Squad Goals: How to Improve Your Team Chemistry

We’ve all been on those teams that just worked: Everyone pulled their weight, stellar work got done, and you had fun doing it. And, of course, we’ve been on teams that were the exact opposite.

There’s a reason we call it “team chemistry.” Certain elements react, and the combination can be wonderful … or explosive. People either love or loathe working with a team. Those feelings about teamwork can go all the way back to middle school, when your lab partner did exactly none of the work but still got credit. (Or maybe that was just mine…) But often in the workplace, we don’t get to pick our teammates, which is why recognizing how to work with different personalities is essential.

I found helpful tips in the following articles on understanding and creating team chemistry.

First, Understand Your Team Personalities

“The team brainstormed strategies for accommodating individuals’ differing styles and taking advantage of the value that each brought. A month after we met with them, members indicated they had been actively hypothesizing about one another’s styles and were developing a better understanding of the team. Even more important, they reported a greater sense of shared purpose, an environment that better enabled them to contribute at their highest levels, and an improved ability to accomplish goals.” — Read more at Harvard Business Review.

If You’re the Leader, Set the Tone

“Often team leaders assume that mature people will resolve conflict on their own. If that were true, however, there would be no divorce, separations or wars. In high-performance teams differences are addressed quickly and directly. This requires a level of maturity in team members. When people believe that they are trusted and others have their back, disputes can be resolved. Team leaders that focus on competition versus cooperation never achieve outstanding results.” — Read more at Forbes.

Plan More Face Time

“Organizations have employees scattered all over the world. Often, to save money and time, they insist on meeting virtually rather than in person. In contrast, Olympic-caliber teams realize how important it is to get to know each other face to face, break bread outside of work, and build chemistry. … We are human beings, wired for in-person contact. Even if it costs a bit more money and time, Olympic-caliber teams need to make time to bring everyone together, spend time outside of work getting to know one another and build true chemistry. Otherwise, trust won’t be as high as it otherwise could be.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.

Can An Algorithm Figure Out the Optimal Team?

“Inspired by the techniques used by online dating sites, which are continually refining how they match people to improve outcomes, Saberr has arrived at a formula that predicts whether a team will succeed or fail based on individuals’ responses to a profiling questionnaire. One of the qualities Saberr measures through its questionnaires is an individual’s ability to tolerate an alternative set of values in their colleagues. The ‘coaching’ solution helps shape and improve that tolerance, by prompting changes in awareness, thinking and behaviour.” — Read more at The Guardian.

Consider Two Team Dynamics from a Google Study

“If you are given a choice between the serious-minded Team A or the free-flowing Team B, you should probably opt for Team B. Team A may be filled with smart people, all optimized for peak individual efficiency. But the group’s norms discourage equal speaking; there are few exchanges of the kind of personal information that lets teammates pick up on what people are feeling or leaving unsaid. There’s a good chance the members of Team A will continue to act like individuals once they come together, and there’s little to suggest that, as a group, they will become more collectively intelligent. In contrast, on Team B, people may speak over one another, go on tangents and socialize instead of remaining focused on the agenda. The team may seem inefficient to a casual observer. But all the team members speak as much as they need to. They are sensitive to one another’s moods and share personal stories and emotions. While Team B might not contain as many individual stars, the sum will be greater than its parts.” — Read more at New York Times Magazine.

What has been your best — or worst — team experience? I’d love to hear the details in the comments below.


Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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