Focusing on the right chemistry of talent does not end with selection.  The selection of someone who fits the organizational and team chemistry is just the beginning.  Coaching for team chemistry is critical to a strong organizational performance.

Strong team chemistry cannot compensate for lack of talent, but poor team chemistry can cause superior talent to fail.  What goes on in the locker room, the clubhouse or the board room can significantly impact performance on the field, on the court, on the stage or in the stock market.

The styles that can negatively impact team chemistry are:

  • The Bully

  • The Bear (as in Teddy)

  • The Boaster

  • The Bronco

The Bully runs over other team members.

He usually cannot hear what someone else is saying because he is talking louder, faster and over the other person.  Sometimes the Bully is overtly threatening.  Sometimes, she’s is covertly garnering support from other team members to join her perspective.  They feel compelled so they will not be the bully’s target.  The Bully not only produces fear within a team, he also keeps team members from contributing their best thoughts and ideas.  The result is very little creativity.

The Bear, as in Teddy, hibernates through the tough times.

She does not believe in the idea of “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  Instead, when challenged, the bear just crawls in a cave and waits for winter to pass.  While caving, the bear stores and hides his ideas, contributions and best input.  The (teddy) Bear can contribute when the den is peaceful, but tends to be less than forthright and is ready to retreat to the cave at any sign of conflict.  Likeable, Teddy can end up remaining on the team for long time, but seldom provides meaningful contribution.

The Boaster makes the team all about him.

His work is harder, more stressful, more demanding and more important than anyone else’s . . . in his own mind.  The Boaster is fond of making sure she gets the credit for her ideas, her long hours, her sacrifice and dedication.  Rarely, does the Boaster give credit to those who actually do the work, preferring instead to put his own name on the paper, project or proposal.  Like the Bully, the Boaster cannot hear anyone else on the team for listening to themselves, and ironically, the team usually tunes out the Boaster.

The Bronco, in her high achieving ways, means well, but has a hard time slowing down long enough for other team members to run with her.

She thinks ahead, plans ahead and moves ahead before the team has even grasped her vision.  The Bronco can be misunderstood to be self-promoting and egotistical, but in reality, he is just trying to achieve the results and ignores the need to include the entire team.  Team members, in turn, respond, by letting him run ahead, hoping when he tires out, they can catch up and cross the finish line with him.

Without leadership intervention, these four types of team members can ruin team chemistry and deny the opportunity for the organization to win.  So what is a leader to do with each of these types to help protect, strengthen and grow team chemistry?

Coaching the Bully can be difficult, because sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, the Bully can even bully the boss.  This one has to be dealt with directly, because not only will the Bully ruin your team, but he can land the organization in legal trouble.  Employees that feel bullied are more likely to make harassment or discrimination claims.  High performing, winning teams have no place for these behaviors.  As with all of these types, the first step is to make the Bully aware of her impact and offer the coaching change.  If she is unable to do so, this is a person you cannot afford to have on your team.  The Bully will not just destroy your team, he could have lasting negative impact on your organization.

The Bear, obviously, needs to come out of the cave.  As the leader, you will need to coax him and offer opportunities for him to share ideas and thoughts.  However, the Bear cannot be content to warm the bench and avoid injury.  She has to be willing to get into the game, or she cannot be on the team either.  Help the Bear see that the team needs her talent to be successful and her value to remain on the team is to fully show up and contribute.  As the Bear tries out his new behaviors, encourage the team by leading conversations in a way that give the Bear a voice until she finds it for herself.

An employee that constantly self-promotes may be doing so because her leader withholds praise and compliments.  The Boaster may actually boast less if the leader is more free with compliments for the Boaster and all members of the team.  Teach team members to encourage and compliment others so they don’t have to do it for themselves.  Model and require humility as a value on the team.  Teach team members to put others before themselves and practice servant leadership.  The leader must set the example.

A former mentor of mine, Jimmy Collins, author of Creative Followership, often said, “it is easier to restrain mustangs than to kick mules.”   Mustangs are free horses.  Broncos are rebellious horses.  They are bucking to get ahead, out of the gate, lead the pack and impatient to wait on the herd.  They want do what they want to do when they want to do it.  As the leader, you have to help broncos divert rebellious energy into behaviors that motivate team members instead of alienating them.  Great leaders do not break the Broncos, they redirect the energy to more positive interactions and outcomes for the team.

Gifted and talented teams with great chemistry accomplish amazing results.  Seal Team Six captured the most notorious terrorist of modern time.  The Apollo 11 team, made up of hundreds of thousands of technicians and engineers along with astronauts enabled a man to walk on the moon.  The band of brothers that made up the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 1970’s won four Super Bowls and dominated the NFL for a decade.  These teams all credit not only their talent but their bond with one another and the team chemistry as keys to their success.

Leaders of winning teams identify and coach the Bully, the Bear, the Boaster and the Bronco personalities and behaviors on their teams and work to turn great talent into talent that is great together.

Coaching optimized team chemistry

Team managers–how have you optimized team chemistry? Is there methods that work well for you? Have you tried any of these approaches I describe? Leave me a note in the comments below.