Team Chemistry


I didn’t do well in high school chemistry class and even worse in college chemistry.  But I always marvelled at how a chemical reaction required just the right amount of ingredients in order to occur.  Take titration, for example.  Add too few drops of one
solution into another and nothing happens. Add too much and the reaction goes overboard.  But just the right amount and a unique situation occurs.

Lately I have been working with several senior leadership teams in emerging and developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Within this global industrial company, the APAC region holds the greatest promise for growth and market development and much leadership time, attention and money is being invested in capitalising on these emerging opportunities.

And in order to deliver on the business opportunities, the company is putting some of its brightest and most capable senior executives into General Manager and Brand Leader roles.  In addition they are recruiting top talent from peer companies.

The products and brands are world-class, the markets are ripe for development, customers value their products and services, and the world-wide agriculture business is rapidly developing. A great scenario for success, especially with talented and experienced senior leadership.

But something seems to be missing! The desired reaction of business performance is not taking place.

And in such a situation, excuses are everywhere. “The economy has yet to rebound. There’s nothing we can do till the economy picks up. Customers are delaying purchases because of the global uncertainties. We can’t get the investment we need because the corporation is clamping down on costs.”  

It’s a funny thing about excuses: the more they increase the more performance decreases.

no-excuse-inspiration (1)

One of the excuses I often hear in such business situations is: we don’t have time for team building, we need all our time and energy focused on making the numbers.

Team Chemistry

Navy Seal BUD/S selection and training is an excellent example of the value of team building. Those who finish the 24 week training course are not only physically and mentally fit, but have an ingrained set of teamwork principles that allows them to work together effectively to deliver results.

If Seal teams were put together based on just physical abilities and operational skills, without having the benefits of team building and team principles, their effectiveness would be dramatically reduced. It’s the principles of trust, team, respect and mission that make these teams so effective.

Several years ago, the NBA and other professional sports organisations got the idea that all they needed to do to produce league winners was to recruit the best players. Thus they went searching for and acquiring, often for huge money contracts, the best players. Team salaries soared. But after several decades, it became evident that there is little correlation between team salary and league performance. Here is a chart from the 2014 NBA season.

NBA stats

Today, NBA teams are beginning to focus on team chemistry as opposed to teams of superstars. Team Chemistry can be defined as not the best players, but the right players with the right skills and the right attitudes who play together as a single unit.

I don’t play my eleven best players, I play my best eleven. ~Vince Lombardi

One of my roles in the business scenario I described earlier is to help the country General Managers to build the capabilities of their leadership teams in order to reduce the focus on excuses and to effectively use the talents of the entire team to deliver performance in spite of a difficult global economy. In as little as two or three days you would be amazed at how a team can shift from feeling a “victim” of the economy to feeling empowered and confident about developing new solutions to grow their businesses. Same people, different behaviours. Working together.

There is no excuse for not taking the time to do team building when facing challenging business conditions, when reorganising the business model, when merging two organisations, when implementing a new business strategy, when new senior members come on board.

Talent is important, but teamwork is imperative for results.

No Excuses!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!









About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Team Chemistry

  1. Dave Eaton says:

    Love it

    Dave Eaton
    +1.617.306.1411 – mobile

    Sent from iPad, please excuse any errors/typos


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