Overtake your competition using this secret advantage

What makes one team more effective than another?

This is a question I’ve seen leaders wrestle with across industries, teams of various sizes, and around the globe. A team may have the most talented people on paper, yet their performance and innovation results are suboptimal again and again.

While the composition of your team is incredibly important, how you work together is actually even more so. In her book Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry, Joan Ryan defines team chemistry as “the interplay of psychological, social, and emotional forces that elevate performance.”

We all know that great working relationships are not built overnight. It’s only with the intention to grow team chemistry that the process can accelerate. New teams have to go through what’s called forming, storming, norming, and performing. As you form your team, at first there are often “storms,” or different conflicts and misunderstandings that occur. Once those settle into the “norm,” team members find they develop stronger relationships over time and can begin performing better together.

The sooner you can build great team chemistry, the sooner your team can respond to opportunities for innovation or disruption in the market. It is not simply a touchy-feely concept, but something that is both organically and structurally developed. If you are intentional in building team chemistry within your organization, it can actually be the key to greater speed-to-results in innovation and other initiatives.

Look for and develop these three critical ingredients for team chemistry and you’ll soon find yourself with several benefits that allow your team to move ahead of the competition.


Self-awareness is fundamental to being a productive contributor to your team. It allows you to understand your talents, skills, behaviors, and even emotional quotient including motivators. Once you have this knowledge about yourself and have internalized it, you can know how and when to react in social situations, how and where to communicate to others, and how you prefer to be communicated to. You’ll better understand the value you bring to your team and, at the same time, feel confident enough to ask for help when you need it. Self-awareness ultimately builds relationships through exercising emotional and social intelligence. Those who lack self-awareness tend to display unpredictable behaviors, are less able to relate with others, and have trouble working well with their teammates.


Social Awareness is the ability to relate to and know how to behave around others. It promotes healthy interactivity between individuals, including the knowledge of how to act during times of stress and the awareness of how to communicate with others in a daily work environment. The more socially aware you are of those around you, the more effectively you can position yourself and your influence within a team. And if your entire team exhibits successful social awareness, there will be fewer conflicts and misunderstandings and less wasted time.


Great teams are highly accountable teams. Everyone knows who they are, what they bring to the table, and what is expected of them. This knowledge comes both from self-awareness and from structure such as role descriptions and team hierarchy. While self-awareness and social awareness lend their own benefits to team chemistry, accountability also brings in task chemistry, or the ability to do your job and work well with others on a task or in the same environment. Task chemistry allows you to understand how your colleagues work and how to rely on them to accomplish their tasks. Teams with strong accountability are often motivated to work toward the same goal and ensure both individual and team success. It is one of the greatest guards against complacency and an excellent catalyst for better team chemistry and performance.

Once you develop these three elements among your team, you can expect a variety of benefits.

You’ll likely see an increase in individual commitments and engagement on the team as people naturally feel indebted to engage with team goals due to social contracts with their colleagues. You’ll care how others view and receive you and want to contribute to the collective success—or risk being called out. Those not willing to take this step often opt out of the team entirely.

Trust will also increase as you and your teammates go through the “norming” stage. You can now perform your tasks and trust that others will too, and will be more willing to socially regulate and give grace to others rather than blame or be quick to anger as in the “storming” stage. The increase in trust will lead to more psychological safety, and you’ll feel freer to express yourself. There will be more collective celebration and more willingness to share thoughts and ideas.

All of this will lead to increased productivity and performance. Rather than wasting your energy on mistrust or conflict, you’ll be able to focus your energy on being the best contributor to the team. After all, success looks good on everyone.

The job of a leader is not only to form and manage your team, but to build healthy teams with great chemistry. If you want to innovate successfully and overcome the competition, be sure to invest in the three critical ingredients of good team chemistry.

Photo by Buro Millennial via Pexels.