For our Thoughts on Leadership post this week, I want to talk about team chemistry. In sports, chemistry is everything. You win or lose based on the chemistry of your team. The same concept applies to business. A good leader not only understands their team’s chemistry but also can utilize it to effectively accomplish “Wildly Important Goals.” A leader knows who works best together and who doesn’t. A leader knows how to bring out the chemistry between a team and strengthen it every day.
Scott Williams, executive director of the Center for Innovative Management at Wright State University, defines the concept this way: “Team chemistry is the composition of a team and the relationships among team members. In essence, it is the dynamic that arises from the different qualities each team member contributes and the interactions of team members with each other.”
And as Babe Ruth reportedly once said, “You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
Without good team chemistry, talented teams can find it tough to function well. With team chemistry, employers can focus on getting the most out of their team’s talent.
Team chemistry is funny. You can’t quite put your finger on what it truly means but when it happens, you know it. When your team is working in chemistry, there’s an unspoken sync that happens and it contributes to the quality of work and the productivity and performance of each team member. When team chemistry is strong, team members know exactly who is good at what, and delegate and distribute responsibilities accordingly.
Here are two steps to remember on your path to winning team chemistry:
Build team chemistry. A skilled, hardworking and talented team is good, but it will only get you so far. Your team should be interpersonal, easily interacting with each other—even if it’s virtually right now—to accomplish collective goals. A team building chemistry listens well, communicates well and puts aside their own personal wants for the professional needs of the team.
Maintain team chemistry. Once you build it, you have to keep it running. Team chemistry, like anything that’s alive and growing, needs care and attention. Creating a score keeping method is one way to maintain team chemistry. When a team knows what the score is (and how far away they are from winning), they’ll be incentivized to tap into their team chemistry to take the proverbial championship home. Maintaining team chemistry is also about balance. Your team should be regularly recharging to gain energy for the next “sprint.” Finally, honesty is a hallmark of maintaining team chemistry. An open and honest team is one where good chemistry can thrive.
However, even after you’ve built and maintained solid chemistry, you still need to watch for signs of chemistry in decline. For example, no NFL team in history has been able to win the Super Bowl three years in a row. The record for consecutive wins is two and was accomplished by the Green Bay Packers (1966–1967), the Miami Dolphins (1972–1973), the Pittsburgh Steelers (1974–1975 and 1978–1979), the San Francisco 49ers (1988–1989), the Dallas Cowboys (1992–1993), the Denver Broncos (1997–1998), and the New England Patriots (2003–2004).
The issue then becomes not if team chemistry will diminish but what you do when it does. The key is to remain vigilant for indicators that of team chemistry fissuring. This might include apathetic team members who lack compassion when personal issues arise; squabbles among team members; or excessive complaints among your team. Leaders noticing these signs should focus on getting back to basics with team chemistry, rebuilding the core components of what made the team shine.
So, what’s the message? As Joan Ryan (former San Francisco Chronicle columnist and author of “Intangibles”) says, “You know team chemistry when you have it. Team chemistry lifts you higher than you ever thought possible, it is the difference between second place and the win. Why? Because team chemistry means respect, support and trust. It means undeniable belief. And when you’re surrounded by people who believe in you, you simply can’t help but believe in yourself, too.”
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.