard Business Review. March-April, 2017

Christfort is the national managing director of Deloitte Greenhouse experiences and one of the original architects of the Business Chemistry system. Vickberg is a social personality psychologist and Deloitte’s lead researcher on the Business Chemistry system.
Deloitte, a multi-national consulting corporation, found that many of their clients had a common problem of disappointing team performance, regardless of the level of the team members. Were the team members at fault? The leaders? What could be done to improve team results? Deloitte began a study to determine the cause and to formulate solutions to improve team performance.
With the assistance of biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a survey development company, and molecular biologist Lee Silver, the Deloitte team derived four work styles it labeled as the Pioneers, the Guardians, the Drivers, and the Integrators.  More than 190,000 people representing the four work styles have completed an assessment to further define the characteristics of each work style.
This study created a common language to address this problem for leaders and teams. The organization of the study’s results became the Deloitte Business Chemistry system defined by the authors as a system that “…identifies four primary work styles and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals”:
·         the strengths and weaknesses of each work style
·         the work style of each team member
·         the challenges inherent in bringing different styles together, and
·         the benefits to the host organization of style diversity.
The styles first must be understood.
The study concluded that each team member has a dominant work style characterized by certain traits described as follows:
  •             Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe in taking risks and that it’s fine to go with your gut. They focus on the big picture. They appreciate bold, new ideas and creative approaches.
  •             Guardians value stability and bring the team order and rigor. They are pragmatic and hesitate to embrace risk. They see data and facts as baseline requirements, and details matter. Guardians think it important to learn from the past.
  •             Drivers value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count the most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and to tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.
  •             Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibilities to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They are diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.

            To build a strong team, the leader must work to mesh the positives traits while defusing the inherent conflicts between work styles. The authors used examples to illustrate both problems and solutions. As one example, an Integrator abhors conflict while a Driver loves the give-and-take of debate. The Integrator reacts by not introducing a topic that may lead to an argument. The Driver considers the “argument” to be healthy discussion. As another, the Guardian’s detailed explanation may be painful to the impulsive Pioneer while the Pioneers riffing without structure may seem like a mess to the organized Guardian.
            Once the leader identifies the work style of each team member; the leader can teach the language of the Business Chemistry system to all team members. This is a critical next step to mesh the positive traits into a strong team. The study found, however, that mere knowledge did not always eliminate conflict between work styles. Elimination of this conflict requires the leader to manage the styles in three ways suggested by the authors.
            Pulling your opposites closer. Conflicts between true opposites, such as Guardians and Pioneers, are the most difficult to resolve. For example, a Guardian, acutely concerned about implementation, complained that Pioneers have great ideas, but do not want to discuss execution. A decisive Pioneer, who generated ideas without judgment, criticized the Guardian as judgmental for not allowing creativity to flow. The committed leader must understand that it will take more time and effort to bring these opposites together.

            First the leader must convince both that excellent team performance requires their cooperative effort. Second, the leader must give them the time to learn to trust each other. In the example, the Pioneer learned that her partner’s meticulousness often got them out of a tight sport. The Guardian learned that her partner’s more spontaneous approach allowed them to be more responsive to their audience’s needs. Third, a leader need to balance its own work style with its true opposite.
            Elevate the “tokens” on your team. A team is not selected based on work style. This can create a team with a majority work style and a distinct minority of others. Without intervention by the leader, this can cause a cascade, that is, a result quickly determined by the majority work style with no input from others. This deprives the organization of the benefit of diversity and likely lessens the quality of the team’s result. The leader must actively draw the token work styles into the process. The authors suggested a method for each work style. Specifically, for example, Integrators could be empowered to seek the perspectives of other team members and stakeholders. Generally, a leader could set aside time for the token groups to speak early in the discussion before a cascade begins or require each style to brainstorm together before the discussion and to share in round-robin fashion when the team convenes.
Pay close attention to your sensitive introverts.
            Most likely, the introverts will be Guardians or Integrators. By work style, they are non-confrontational and risk adverse. In addition, the Deloitte study showed that these two styles are considerably more stressed out than Pioneers and Drivers. Introverts should not be ignored. They bring essential attributes of conscientiousness and thoroughness. They spot errors and potential hidden risks. They often do the necessary detail work left undone by the extroverts. A strong leader will make the effort to secure their contributions. The authors suggest allowing them to work individually, reserving a space for them to speak at a meeting, or asking them to speak on a specific topic.

            The authors, a Pioneer and a Guardian, concluded by sharing their experience of learning to appreciate each other’s qualities and realizing that this strengthened their partnership and their team.

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