Social Styles Case Study: Goldman Sachs


On The Edge worked with a newly assembled team of regional brokers from Goldman Sachs experiencing common challenges and difficulties in relating to and working with different individuals within the group. 


Our staff facilitated a Social Styles workshop to help the team better understand and address the challenges and difficulties they were facing in working cohesively together towards a common mission, goal, and purpose. Further, On The Edge guided this group in integrating the Social Styles methodology into their overall team dynamic and culture, enabling more effective and cohesive collaboration long-term.




Goldman Sachs executives pulled together a high-level regional broker team to launch and sell a new product in a previously untapped area of investing. This pilot program was highly scrutinized at the company. As a result, the group documented each and every thing they did to help the launch be more successful than any other product launch in the past.


Even though the people on this team were some of the highest performers in the entire company, within a week the productivity of this newly assembled group of regional brokers came to a functional standstill. This was largely due to conflicting egos and competing factions within the team.


At best the members of this group weren’t working well together. At worst they were self-destructing the very product launch they had been tasked with carrying out. The root of this problem was a clash of personalities and agendas going head to head, causing division over differences in behaviors and leadership styles.


Everyone on this team believed they were the smartest person in the room, or the most productive, or the highest performing. To make matters worse, certain personalities formed “factions”, making it much more difficult to collaborate or understand different points of view. In the case of this team, a common refrain was “my way or the highway.”


What was this team of regional brokers' biggest challenge? What about their main opportunity?




The key challenge facing this team of corporate sales all-stars was a conflict between different ego-based factions. These factions formed because they shared similar work and leadership styles or ways of working. Consequently, the clash between egos and factions within this team dynamic presented an obstacle to high-performance teamwork and effective collaboration.


This internal conflict also distracted people from focusing on the real task at hand, which was successfully launching and selling the new product. Because everyone was fully preoccupied with proving that they were the superior salesperson, they lost sight of the bigger picture as it related to pulling off a successful product launch which was their clearly stated mission and goal.


Put another way, they were so busy trying to prove themselves that they got in their own way. As a result, the first two weeks of sales for this new product launch were the worst in the history of the company. Because this team wasn’t working together, it torpedoed the desired objectives and undermined the optimal ways of performing.




The members of this team had a blind spot around how to best work with and support others who were different from them, which presented an opportunity for growth and breakthrough. Most of them found it quite effortless to collaborate with people who were “just like them”, but were at a complete loss when it came to putting ego aside and attempting to understand someone else’s point of view.


It’s not that the team members didn’t want to work together. They were just so caught up in their own ego-centric worlds that they had no idea how to work together.


Because the group didn’t know each other well, they didn’t understand the ways other people worked. What the regional broker team from Goldman Sachs needed was a forum to come together and address these differences in a constructive and transformative way. They needed a space to get to know each other better, which would help take down the barriers of working together effectively.


In this space they could drop the strong focus they had on being better, being “right”, or being the smartest person on the team. When coming together in this way, they could simply focus on being themselves and seeking to better understand others.


What was the process for introducing and facilitating a Social Styles workshop for this team from Goldman Sachs?




On The Edge became aware of the challenges and opportunities that this regional broker team was facing when an Executive VP of Sales at Goldman Sachs reached out to us amidst these struggles. This executive was not only a superstar sales VP, but he was also the one who put this group together in the first place. As the executive of sales to the whole organization, this VP had a lot riding on this pilot project that the whole organization was closely watching and scrutinizing.


When the EVP checked in on the team’s progress, he couldn’t believe how poorly this group was performing. People were either fighting each other or in complete silence. In his words, it was a “mad house.” Despite these being some of the highest performers in the company, they were extremely dysfunctional as a team. This EVP would need the help of someone who could come in and shift that dynamic. This is where On The Edge came in.




On The Edge began the work of facilitating a Social Styles workshop for this regional broker team by engaging in a discovery conversation with leaders and key members of the team to gain an understanding of current challenges. Almost immediately, our staff confirmed the negative and dysfunctional group dynamics occurring on the team as explained by the EVP.


This helped us understand what specific process, agenda, and facilitation would be most impactful in shifting the dynamic on the team and inspiring cohesiveness and synergy by building more trusting, deeper relationships through the Social Styles framework.




Following discovery, On The Edge designed a program to accomplish the objectives laid out in collaboration with leaders and key members to address the relational challenges and opportunities present.


This program design took into account any information gathered from qualitative interviews as well as any quantitative data from anonymous surveys to ensure a clear understanding before the workshop was underway.


Upon completion of the discovery and design phases, the next step was to bring the team together off-site and in person to participate in the Social Styles workshop led by On The Edge.


Delivery: Introducing the Social Styles


This regional broker team from Goldman Sachs was brought together in a remote, off-site conference center for a one-day, high-intensity Social Styles workshop. Meeting at this location was strategic because it would allow the group to get away from all of the distractions of day-to-day business so they could really focus on creating the breakthroughs and transformations that would be needed to refocus and align the team.


To initiate the Social Styles workshop, our facilitators introduced the Social Styles methodology and the descriptions of the four core styles, as well as some key team and leadership models. Upon introduction to this methodology and these models, team members immediately began to see how the challenges they were experiencing were driven by differences in Social Styles rather than by conflicting personality traits or simply “not wanting to work together”.


Creating this distinction also made clear that there were “factions'' of certain styles within the team. Through this new framework, team members could now see how during the initial formation of the team many people had unconsciously ordered up with others who were similar styles to them.


For example, when the group gathered in the conference room, the first thing we noticed was a group of 10 “Type-A” personalities who were really aggressive and wanted to “get on with it” (Drivers). Alternatively, we noticed another group that focused on everything being perfect before they did anything (Analytical).

Delivery: Workshop Facilitation


Even though this was a tense situation, our playful but impactful facilitation of the Social Styles methodology was disarming and allowed people to see in a new light how blatant some of the differences can be between styles. This dissolved a lot of the defensiveness and blame that was prevalent in the group.


In response, many people laughed and lightened when given real-life examples of how certain styles can show up. This created a more open condition and environment to approach the challenges that they were facing. As a result, this workshop put people in a much better place to deal with these challenges productively.


In this newfound condition and willingness to learn and grow as a team, as well as being familiar with the Social Styles methodology and how it influenced their group dynamics, each member of the team was given an assessment to identify their own unique style combination.


Social Styles Assessment


The 15-minute Social Styles assessment guided individual team members through a series of behavioral questions that resulted in discovery of their primary social style and a secondary social style combination.


With their primary and secondary social style combinations now in hand, members of the team were able to confirm at last that the factions within the team were indeed aligned by primary social style. These factions not only influenced how they people showed up in day-to-day work, but were a key challenge preventing effective and collaborative teamwork across styles.


Because the team lacked awareness of these gaps or “blind spots” between different styles and the inherent types of conflicting behaviors they presented, everyone on the team started to realize they had been fighting an uphill battle all along. Much of the early dysfunction on this team could be explained by a lack of awareness regarding the negative dynamics that were created as a result of the unconscious division between the different Social Styles.


Consequently, this division between factions and styles had been the key obstacle to effectively launching and selling the new product, which was this team’s primary goal.


To cement these distinctions and imbed the benefits of integrating this methodology, our staff led this team through a series of real-life business simulations to put these ideas into practice.


Putting the Social Styles into Practice


Once everyone in the workshop better understood the needs, values, and ways of being that influenced their working together effectively, On The Edge guided them through a series of challenging problem solving activities.


These activities illuminated key aspects of the Social Styles as they related to this specific team's challenges and opportunities. In this case, the simulations drew from real-life obstacles presented by the new product launch the team had been tasked with carrying out.


These problem solving activities clearly demonstrated that when the team focused maximizing the talents and abilities (strengths) in everybody, they were much more successful. Conversely, these activities showed that when the team chose to focus on differences and weaknesses (liabilities), things quickly fell apart.


Key Takeaways from the Social Styles Workshop


Talents and abilities diminish when a team focuses all of their energy in the wrong direction. Because the team had been struggling with negative team dynamics, these simulated activities were all the more illuminating, impactful, and poignant.


Note: One of the key areas of expertise that On The Edge brings to any of our programs is how to take a team with great talents, abilities, and strengths, and help them create a culture where they focus on bringing out each other’s best. This is contrasted with a culture in which fighting each other and focusing on who is right and who is wrong is the norm. See: What’s the difference between a Team of Champions vs. a Championship Team?


In seeing the negative impacts that focusing on liabilities and weaknesses can have, the team realized that they would never be successful in working together if they went on like this. This lack of teamwork would not only reflect poorly on them, but would sabotage the new product launch.


What the team needed was to come together around a common goal. In other words, a shared vision of team and leadership success. This would be an endeavor the team would be successful in because they would be embarking on it together with a newfound appreciation, understanding, and utilization of the unique talents and abilities of each style.


What was the outcome of the Social Styles workshop?


The primary outcome of this Social Styles workshop was that members of the regional broker team discovered that they had more in common than previously thought. Because they had lacked the awareness and understanding to address differences in Social Styles, factions and ego-based dynamics had taken precedence. Now, they could see that each member of the group had their own ways of contributing to the success of the team. This enabled the team to maximize the unique strengths of every team member.


Another outcome was a shift away from stress-induced negative behaviors in favor of healthy group dynamics that were much more supportive and enabled everyone to be their best. In doing so they created a more positive and collaborative culture where uplifting energy inspired everyone to come together to accomplish the task at hand. In essence, they transformed from a culture in conflict to one where everybody was working cohesively and harmoniously together.


How did On The Edge ensure lasting success with this team of regional brokers from Goldman Sachs?


Given the impacts outlined above, Goldman Sachs wanted to continue the momentum created during this workshop. For this reason, they requested On The Edge to provide follow-up processes as well as ongoing coaching and support. This follow-up, coaching, and support would further develop the team in general and continue to build everyone’s efficacy with the specific team and leadership skills highlighted in the program. The intent of of doing this was to fully integrate the Social Styles methodology on a long-term, ongoing basis.


As a signal of the impact the Social Styles methodology had on this team and on the greater organization, Goldman Sachs adopted the Social Styles on a wider scale to improve team and leadership dynamics as well as their organizational culture.


On The Edge created and designed a rollout that would ensure that all teams in the division would learn and benefit from the positive impacts of the Social Styles methodology to support this organizational initiative.




  • Following this workshop, many of the members of this team made a comment that they couldn’t believe something so simple like the Social Styles would have such a deep impact on them and their team. This is a common refrain we hear from many of the teams that participate in our workshops.
  • Bringing out the best in everybody doesn’t just have to be a trite slogan. In the case of this regional broker team from Goldman Sachs, it happened for real. Not only was the team able to integrate the Social Styles methodology into their team culture, but they were able to recover and successfully launch the product. The transformation that On The Edge facilitated for this team brought about a 180˚ shift in team dynamics and performance.
  • We see this same situation play out on a lot of teams at a very subtle level. While this case study is a pretty blatant example, it does illustrate a challenge faced by many teams. Similarly, we find that we are able to create the same breakthroughs and transformations that we did for this team by introducing and facilitating Social Styles workshops for groups and organizations of any size.
  • Our experience has shown that this program can be transformative for teams that are already working well together but want something to take them to the next level. It can also create breakthroughs for teams that are experiencing challenges like the team in this case study. Whichever side your team falls on, we would love to work with you. Get in touch with us today to see how we can work together!