The Chemistry of People and Teams that Lead to Business Success

Holding together a team in any department is a challenge. You have different personas on a team from your “team players” to “climbers” and your “paycheck workers.” Each of these personas can be driven by different incentives to be more productive and purposefully engaged. The importance of holding together any team can’t be understated as it costs on average a third of an employee’s salary to replace someone. You also have to take into consideration the work momentum created by a team that is disrupted with the loss of a team member and the effects on other departments. Disruption in the executive branch can affect many departments, losing programmers can affect engineering and production schedules, and losing key marketing team members has an effect on pipeline growth and sales which in turn has a ripple effect across the company.

Importance of HR Professionals

The job of HR executives is to understand the dynamics of any team and the potential issues that will be faced when you lose different personas, so, plan accordingly. The best HR executives are proactive rather than reactive. Yes, we all have employees that we have tried everything with or just feel are never going to grow in their position and must be replaced for the sake of the department and company. Move these people along fast and have the bench ready to backfill these openings. Working with department heads to have a bench ready as you see issues brewing is the smart way to operate. Running “what if?” scenarios in the background can shorten the time of disruption. Then there is dealing with the personas. Let’s look at each individually and assess their effects on the team and the organization.

Team Personas

“Team Players” have several characteristics that define them. They are content with their pay level and benefits and have good focus and understanding of the work they do. They trust that they have leaders that are guiding the company and department in the right direction and follow the guidance to complete tasks and achieve goals.

“Climbers” are a double-edged sword worker, they have confidence and feel they can reach higher, be more, and are worth more than they are being paid, they feel they could easily do their bosses job, and better. Some “Climbers” are patient and know they must pay their dues and that day will come for them when they get promoted or take over in a more senior role. During their stay with you, they really do deliver quality work that moves the needle. Some are always on the lookout for a better deal somewhere else and you have to be prepared to replace them or find creative ways to retain them.

Then there are “Paycheck Workers” they bring the bare minimum to work, they turn up on time and leave on time, they know the boundaries of what you can expect from them. They do enough to justify their job and some of them are exactly what you need for the mundane day to day tasks. They entrench themselves in positions and are so dependent on a paycheck that they won’t rock the boat. The biggest issue with these people is that it is incredibly hard to get them to increase productivity. 

Leaders and Leadership

Understanding how important it is to hold together a team once you have made the investment brings us to the glue that ultimately holds together a team, that is the department head, and there are several factors that make that work. The difference between a “Boss” and a “Leader” is nuanced but powerful, accepting someone as your “Boss” is mandated, accepting someone as your “Leader” is something an employee does voluntarily. Are employees only willing to work for you because they are being paid and don’t want to lose their job?

Leadership skills, are your direct reports willing to follow you and what does that mean? Are they motivated to go the extra mile for you, to be creative, and to work outside of the scope of their job to achieve goals? If they view you as their leader and not just their boss then they will go that extra mile for you and the company.

Leaders invest in the professional development of their direct reports. They want them growing in their roles, becoming more valuable, and understanding the “dynamic of worth” and that as they bring more to the table they are worthy of better compensation. As a leader help and encourage your direct reports to reach for more and to improve their skill sets, drive better productivity, and win by accomplishing company goals?

Delivering feedback and reinforcement. You can’t expect your team to just know how you feel and where you are on the track to be successful, you have to share with them and get their buy-in and feedback. In one-on-one’s talk candidly about where the team as a whole, how you win or lose as a team, how their contributions are affecting results, err on the side of positivity but share negatives as teachable moments and set a plan to correct that path and turn things around.

The Chemistry of People

The chemistry of people is what leads to success in business, you still have to have a hierarchy, alignment, integrity, trust, and the personnel to achieve specific objectives. If you have toxic people in your mix, you can change out the other variables as much as you like but the people mix will always be infected and you will never succeed. But what happens when you lose leaders? Over time it is clear who the real leaders are. When a team follows its leader out the door when they exit a company, then it is clear that your business has lost a valuable player in the organization. It should also be a moment of reflection to ask how did we get here? Who and what drove and influenced these decisions? Why did they leave and why didn’t we see this coming? Losing leaders is much more detrimental than losing team members as the intangibles affect many people negatively inside and outside of the business. Take an honest hard look at your business and ask the question, if a particular person in a leadership role was no longer here, would the morale of the employees rise or fall? I think most executives already know the answer, now, what are you going to do about it?