6 Factors for Team Chemistry

The baseball season is upon us and it brings to mind the importance of an effective team. As we watch our teams play (in any sport), we find examples of teams stacked with talent getting beaten. Did they just have an off night? How does that happen? Or, for the ardent fans among us, HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN!?!?!

Team chemistry is an important, and complicated, key to success for any organization. More than just a collection of talented members, effective teams must combine the efforts and abilities of members the right way – or get beat by less talented teams that can. Unfortunately, no situation or team is identical, so there is no easy answer on how to build an effective team. However, research has identified 6 factors that are proven to produce good team chemistry:

  1. Diversity
  2. Role Taking
  3. Constructive norms
  4. Leadership
  5. Cohesiveness
  6. Common vision

Diversity is a double-edge sword – not only the biggest contributor to team complexity, but also the biggest contributor to strength. More complex teams are harder to manage, but the more diverse the backgrounds, view points, skills and abilities, the better the results.

Role Taking & Constructive Norms
Role taking and constructive norms work hand-in-hand. By definition, a team is a group of people that work together towards a common goal. To be effective, team members must take on appropriate roles, and develop and enforce team norms.

The most obvious and visible team role is that of the team leader. There are scenarios with seasoned and highly effective teams where leadership is more fluid, with different members assuming leadership at different times, however most teams benefit with a single leader. The most important aspect of role taking is acceptance and buy-in. Many roles a team may require aren’t the most glamorous, challenging, or fulfilling yet are critical to the success of the team. The willingness to accept responsibility for these roles, with the understanding that there can be no success without them, is a key to effective teams.

Teams naturally develop and enforce norms – the informal rules that govern the team. Effective teams actively ensure these norms are focused on the efficient and effective operation of the team.

As mentioned in the previous section, leadership is the most visible team role, but what is leadership as it relates to effective teams? Many approach it as a ‘management’ role. Management, classically defined, is concerned with directing output and quality. However, not to sound like a silly poster, leadership is a support role. Leaders provide direction, structure activities, share information, encourage participation, promote positive relationships, remove obstacles, and support team members.

Team cohesiveness is the extent to which team members value being a part of the team. All teams disagree and argue, and great teams do so more than others. However, like a tight-knit family, when external threats are perceived teams with high cohesiveness come together immediately. The three biggest ways to develop cohesion are time, exclusivity (earning the right to be a part of a team), and success.

Common Vision
To be successful, team leaders must ensure that members have goals. To reach the highest levels of performance, teams must be driven by a shared vision. Team leaders who can articulate a vision for their teams can create passion and inspire exceptional performance. While goals are normally specific and measurable (often expressed numerically), a vision is a vivid picture of something exciting that a team can achieve.