Where Chemistry and Leadership Intersect

Chemistry

Chemistry focuses on the relationship between atoms and other phenomenon. Cause and effect. How does an atom change when external factors are introduced. Had I only known then – 30 years ago when I took Chemistry in school – what I know today, I would have paid more attention.

Team building is all about chemistry. After all, the human body is made up of atoms and when two bodies are interacting it represents millions of atoms interacting with one another.  Interaction reactions are just as varied between atoms as they are humans.  Sometimes you just don’t know what will happen.

From our early childhood, to adult life, chemistry is at work in the choices we make and the outcomes they render. Remember those days on the school ground picking teams? Who did you pick, or at what point in the team-picking process were you picked? When you got your first management position how did you feel about your team? Were you able to make changes or new selections? If so, how did you go about doing that?  If not, how did you assimilate to your team?

I’d submit that chemistry is one of the single most important factors in establishing a successful team. The team’s ability to interact with one another given internal and external influences is a necessary requirement for a high performing teams. And like explosions that can occur when atoms are rammed together with great force, so too can human interaction experience similar explosions if not careful.

Here are 3 points to be aware of when navigating team chemistry:

  1. Have a clear vision.  Make sure that you’ve created the “destination postcard” for the team.  This represents where you are headed, why, how you’ll get there, and by when.
  2. Have clear rules of engagement.  Demanding honesty and input must be balanced with diplomacy and humility…even if it must be forced.  The team must understand what is expected, as well as, how they are expected to accomplish the “what”.
  3. Have clear values.  Stating your values and then demonstrating those values on a daily basis…walking the talk…is critical for your team to see.  You can’t state that you despise cussing and yet at every meeting use language to the contrary.  Your actions and values must be aligned at all times.

Be careful to not confuse good chemistry with the belief that you can only hire those that “think” like you.  That’s not the case.  Instead focus on attracting people to your team that “feel” as you do, hold similar values, work ethic, and attitudes.  Specific skills sets MUST be varied across a team but common values must be woven into the team’s fabric to succeed.  And that’s chemistry.

 

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10 Things a Leader is NOT

Badleader

Remember that bad boss you had a couple of years ago?  Every interaction caused stress, disappointment, and sometimes regret.  Here are some characteristics NOT found in great leaders.

  1. Selfish.  Great leaders make it all about their teams.  There’s no “I” in team and the leader knows that and embraces it.
  2. Mean-spirited.  Strong leaders lead with dignity.  They understand that even when corrective action is required every employee deserves to be treated with dignity.
  3. Know-it-all.  The best leaders are continuous learners.  They do not claim to have all the answers nor do they believe they themselves are the only ones capable of generating great ideas.
  4. Placating.  Successful leaders understand the need for honest and direct communication.  They do not shy away from conflict or pander in order to win popular opinion.
  5. Narcissistic. Effective leaders have an inner confidence that allows them to operate without ego.  Not so say they don’t have an ego but they are able to keep it in check.  They don’t have a need for others to know who they are, what they have, or how important they believe themselves to be.
  6. Micro-manager.  Accomplished leaders know that they must have the details but cannot micro manage.  They give trust to their teams and provide opportunities to people to take risks and practice their decision-making skills.
  7. Disingenuous.  Thoughtful leaders know the importance of service to others.  They have a strong moral compass knowing that others can see clearly who they are and likewise can feel their authenticity.
  8. Thankless.  Purpose-driven leaders understand the importance of gratitude.  Being gracious for a job well done separates a good leader from a bad leader.  There’s nothing wrong with expressing your gratitude or thanks to an employee who did a good job even though a good job is what’s expected.  It’s often the smallest acts of kindness that embolden a team to its leader.
  9. Ignorant.  Learning leaders recognize all things change including their products, their markets and their customers.  They can’t afford to be caught with the short end of the intellectual stick and are constantly working to educate themselves and their teams.
  10. Indecisive.  Enduring leaders know that making decisions are required for leadership longevity.  Those that shy away from making decisions, difficult or easy, don’t last long as leaders.  Indecisive leaders are some of the most difficult leaders to work for.

And one bonus characteristic that ALL leaders DO possess…ownership.  All great leaders embrace ownership.  Ownership of their teams, their decisions – good or bad – their plans, strategies, ideas, and opinions.  These great leaders never look to place blame, often times to a fault.  They are able to shoulder great weight and responsibilities with a sense of ease and grace.

Are you a good leader?