Team Chemistry: Everyone Has A Role

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Superstar?  Role player?  Benchwarmer? Waterboy?  Regardless of the role, how it is approached and filled helps define the chemistry of the group.  Anyone who has ever been a part of a team has experienced team chemistry in some way. Whether the concept was spoken about or not, it was felt and it made a difference, either positive or negative. In a society that encourages the “what’s in it for me” attitude, complacency, and instant gratification, positive team chemistry has become more difficult to create.

Positive team chemistry draws people in and makes them want to be a part of the group even in the smallest of ways. There are numerous stories in sports where the most talented team does not win – however the best TEAM does. Great teams build talent from within, whether it’s a new graduate fresh into the industry, or a seasoned veteran learning new tools to complete tasks more efficiently.  Small issues are resolved quickly and do not fester, large problems turn into even larger learning opportunities.

How do you know if your team has positive team chemistry?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you honest about your weaknesses and comfortable asking a peer for help?
  2. Do you feel responsible completing the task at hand because the person sitting next to you is counting on you?
  3. When a counterpart is not performing to their abilities, are you able to hold them accountable without starting a feud?
  4. Are you open to talking about your areas of strength and willing to teach the person sitting next to you?  

On the other hand, negative team chemistry repels people and makes it difficult for those who are already a part of the group to be productive.  Young talent will quickly leave the company or worse – learn and adopt the negative tendencies as the norm. Productivity is impacted as the team hesitates to ask for help and does not admit to known mistakes.  When mistakes come to light (which they always do), the finger pointing and blame game begins. Before you know it, you are starting to document conversations and spending time and energy on all the wrong things.

Negative team chemistry ramps up quickly and if not immediately addressed, may hang around longer than anyone wants.  How do you know when things are heading the wrong direction for you and your team? A few warning signs are:

  1. Signs of indifference start to appear (punctuality issues, more breaks, lack of attentiveness at team meetings, etc.) and people shut down or give up.  
  2. People stop celebrating when something good happens – enthusiasm wanes.
  3. Mistakes dominate daily conversations and cause the team to become defensive while dissension builds.  A feeling of not being able to do anything right takes over.
  4. Beating a co-worker becomes more important than beating the competition.  

Many people struggle with understanding what it takes to build good team chemistry, often overthinking the issue.  The makeup of a successful team in business is no different than that of a championship athletic team. Everyone wants to win (which means that you need talent on your team), but having too many superstars and not enough role players can be a recipe for disaster.  This is especially true if the good of the team is not paramount to the good of the individual. Try applying the coaching philosophies below when evaluating your team’s chemistry issues:

  1. Ensuring the group has a “We Not Me” mentality – scoreBOARD vs. scorebook
  2. Understand who should (and needs to) be the quarterback/point guard/team captain
  3. Know when someone needs a sub – staying involved in the game even when coming out to get a breather while also encouraging a teammate to help the team succeed – this will make it more likely for you to be productive when re-entering the game
  4. Determine what to call “Good” – knowing what can and cannot be improved within the team based on talent level and experience.  

Just as in sports, at the heart of every successful business is a great team or a number of great teams who believe in the mission and vision of the company and are willing to set aside selfish desires to achieve greatness together.  Each person on these teams plays a valuable role in the overall success of the business regardless of his/her job title. For instance, the factory production team cannot max out if the sales team doesn’t execute.

Every team is formed because the members share a common basic desire, whether that is to play a particular sport, earn a paycheck in a particular field, or lobby for a particular cause.  Simply forming a team does not guarantee good team chemistry which is one of the most important, if not THE most important ingredient for the success of the GROUP. It is often difficult for members of a team to put their own personal goals and agendas aside just enough so everyone can share in the success.  

Our Red Storm club as a whole puts a huge emphasis on family because we believe that kind of a relationship fosters a feeling of commitment through thick and thin.  My 2019 club team was one of the best examples of this that I have experienced in my 26 years of coaching. The Red Storm 18s Black consisted of 10 players representing 8 high schools, and each of the 10 players had her own agenda with the game.  Some played to be the best high school player on their team, some played because they want to go to college to play volleyball, and some had already committed to play in college so they were working to be prepared for the next step in their career. Regardless of their future plans, they all shared one goal – to be the best we could be…………TOGETHER.  Sure we wanted to win tournaments, and we did; we wanted to help the girls who want to play at the next level gain exposure, and we did; but underlying all of that was a basic desire or common goal that each player shared which was to be the best she could be to help the TEAM succeed. Because they shared this common goal, they were able to hold each other accountable for such things as work ethic, attitude, poor choices, etc.  Because of that one goal and their refusal to let go of it, they had the best team chemistry any team could hope to have.

What’s your team’s goal?  More importantly, is each member willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it?  If not, your team chemistry will suffer. And if your team chemistry suffers, you will simply be a group of individuals.  If this is the case, even if you have very talented people in your organization, you will struggle to compete with a group or team that moves in one direction together towards the prize of success.

Time to move forward TOGETHER.

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