Has Your Team Got Chemistry?
You know instantly when you are on a team which has great chemistry. You can feel it every day. It is a sensational experience to work and think as one unit, where everybody is on the same page and is working towards a shared objective.
It is not all lost if your team does not belong in this category though. Interestingly, team chemistry is one of those things that you will only miss in certain situations, especially high pressure and stress.
In most situations, almost all teams produce similar output. The differences are only noticeable inside, when you are part of the group. Things change dramatically, when a decent amount of stress is present — be that an upcoming deadline, more or less team members, or a new boss.
In high pressure situations, chemistry becomes incredibly important. Teams that work well together are able to absorb the additional stress and work through it, together.
Not so for groups on the other side of the spectrum. Because the team is not as attuned with each other, the pressure threshold is lower. Once that point is hit, the group gets into trouble. All kinds of previously unproblematic issues come to the surface and cause the pot to boil over. Instead of working through it as a team, people are trying to solve things in isolation. It feels like there are intense discussions non-stop, but the topics are always the same. The output of the team suffers. And in the worst case, some members leave for another team in- or outside the company.
Only a team with great chemistry is able to handle high pressure situations effectively.
How does a team get to a point of having great chemistry?
A common misconception is that a more experienced team — with people that have seen a great many situations — is going to work together better. However, there have been many teams with genuinely smart, skilled and extremely experienced people which failed because of bad chemistry.
It is not due to experience or skill. It does not matter whether the team is small or large. Whether they are working on the next big thing or scaling a 20 year old application. And it is of little concern how the company is structured and what processes are in place.
The difference between good and bad team dynamics is to have one person on the team who cares.
Someone caring about all team members as individuals. Paying attention to the subtle signs and behaviours. Making sure people are working on a task that suits their skills and interests. Noticing when someone is stuck, and helping to find a way out.
That person is a team leader. A team leader pays attention to all these details in order to achieve one thing: Ensure the team delivers predictably and at a high pace.
And luckily, it does not need big actions to keep the team on track. Small adjustments are all that is needed. Taking a struggling person aside for a chat. Raising an issue in the next team meeting. Or even something as simple as high-fiving someone after a task is finished.
Although the actions might be small, the results are dramatic. At the very least, everybody will enjoy being part of a well oiled machine. More importantly though, the team is more resilient when faced with unforeseen challenges. Only this will enable the team to produce results even under high pressure.