The Most Underrated Success Factor


(This post is associated with the September 9, 2015 ACBJ column on why chemistry trumps numbers in business)

My daughter was eight years old in 1999, and like many was infatuated with the Mia Hamm-led U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. Jerseys, posters and books adorned her room as soccer overtook our household.

What we found most interesting about that World Cup-winning team was not necessarily their overwhelming talent, but the overt camaraderie.  We had a chance to see them play prior to that year’s World Cup, and were fortunate enough to have seats close to the team’s bench.

While the opposition played with what appeared to be minimal communication, the U.S. team happily chattered like a bunch of grade school kids.  Whether on the field or sidelines, the same level of enthusiasm and joy permeated their play.  If smiles had determined the final score, the Americans would have won, 263 to 0.

Which brings me to this: A 2013 Gallup poll found that, worldwide, close to 90% of employees described themselves as either “unengaged” or “actively disengaged” from their jobs.  Isn’t that amazing?  Nine out of 10 people would rather be anywhere else than at work where they spend so much of their lives.

Take a guess why that sad situation exists, and who’s responsible?


(Hint: See the boss at the front of the room?  Yeah, it’s his fault.)

Studies continue to show that if employees have friends at work, their engagement level – and overall job satisfaction – tends to be higher.  So this begs a question:  When management hires, how much thought (empathy?) goes into team chemistry, i.e. whether or not the newbie is an organizational FIT?


Here are a few thoughts to achieve and sustain chemistry, one of the greatest competitive advantages a business can possess:

  • Strike culture from the equation because it’s a result, not a strategy.  In fact, I don’t believe it is real – it’s a mirage, and I can prove it.  Instead …
  • Focus on belief systems.  If the organization is truly purpose-driven, existing because of a “higher calling,” then customers have been given a gift – something to believe in.  Start aligning your people there.
  • Next, determine the three core behaviors that help fulfill organizational purpose – and hold people accountable on a daily basis.  This means assessing people on those behaviors, and providing frequent and consistent feedback.  If you don’t hold the organization accountable to fulfillment of the purpose and the behaviors necessary to achieve said purpose, then you’re not serious about it.
  • Always provide employees the opportunity to meet prospective new hires, solicit feedback and genuinely take it under advisement before making final decisions.  This will help create a “high trust,” close knit environment.
  • As a leader, “take one for the team” whenever warranted.  Newsflash:  On a daily basis, your people wonder, “Is she in the foxhole with me, or not?”  If team performance is subpar one month, take the blame.  If a team member makes a high-visibility blunder, take the blame.  You get the idea.  Show that you CARE about them.
  • Never, EVER hire purely for “smartest.”  Yes, seek talented people, but only invite them into your home if they are an awesome fit.  Why?  Because there are no companies, just people.  And when stellar chemistry is achieved – where teammates outwardly love one another – the sum is always greater than the individual parts.


happy face employees

Sean Stormes


Sean Stormes is Chief Value Designer of The Third Door®. His firm provides the most progressive concepts, methods, and PRG© (profitable revenue growth) framework and architecture available in the international marketplace to committed senior level business leaders who mean business.

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