Friday, November 21, 2008

Teamwork = Chemistry and Physics

The best teams have a common trait - willingness to work together. That trait trumps each individual's strengths and talents. It is the link that bonds the team together. I was fortunate to be a member of teams like that several times. One team that I would like to highlight had a chemistry that was fostered by our marketing leader. This team was made up mostly of strong, opinionated women and a couple of amiable men.

Our fearless leader had very strong opinions as well, but he wasn't intimidated by strong women, so he let us all express ourselves and manage our own projects. We had frequent status meetings to report out on progress and inter dependencies and we pitched it to help each other out without counting the cost of its impact to ourselves because we knew we were working together for the common good and common goals of the company. We enjoyed a healthy repartee and a free flow of ideas and disagreed while maintaining respect for each other.

As one of the more experienced members of the team, I was often looked at as the unofficial leader nicknamed "Care Bear." Some of the others were "Funshine Bear," "Polar Bear," "Gummi Bear," and "Teddy Bear." And, just for fun, as we talked about our spouses, we referred to them as "Angry Bear" if they had done something to deserve the moniker. What held this team together was chemistry.

In teamwork, it is not only chemistry that is important - it also involves physics. The important thing to remember is that keeping the balance in teams like these is an art form. Think about a juggler who is constantly moving several items with precision to keep them in play. If he is off by even a second, the items succumb to gravity. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened when our leader was reassigned to another role in the company.

The "Bears" went into hibernation as the team splintered. As the old saying goes "When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it."As our structure changed, I tried to maintain strong relationships with many of the team members. It seemed like the molecular structure or the chemical elements were out of sync.

I learned many things from that "experiment" and I cherish the strong friendships that I still maintain today. Most importantly, I learned that the secret to a strong team is empowerment. It is the ionic bonding that connects positive cations to negative anions. The position of each atom is determined by the nature of the chemical bonds by which it is connected to its neighboring atoms.

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