Not too long ago, I started a tradition where I personally brew and serve tea to everyone on my floor during our three o’clock huddle. Before one meeting, one of our physical therapists was deep in focus while charting in our team room. When I called her name, she jumped a little, as if snapping out of a trance and looked at me. I smiled and said, “I brought you some tea!” She gazed at me for a second and responded, “This is the first time someone has called my name to give me something rather than get something from me.”
As clinicians, we all can relate to that feeling. When I began lecturing medical students and facilitating leadership training, I started asking: what does every person want in every relationship? The responses reflect the physical therapist’s reaction; more than being happy or loved, the majority of people want to be heard, valued, and understood. At that moment, I understood how she felt and hopefully provided a service that made her feel valued because she is – even if we don’t say it every day.
This kind of human connection is at the center of team chemistry – it’s a commitment to each other’s well-being and growth by looking out for one another. There’s not a single person in medicine that isn’t feeling burdened or stressed right now. By committing to each other, you can alleviate these feelings, if not by helping remove the stressor, then at the very least by understanding that pain and being compassionate in this time of need.
If you’re looking for ways to create this commitment, here are three ways I have found to be effective in creating team chemistry:
- Plan time together and use it to connect. Your team should anticipate regularly scheduled meetings with time to collaborate, but you should also expect to spend time with each other outside of mandatory meetings. This doesn’t mean you must spend as much time together as possible, but when you are in the cafeteria, taking a break, or doing rounds together, use that time to learn more about each other in other ways. Ask how someone’s family is doing; get someone’s opinion on a dilemma; ask for advice about a work-related challenge. When you commit to spending time together and connecting in different settings, it gives everyone the chance to be seen, heard, and valued and discover new opportunities for collaboration.
- Set goals together. Clearly stating your team’s goals keeps everyone on the same page, gives each person a crucial role and feeling of belonging, and dictates how to work together to be successful. Research by clinical psychologist Dr. Gail Matthews found that people who write down and share their goals with others are 33% more successful than those who don’t. Each time you set a goal together, your team also gets the chance to plan together, hear the voice of teammates and advance a team identity you developed together.
- Play to individual team member strengths. One Gallup study showed that when organizations focus on building up people’s strengths, they become more engaged, confident, and productive. Identify each member’s strengths, then group people who have complementary strengths. Weaknesses should also be identified so that you can determine whose strengths can compensate for another’s weaknesses and help them grow. Keeping this balance creates chemistry, with members valuing each other’s strengths, supporting each other through weak points, and encouraging positive dialogue and cohesion.
These tips are just the start. The real key to team chemistry is empowering individuals to engage, involve, and enroll: Once your whole team is engaged in a common purpose, you will be motivated to stay involved and want to enroll others into the team’s vision. Stay committed to your team’s core values and identity. Your chemistry will then create ample opportunities to not only fulfill your shared purpose, but also enjoy the people you’re doing it with. How have you effectively created team chemistry? Let us know in the comments below or continue the conversation with us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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