'Business Chemistry' is the Catalyst for Group Success

KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 22, 2018) — Anyone who has worked in a group environment knows how rewarding it is when each member contributes something to the project. However, they also know how challenging it is when teams spend more time arguing than accomplishing their goals.

According to Lauren Powalisz, Principal at Deloitte Consulting, groups that struggle to work together have not developed their “business chemistry.”

Speaking to an auditorium of business students on March 20 as part of the Michael J. Coles College of Business Tetley Distinguished Lecture Series, Powalisz described how Deloitte worked with neuroscientists and geneticists to identify the four main personality types that exist in the business world. By applying business chemistry, organizations can identify their employees’ personality types and build teams of people whose strengths complement each other.

Lauren Powalisz Business Chemistry

During her presentation, entitled “What’s Your Business Chemistry?” Powalisz explained that business chemistry is more objective than other personality tests because it assigns labels based on observable behavior, not on how people view themselves.

Business chemistry, she argued, plays as critical a role in a group’s effectiveness as does the skills and talents of the individual group members.

“Each of us are individuals and we always want to be our authentic self,” Powalisz said. “But we find that you can put the smartest, most athletic and brightest people together and they don’t work. Something happens.”

The following are the four personality types that make up the business chemistry system:

  1. Pioneers are energetic, imaginative thinkers. They like to focus on the big picture and take risks. However, pioneers can also be reckless and unpredictable. They do not like to dwell on specifics.

  2. Guardians are the opposite of pioneers. They are methodical planners with an eye for detail. A guardian will avoid risk in favor of tried-and-true methods. Guardians can also be stubborn and controlling.

  3. Drivers are analytical thinkers who value directness in their interactions with others. Drivers tend to be competitive, goal-oriented, and quick to judgment. Others commonly describe drivers as blunt and uncompromising.

  4. Integrators are empathic people who value relationships over goals. They prefer to build consensus before taking action. However, integrators can be so concerned with consensus building that productivity suffers.

Lauren Powalisz

Deloitte’s research found that pioneers tend to work better with guardians, while drivers are best when paired with integrators. Powalisz encouraged business students to think about this when building their teams in the future.

While it is important for a leader to know his or her team’s personality types, Powalisz said leaders must also be aware of their own.

“Think about what it is that you bring to the table in your particular project,” she said. “What do you do well and what do you need to augment? You are not going to be perfect because that’s impossible. But that’s why we have great people around to add to us.”

Deloitte designed Business chemistry as a tool to ensure effective group dynamics, not as a means to apply unflinching labels to people. Individuals are unique and their personality types can change over time or all of a sudden. For example, pioneers are likely to adopt attributes of other personality types when under stress.

“There are four attributes and none of us is only one thing,” Powalisz said. “We all have bits and pieces of all four. But, just like you are dominant right-handed or left-handed, you can ask yourself what is my most dominant trait and what is my secondary trait?”

- Patrick Harbin