What Makes Teams Click

“Team chemistry” is hard to define. Everyone knows it when they see it. Teammates appear locked in to success, whatever the endeavor might be. Colleagues anticipate each other’s needs. Players play with field vision. Interdependence unfolds naturally. However, teams don’t just conjure up chemistry like magic. There is a recipe. Unfortunately, it takes a level of sacrifice few teams are willing to make.

So, what’s the recipe for team chemistry? As soon as you shift from “you and I” to “we,” a blend of accountability and collaboration begins to take shape. After all, what makes teams click has little to do with individual performance. It’s about everyone else. Team chemistry starts with a few basic interactional competencies:

Civility Norms: The way we treat each other matters daily and either strengthens or weakens trust.

Mission/Value Alignment: While we may differ on the path to the goal, we must share the same destination.

Constructive Conflict: Disagreement, done professionally, is the life blood of innovation.

Meaningful Connection: Motivation begins with a healthy dose of caring for the well-being of others. We rise and fall together.

Accountability: The most powerful drivers of interdependence are honesty, reliability, consistency, and follow-through.

Courageous Sacrifice: Distancing from the status quo and daring smart risks energizes a group of collaborators. The combination of fear and excitement invigorates.

Letting Go: Growth, in any form, includes loss. Teams only evolve when they are willing to shed previously important parts in exchange for new possibilities.

Embracing Change: As living, breathing ecosystems, healthy teams keep adapting to new circumstances. As soon as a group of people stops adjusting, they stop growing.

As elusive as team chemistry may appear, it arises from mutual investment. Shared direction enables trust and safety. The inevitable consequence is that magical phenomenon where everyone on the team seems to be acting as one. Once achieved, it doesn’t sustain itself. Each teammate needs to morph continuously to acclimate to the new environment the team just created. Tomorrow’s chemistry will not resemble today’s.