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 rests with leaders who fail to effectively tap diverse work styles and perspectives—even at the senior-most levels. Some managers just don’t recognize how profound the differences between their people are; others don’t know how to manage the gaps and tensions or understand the costs of not doing so. As a result, some of the best ideas go unheard or unrealized, and performance suffers.
To help leaders claim this lost value, Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry that identifies four primary work styles and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Existing personality tests didn’t do the trick—they weren’t tailored to the workplace, and they relied too heavily on personal introspection. So we consulted biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University, whose research on brain chemistry in romantic relationships sheds light on people’s styles and interactions. From there, we developed a list of business-relevant traits and preferences that can be observed or inferred from behavior at work. A survey development company then helped us build an assessment, which we tested and refined with three independent samples of more than 1,000 professionals each. Finally, we collaborated with molecular biologist Lee Silver, of Princeton, to adapt the statistical models he uses for genetic population analysis to look for patterns in our business population data and to mathematically derive four work styles.