Business Chemistry: A book review by Bob Morris

Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships
Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg
John Wiley & Sons (May 2018)

How almost anyone can develop powerful relationships, build a high-impact teams, and create results-driven organizations

Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg focus on four chemistry “types” when providing an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel. Their ultimate objective is to help prepare almost anyone to develop powerful relationships, build a high-impact teams, and achieve high-impact results in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

These are the four (generic) chemistry types:

Pioneers “value possibilities and they spark energy and imagination. They’re outgoing, spontaneous, and adaptable. They’re creative thinkers who believe big risks can bring great results.”

Guardians “value stability and they bring order and rigor. They’re practical, detail-oriented, and reserved. They’re deliberate  decision-makers apt to stick with the status quo.”

Drivers “value challenge and they generate momentum. They’re technical, quantitative, and logical. They’re direct in their approach to people and problems.”

Integrators “value connection and they draws teams together. They’re empathic, diplomatic, and relationship oriented. They’re attuned to nuance, seeing shades of grey rather than black and white.”

These really are generic but hardly definitive types. Also, they represent tendencies and preferences that are helpful to keep in mind.

I agree with Christfort and Vickberg that every organizations — whatever its size and nature may be — needs diversity within its workforce. That said, the fact remains that most mergers and acquisitions either fail or fall far short of original (probably unrealistic) expectations and the single most serious problem is usually cultural in nature. Chemistry in business is as much a result of differences that are compatible as it is a result of presumed similarities that nourish cohesion.

Based on wide and deep experience working with effective leaders and teams, Christfort and Vickberg have become convinced they “don’t just respond to the working style differences around them, but they actively cultivate diversity — in leadership pairings, within teams,  and across organizations –bringing together complementary strengths through thoughtful management. They go beyond flexing on a one-on-one basis to actively appreciating and leveraging the multi-dimensionality of their teams. They create environments that both empower and compel people to make their very best contributions.”

As I read these remarks, I was again reminded of several great leaders and their associates who are exemplars. For example, Walt Disney and his animators who produced so many classic feature films, including Bambi;  Robert Oppenheimer and the other physicists involved in the Manhattan Project; Ben Rich, Clarence (“Kelly”) Johnson, and the other aeronautical  engineers at Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects (“Skunk Works”) design center; also, George Pake and the computer scientists at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (who helped to achieve so many breakthroughs in high technology. The differences between and among members if each team — as well as their shared mission and values — help to explain the great achievements for which they are renowned.

For good relationships to become great collaborations, those involved must develop precisely the same chemistry on which Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg focus in this book.


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