Over the last 10+ years of my career, I have been in different type of roles. Each role had their own challenges, but there was one challenge which has been consistent. That challenge is “Dealing with people”. Whether it is Marketing, Sales or Strategy, the people aspect has always been tough to manage. Contrary to the belief that only bosses make life difficult, I find there is an equal challenge of dealing with peers as well.

Whether it’s a big organization like IBM or a small start up, the toughest challenge has been to establish a healthy relationship with everyone, exercise some kind of authority without power and toughest of them all is to convince others. Among these three challenges, convincing others has been a herculean task. Initially I thought convincing others is difficult because of my position in the team, credentials or ego. But when I read the book, Business Chemistry by Kim and Suzzane, it became evident to me that it was a matter of not understanding people’s workstyle.

In this book, Kim and Suzzane, have explained 4 distinct working styles that describe our workplace personalities, and discovery tips and tricks for getting the best out of each one of our coworkers, whether they are a Guardian, a Pioneer, a Driver or an Integrator. Packed with insights in to what makes us tick and makes us thrive, the book has a call to action, encouraging us to embrace our differences and work better together. Key takeaways from this book are: 

  • The 4 different personalities in your workplace
  • Their strengths and weakness
  • Why all 4 personalities are important for the team
  • What are the working equations among the 4 personalities

One of the primary reasons people like or dislike a company is because of their relationship with their team members and boss.

I am a firm believer that once we know things the way they are, we will be in a better position to make them work for us. It’s like  driving a car without understanding how to use the different parts of it. Work relationships happen not because of how talented we are, or how much experience we have or where in the organization’s hierarchy we fall. Relationships happen when we understand people, when we know about their motivations, their strengths, their likes and dislikes and how they think. It requires time, effort and sincerity from our side. After reading Business Chemistry, I can say with confidence that if you have been looking to find a way out to understand your peers, then you won’t regret spending time on this. 

Each of us is a composite of the four work styles, though most people’s behavior and thinking are closely aligned with one or two. All the styles bring useful perspectives and distinctive approaches to generating ideas, making decisions, and solving problems. Generally speaking:

Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to do with your gut.  Their focus is big-picture. They are drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches. 

Guardians value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.

Drivers value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.

Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.

When I think about my this role and the previous roles, I see that in almost all the teams I almost had all the 4 types of personalities. I must confess that I might not have ran away from the work, but I definitely and desperately wanted to get rid of the people I am working with at some point of time. Now that I know a little more about the work styles, I have three learning which I must practice:

1. Productive friction is good in a team and we must have the courage to confront it rather than running away from the situation in hand

2. Hear all voices, take all judgements, contemplate, validate and then believe rather than reacting to anyone’s actions or comments.

3.Cultivate a new view of diversity by debating and listening to others point of views. Diversity isn’t just about gender, age or area of expertise, it’s also about work styles.  In variably, a successful team will have all the 4 personalities. 

It’s my realization, that the people who have grown up in the organization and have become extremely successful, are not just top performers, or talent, they are extremely good in establishing great working relationships. I guess I have been fortunate enough to work closely with some of those managers and leaders. 



The key message of the book is: 

Empathy is the key to any great relationship, and understanding is your passport to a mutually satisfying connection with them. Depending on whether you ‘re a Pioneer, a Guardian, a Driver or an Integrator, you will bring a specific of strength to the office as well as areas of improvements too. 

I think this is a must read book. In fact Deloitte has adopted this framework to train its employees and make them aware of the different personalities and how to deal with them. While it’s true that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, understanding the fact that we need to deal with people, who have their own motivations, their own personal agendas will help not just to get our work done, but also to resolve our conflicts.  Conflicts are natural in a workplace. We can’t avoid it, but we can deal sensibly with them in a way which will help us to build a sustaining relationship with everyone. 

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