As I write this post the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are wrapping up. In pairs competitions, such as figure skating, commentators consider the degree of chemistry between the skaters, because intense chemistry enhances the quality of the performance. Similarly, in movies chemistry (or lack of it) between two actors is often cited as a very important factor in the movie’s quality. We know when chemistry is present and when it’s not. When it’s intense, it’s almost tangible.
But so what? Good chemistry might be important in artistic endeavors, but how important is it in the workplace? We all work with people we like, but with whom we don’t have any remarkable degree of chemistry one way or the other. We routinely collaborate with these people to achieve results we’re proud of. Furthermore, we also work with people with whom the chemistry is not so good. And we collaborate effectively with them as well. So I would say that good chemistry is in the “nice to have” rather than the “need to have” category.
But, intense chemistry, good or bad, will have a material effect on the degree of excellence people can achieve together — whether it’s two people or a group of people. The chemistry we’re discussing here is actual brain chemistry taking place in the brains of the performers and also the observers. The brain produces different chemicals during moments of good chemistry than during moments bad chemistry.
If the chemistry is really bad, the people involved likely will not be able to do their best work. They’ll have have less energy, they’ll be less positive and less creative. They won’t have any fun. Despite their best intentions to put their feelings aside, they’re extremely unlikely to produce excellence. On the other hand, when the chemistry is really good people are more optimistic and creative, and they’re energized by the collaboration. They experience deep intrinsic satisfaction.
When the good chemistry among individuals is intense, extraordinary results can be achieved. When those results are achieved, the people involved want to do it again. It’s those brain chemicals. They want more of those. That’s why success is so motivational.
The natural next question is, “What’s the formula for creating good chemistry?” Sadly, I’m not aware of one. You can’t force it, but you can create conditions under which it can materialize. Give pairs or groups of people a challenging assignment which each person in the group genuinely cares about. Proactively help them get to know each other and to develop close relationships while working on that assignment. Good chemistry might well emerge.
My conclusion is this. Even though chemistry is in the “nice to have” category, it’s really, really, really nice to have. If you’ve experienced this, you know what I’m talking about.
Thanks to my friend Keith McLeod for suggesting this topic.
And thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your point of view.