A Formula for Organizational and Team Chemistry

Team chemistry's catalyst? The CEO

At Centennial, we “hang our hat” on our 4Cs– character, culture, chemistry and competency.  When we seek talent for our greatly valued client organizations, we evaluate candidates’ competencies and character, helping the client determine who will best align with their organizational culture and their team’s chemistry. What is chemistry all about and how can you achieve it?

At the start of a search or consulting engagement, “team chemistry” is often discussed as much as organizational talent gaps.  Fostering team chemistry weighs greatly on the minds of those occupying the C-suite. So much hinges on team chemistry, including employee satisfaction, team productivity, employment brand in the marketplace—and most importantly—the bottom line. Teams that are collaborative, supportive of each other, respectful of each other’s ideas, and frankly a little in awe of each other’s “genius” are the teams that knock it out of the park. Though team chemistry is intangible, it definitely produces tangible results, most notably, a healthy bottom line.

Team Chemistry Must Begin with the CEO

Organizational team chemistry starts in the same spot in every workplace:  the top—as in, the CEO.  Yet, fostering team chemistry is something that is hard for some CEOs. Instead, they try to delegate it to human resources and hope for the best. While HR is definitely part of the team that stokes the “fire” that becomes team chemistry, the CEO is the one who ignites it.

So, how can the CEO be the catalyst for amazing team chemistry? Like the chemistry we all took in high school, the answer boils down to a simple formula:

team chemistry = taking a personal interest in each employee + time.

Take a Personal Interest to Positively Impact Your Team’s Chemistry

team chemistry equation

It is important that the CEO take an authentic, personal interest in employees. This looks different depending on your organization’s org chart.  For those in smaller organizations, that means knowing everyone’s name, knowing something about them, and being friendly on those chance encounters. In larger organizations, this is definitely harder. However, it could look like sending a birthday card signed by you each year (block time on your calendar to do this at the beginning of each month), congratulating employees with a note when you hear of their achievements, or periodically inviting groups of employees to have lunch with you.

Recently, I was amazed when the superintendent (not the principal) of my daughter’s school district sent her a handwritten note congratulating her for performing well on a test.   Obviously a “little birdy” shared that news with him. But, the fact that he took the time to send her the note impressed her – and me.  That note is taped above her desk and inspires her to work hard every day. The superintendent understands that my daughter’s success ends up being his success too.  The same theory applies to your organization, and his approach is worth emulating.

Spark Greater Team Chemistry Through Conversation

Taking a personal interest in your employees also involves a very important element of team chemistry—conversation. Conversation—especially with multiple levels of the org chart—might feel stilted or superficial.  Do not worry about that. Instead, give yourself credit for initiating it. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity for an extended chat, here are some fun starters:

  • What is your favorite book and why?
  • What do you listen to on your way into work? On your way home?
  • What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
  • What was your first job?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

Questions like these can be framed up in many ways depending on the situation.  Do yourself a favor and think of a list ahead of time. You will be ready for when a moment presents itself.

Time is Necessary for Creating Team Chemistry

Just like time together is an integral component in strengthening personal relationships, it is also crucial in creating team chemistry.  Yet, time is the scarcest commodity of all! However, if you want team chemistry – the type that yields incredible results – you must make time.  Making time to do the some or all of the following things together enhances team chemistry:

  • Brainstorming for a solution to an organizational problem or challenge
  • Celebrating milestones: birthdays, employee anniversaries, the incorporation of the organization, a win of the local sports team…just get together and celebrate!
  • Volunteering as a group for the benefit of others
  • If the organization is large, organizing “meet and greets” between departments that might not work directly together…

The list could go on and on.

Team Chemistry Affects Your Bottom Line

The bottom line for your bottom line is this: team chemistry takes effort.  But, if you commit to the *very* simplistic formula of taking a personal interest + time, team chemistry will become part of what differentiates your organization from others.

What have you done to enhance the team chemistry in your organization?

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