The Chemistry Complex

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Right now I’m sitting in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment, in this little nook by a double window typing away on my Macbook Air. Every few minutes my eyes break free of the screen towards scattered glances in the alley of brick lined apartments and rusty old fire escapes cascading the sides of pre-war buildings, while Kaskade is playing through Pandora, a black coffee in my hands and the goal to be running in Central Park in 60-minutes after I finish posting about something I’ve thought about for quite a while.

This week in NYC I was prompted to write after spending some time with a few former people with whom I’ve worked (epic, insanely talented and amazing people who I loved working with and were catalysts to building great teams). It was a hard hitting reminder to me about something I’ve wanted to write about for years, which is my relatively simple premise around the effect chemistry can have on building great teams. 

It’s a pretty simple distillation of my hiring philosophy, after a lot of experience in both big and small companies–including a few raw start-ups and two re-starts– in a lot of different geographies, a fair amount of study on the subject, and more than a few mistakes along the way, I’ve essentially boiled my hiring and team-building decision-making into two very simple evaluations: Competency and Chemistry

A lot can be learned from insightful readings from a few of the best of the best related to leadership development, executive hiring, and creating high performing teams. Welch is legendary, especially with more established entities; Bezos is all around brilliant and pulls in a big-growth-company-meets-scrappy-upstart philosophy for the digital world that’s insanely customer-driven; Collins is a super solid researcher that’s studied the best of the best and carries killer insights based on aggregated data and interviews. And there’s a bunch of bits and pieces I’ve picked up from start-ups, including personal experiences, other Exec’s, and investors.

But even after all of this, I’ve pretty much broken it down into these two key characteristics. The reality is also that people can only process so much information and evaluate decisions on so many criteria. It’s why running a company trying to monitor and asses 12+ metrics is simply ineffective and dilutive; instead it’s better to zone in on 3-5 key metrics. Nail those. And, if you can bring it down to one or two then all the better (and do the same for each division or department). The same premise applies for hiring.

The competency part of hiring and building great teams is pretty self explanatory, so I’m not even going to carry a description here, other than to say for me this is a bit of broad definition that includes character, tenacity, skills, efficiency, intelligence. It’s effectively summarized in a question like “Is this person in the top 10-20 percentile in what they do and how they do it?” That’s competency.

The chemistry part, well that’s where the mojo is. Harder to define and more crystallized by asking the question of “Does he/she add magic to the team?” It’s something you can just feel. Team sports are an easier illustration; I can remember years playing football in college with guys who were good, but not great. However, had insane team chemistry. Those years yielded better results than when it was reversed. I can think back on business experiences and see this as well–and when we’ve had the intersection between insanely competent teams with great chemistry, the results AND the experience was unreal. I once had a football coach repeatedly tell us “Men, you don’t have to like each other…but you do need to love each other.” I think there’s a lot of insight there; and too many business environments exist where people neither like nor love their teams–despite being competent. And then they wonder why they don’t perform as well as they can, why there’s churn, why coming to work isn’t fun, engaging, or rewarding. There’s no mystery around it.

Chemistry isn’t this soft skill or some diluted esoteric parameter. Chemistry is intertwined with the answer to questions like: Do I respect her? Will he make the team work harder through influence? Do I trust there isn’t game playing and ulterior motive? Does he care about people and have an unrelenting passion for winning, including especially the team–or is he in the win for himself? Even at the cost of others? Is the very act of work fun, engaging, and rewarding with her?

A lot of companies try to do all these team-building things to engage or create chemistry. You know what? If you think in order to create chemistry you need to go do offsite team building, drink beer after work, do a trust fall, or–God forbid–hire a consultant to address this, you’re flat out screwed. You don’t have it, and you probably won’t get it.

My favorite business memories weren’t forced outings, retreats, and canned prescriptive stuff (yeah, I’ve also tried it before myself). Instead, my best memories were doing epic things in business and enjoying an insanely great team. In other words, it was actually often the most challenging and difficult work itself, and doing that with great people, that I liked the best. That comes from working with people who have great chemistry together.

In any business, accelerators are a part of the competitive advantage. Getting to market faster, higher close ratios, faster cycles, better deliverables, quicker communication with better transference of information and less noise. Conversely, the “chemistry” dynamic doesn’t mean everyone is homogeneous and shares similar views. That’s actually the magic of chemistry. It magnifies distinctions. It brings them out, faster, and because there’s trust you can cycle faster, learn more, and cover more ground. That’s directly attributable to chemistry.

The very thing that makes up the manifestation of hard metrics and actual results comes down to how good the teams are, and how well they work together, and how much they trust each other. It drives the function of how frequently people communicate, the ability to use short-hand and move faster, the number of hours the teams wants to spend working, along with the intensity or projects and execution of programs. It’s that simple.

Part of great chemistry is not wanting to let other people down–not because you’re afraid of pissing them off or some retribution, but because you’re a team and you want to win. You want to see them win. And you’ll go to the end of the earth to contribute your part, because that’s what happens when people depend on each other, trust each other, and have great chemistry. They come through. They deliver results. Not out of some form of obligation or even just the paycheck, but out of desire. There’s a huge difference. Working from the basis of the former creates liabilities. Working from the basis of the latter builds assets.

It’s clear great teams have an exponentiating effect on performance; and a big part of that is chemistry within the team. Chemistry is the juice that makes competency come to life, otherwise all these insanely epic skills that people carry are too often hidden from fully developing when the chemistry is missing.

My experience is that those individuals and teams with just the great competency are difficult to find. Finding individuals and teams with great competency that add a massive multiplier with the chemistry dynamic? That’s really rare.

And it’s also where the magic is.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doc. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all period. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good soundness, its doubtless important for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Can You Be Coached?

Last night I had the opportunity to speak/facilitate a small group discussion around Coachability and Listening.

So the guys didn’t need to take notes, I promised I’d circulate the culmination of ideas and discussion points captured as we shared the dialogue. I thought it might be a good blog entry, so decided to simply publish my notes on this blog entry which is somewhat a “Part Two” to the Coachability posting that I wrote weeks back.

So here’s the outline, Coachability Part Two from the Men’s Small Group last night:

Coachability. Who cares, why’s it matter?

It’s upstream to all other wisdom, knowledge, and best practices. If we’re not coachable (learners, teachable, open, listeners, willing to change behavior and improve, etc) then we’re hugely rate limiting our potential–regardless our talent.

The resources used for the dialogue:

“They Call Me Coach” by John Wooden, book of Proverbs (whether you’re religious or not, this is a book filled with wisdom that people from all various faiths could appreciate–at least in part, if not whole), and a YouTube clip from Marshall Goldsmith–not exactly riveting, but it’s five minutes of a great premise and I think he’s right on:

So out of the dialogue, here were some of the best practices and ideas generated that I’m passing on. BTW, one of the key premises to the evening was that we’re not striving for anything profound, if that happened great. But the real objective were a few clear, simple, and actionable items that we could use starting today to take meaningful steps towards improvement:

1. Realize being “Coachable” isn’t innate in most of us. Most of us don’t even like receiving, let alone asking, for sincere coaching. And though you might have all the talent in the world, we won’t come close to fulfilling our potential without the key Coachability factor.  Realize you’ll resist, defend, brush off, or deflect feedback. It is in your nature to want to hear things that will stretch and sharpen you. For most of us. But it can become a part of you with time, patience, and practice.

2. Also realize, the more you ask, the easier it gets to hear the feedback and focus on your improvement areas (or, simply improving those things you’re already naturally talented in). Learn to love feedback. Takes training and discipline. At first it hurts. Then it hurts a bit less. Then a bit less. Then not much at all. Then you start to enjoy it (usually). Pretty soon, it becomes a natural habit that’s easy and conversational.

3. Coachability seems defined beyond just teachability, though synonymous to a degree the Coachability factor incorporates both the willingness to listen/learn as well as change and improve behavior.

4. Make it a point to ask people for feedback at least once a week. If you haven’t done it before, ever (and some in our group hadn’t), find someone you respect, pick something that you really want to get better at, and ask them candidly for a few things you’ve done well and a few things you can improve upon. And when you’re picking people, don’t just pick people who like you or you know will go easy. Get it from a variety of sources, your employees, customers, friends, mentors, kids, spouse (though I know for those of us married it seems like we probably get enough feedback as it is, that seemed to be the humorous consensus of the group yesterday 🙂 ).

5. Find a mentor, someone that can give you unvarnished feedback regularly and that will help you progress along your journey.

6. Speaking of unvarnished feedback, remember how hard it is for the giver to actually provide candid feedback. Either they might fear you, or they might fear a “retaliation”, or they might simply not want to hurt your feelings or get into what could be an awkward dialogue. Make sure you explain you want to improve, and help them peel back the onion. First pass and they might only be sharing with you superficial stuff. To get good feedback, again and again, you can’t retaliate. You can’t resent, you can’t become bitter, you can’t become defensive.

7. Focus on your non-verbal, be open and friendly/warm, calm, relaxed–not all tensed up, arms crossed, scowling and whatnot (which we’ve all done–or at least I have). And with your verbal, don’t get defensive, don’t be annoyed or frustrated

8. Don’t assume all feedback is right on. Try to reflect rather than respond. Sit on the feedback for a day or several days, and really try to assess whether it’s relevant to you. Don’t dismiss it because you don’t like it, dismiss it only if it really is inaccurate.

9. Let’s remember that you can’t please everybody (but don’t use this as an excuse either). Part of your vice is probably your virtue. For example, for me personally I know there are times when I’m too hard charging, or too demanding and have too high expectations. But that’s also part of what is my strength, so for me to eliminate it altogether would be neutering something that’s innately me–and a skill. For me to balance it and know when to emphasize and minimize is what’s important. So remember there’s an ebb and flow, and also that not everybody is right about the feedback you receive. You can’t make everybody happy, and you can’t be doing anything productive in life without some criticism.

10. When you get great feedback, focus on a few core things and them implement, practice, refine, and re-assess.

This is only a small smattering of what we came up with, but I wanted to try to limit it to ten key ideas or principles around the Coachability factor. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please share them as a comment below.

So to the guys that I got to hang with last night (Neal, Bob, Mark, Doug, David, Matther, Don, Chris, Dan, and Alfred) thanks for such a lively discussion and the great ideas you helped to generate on ways we can be more successful at one of the key characteristics most of us lack to varying degrees. Loved the time, the ideas, and inspiration I received from each of you.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all when. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless important for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

I Hate Museums

ceramics

Okay, that opening title is a bit dramatic.

First, as my wife reminds the kids–and me–we don’t HATE anything. 🙂

Second, even if I DID hate something, I don’t REALLY hate museums.

At least not all of them, just certain kinds.

But what was valuable is that I learned something this week about myself. And, Pascal would be so proud of me right now, because you know, the whole “to know oneself” line of thinking was so important to him.

And, really it is to us if we’re to find our purpose in life, to pursue it with a relentless passion, to be living in your destiny (or working towards it), you gotta know yourself. What you like. What you don’t. Where you’re good. Where you’re not. Why you’re doing what you are, and what you should quit doing as well.

This week I made a decision.

I’m not going to any more museums having to do with crafts, ceramics, or archeology. Period. At least not on my own accord.

I am sick of trying to find these things interesting, just because other people do or this is something culturally that is “smart” of me to do (and I am convinced that 50% of them are also faking it, like me, but just doing a better job). I really don’t care whether, Mr. Curator, there exist 2,000 little clay cups in your museum, that perhaps there was a ceremonial cleansing cup that forged together two Continents. In fact, it’s highly irrelevant to me whether they came from Costco twenty minutes ago or a big dig that resulted in a revelation dating back tens of thousands of years. And finally, Mr. Curator, if you give me one of those defibrillator-looking digital “walkman” player to hang from my neck, that is probably riddled with head lice from the 10,000 other people who have worn it proceeding me, it still doesn’t make me more interested. In fact, I think it hurts the cause. Because now I feel obligated to hear the five minute history lesson about the clay pot that I already had seen too much of when I walked briskly by.

I’m just…not…interested.

And, this week, officially I decided, that I will quit trying to be interested. Here’s the point of the story:

We’ve got to find the undercurrent of what gets your hot buttons. Too many of us go through life trying to do what we’re supposed to do because someone else thinks we should do it because someone told them it’s important. And, really, maybe it doesn’t mean snap to you or me.

Now, before someone thinks this is a good excuse to exercise out of discipline, learning, developing a well rounded personality, and on don’t misunderstand. I love space and science museums, I’m fascinated by some art museums. I love reading. I love language and culture and discussing deep subjects with people. I have even been known to love Readers Digest (big print version only, it just seems more appropos). No, my kids won’t get out that easy either. We will still continue family field trips, they will still learn about things they might not care much about, I will also force them someday soon to have Wall Street Journal article reviews on Friday nights as I had growing up. But I have decided, at least for me, at the magical age of 36, it is okay to decide to quit pretending or to try to force yourself to like something you really don’t and never did.

So this week, that’s what I learned about myself.

Which, upon reflection, is both silly and profound to me. Silly, because it’s simple and somewhat the humorous example (part of it has to do w/ the fact that I didn’t last 15-minutes in a museum that was to take me 3-hours one evening to fully explore). Profound for me, though, because it made me really consider that we can spend our lives trying to do things that we don’t love, or weren’t meant to do, and we’re living in our own personal prisons that have been created by perception of what’s important or intellectually trying to chase the proverbial Joneses (whose ubiquitous family, I would challenge, to a Raz Family Wall Street Journal Review contest any day of the week).

Today my message is as simple as an “I hate museums” shout-out to all those across the World (please, once again, no flaming emails; I’m not using the expression in a pejorative way, rather I’m stating it in this kind of wittingly clever sarcastic manner–and in no way do I intend to discriminate or discourage those who love museums of crafts and artifacts, let’s just not sit together at the next dinner party) to discard the pursuits that aren’t of interest to you, that suck energy out of your life without providing a tangible and disciplined return to you in some way, and to bypass the things that’s keeping you from unlocking the excitement and energy that rests within you to pursue something with rigor and passion that either serves you, serves someone else, or serves your purpose.

It doesn’t mean that we should love everything that we do, a good part of finding your purpose and passion involves the discipline of education, investment, time, energy, exercise, whatever. Just make sure there’s a reason for doing it, other than because someone else thinks you should.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all period. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Make Memories

make-memories

In the summer of ’86 there was a great Wall Street Journal (hereinafter WSJ) article written about a Frozen Custard Stand in Lafayette, Indiana.

I was 13 at the time.

What was I doing reading the WSJ? Well, Friday night WSJ review nights, of course. Some of you know that every week we’d have “article review” where me, my sisters, and my dad would sit around the dining room table (you all did this too, right?) and review our inbox reading for the week (you had one of these also, yeah?) and talk about what we learned.

No, I am not making this up.

The intended purpose was, I assume, about developing cognitive reasoning skills as well as practicing retention, and of course I wouldn’t forget the riveting family fun involved. Well, for real, it ACTUALLY was fun (we didn’t know better 🙂 ) and it enabled us to spend time together. Well, the short of the story was that later in the summer of ’86 we all decided to take a road trip to Lafayette to hit the custard place that we all read about. We were on our way out West, if I recall, but in any event we opted for a two-hour detour just to get a taste of this stuff. We never went there again. I don’t even think we ever really talked about it again.

Fast forward 23-years…

So this week I’m on the road, starting in Dallas (my birthplace), the next day Knoxville, the next day Indy for the day (meeting w/ old friends and also a pretty cool networking meeting that’s fodder for another blog entry) and I’m leaving Indy in a way-too-small rental car making my way up to Merrillville, which isn’t all too far from Chicago.

As I’m driving I basically remember this article (yes, this is bizarre I know–but it’s just how my mind works) from ’86 in the WSJ and that I’ll be driving near Lafayette off I-65. An iPhone Safari search and 30 seconds later and I’ve got the address of the Original Frozen Custard stand  in Lafayette.

So I go. And as I’m there a flood of memories return, from the WSJ review nights (I can still recall talking about the owners of the Custard Stand, and how they reinvented their former business from the 30’s to develop this world-renowned frozen custard because…well, who cares at this point why…) to the trip I took with my family to how good it was when I first tasted it when I was 13.

Prudence should’ve stopped me at the serving of Pumpkin Pie (they don’t allow samples or mixing at all–it’s like Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, kinda), but then I needed to try Mint Chip (not that great) and then some sundae of sorts (pretty good as well, but the Pumpkin was the best), yet I was so enveloped in the moment and all the memories of the past that I just had to have a few samples–and, no, I didn’t eat all of them. But even after sitting outside at this place, literally by myself with nobody else around, amidst a gorgeous afternoon with the crisp smell of Fall in the air, I didn’t want to leave. Because, to leave, meant I would also leave the nostalgia.

The lesson I was reminded of?

Make memories.

And, depending on what you’re doing, who knows if the memories will resurface 23 days, 23 months, or in my case, 23 years later.

make-memories-1

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all season. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless significant for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

And to Paul Potts, too

Paul Potts

So with all the fanfare with Susan Boyle and her amazing performance on “Britain’s Got Talent”, and my many many views of her performance in the last few days (to the point that my wife is teasing me), I’ve become captured with a few other great stories ofnormal people doing exceptional things that have been featured on a few reality shows. I don’t watch much TV, but some of these highlights on YouTube are just too fantastic not to share.

The ones below I saw about a year back, a similar story to Susan’s. I think there’s a reason that we’re all so intrigued by these exceptional shorts–in total these videos have been viewed on YouTube tens of millions of times, there’s a buzz about it.

Why are these so popular?

For me, I’m drawn by seeing someone’s inspiration. Sheer determination. And ultimate. success. Seeing someone’s “Renewal.” It’s the archetypical underdog story of a longshot, someone left behind or forgotten and dismissed or simply underestimated, that has “it” deep within them, sticks with it, and wins big.

I’d love to hear other opinions on what has made these clips of Paul and Susan SUCH a sensation–comment away! 🙂

So, here it is…Paul Potts, from over a year ago on Britain’s Got Talent. The first video is his audition. The second video is a deeper look at the Paul Potts story.

And once again, take a look at the crowd–the smirks and laughter–before his performance, and how he absolutely transforms the audience during the event.

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And here’s the other clip that gives a bit more of the story after it unfolded.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all time. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good soundness, its doubtless significant for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Memories and Mo(mentum)

Atlantic City

I’ve got lots of New Jersey memories.

My parents moved out there when I was in College, a big move for them. My younger sisters were all raised there. My parents home in New Jersey served as an escape after we lived downtown during 9/11, a place where we ended up staying for quite some time. My first daughter, was born in Morristown, New Jersey. I remember many nights at the hospital there. In fact, many of my great business experiences happened there as well–where my start-up company did a LOT of business for pharma clients in “pharma corridor.”

So it was fun to go back to a land that I really love a lot, and served as the venue for some of the powerful and transformational memories in my life, for our latest Univera event. You can see a few of the fun clips, from an airport departure to some of the associates on the East Coast, below.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDJsXVOL9qM

The room was absolutely packed. Overflowing. Biggest event we’ve had in NJ, and it was preceded by a great dinner with some of the local leaders–which I only participated in for a few minutes due to another conflict, but Regan and Stephen had a great time and it was a warm up for the evening. I’m guessing 250 people. And for a MONDAY NIGHT!

Now, I’ve got to admit–and Stephen and Regan would say this as well–but midway through the event we were a little curious as to why it seemed a little stale. Just a little flat. Or maybe more than a little. Kinda flat.

Was it the evening? Monday night? The room? Mic? The presentations?

And I asked Al, he reminded me…It was all the guests. It’s not that they were flat, it’s just that 70% of the room was there for their first time, so many guests. And they were just checking things out, wondering what’s this deal all about? Who are these guys? What do these products do? How does this business work?

So, it just took a while. But they continued to warm up, the enthusiasm brewed throughout the event–particularly after Mike jumped on stage and raised it up a few decibels (he’s the guy in the video). The guy was great, just a nice catalyst to spark the room.

And there’s a saying in this industry: “You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person, or the right thing to the wrong person.” I think there’s some serious truth to that, not absolutely–but often.

Blue Diamonds Al Keranen and John Rogers were there–both did an excellent job. A guy named…gulp…Animal did a really great job hosting the meeting. Yeah, I said Animal. His real name is Glenn, but his nickname…It doesn’t matter. You have to know him, and his upteam Diamond Kenny Rossi who gives nicknames to just about everybody. Also, Diamond Dave Skultety was there…Plus a LOT of great new Univera leaders–Silvers and Golds in particular, great youth and diversity.

The energy was there, it really ratcheted up after the meeting. And just kept going. Post-meeting it must’ve been buzzing for a good hour, at least, with the general group. Then we hung out with the leaders for probably another hour or two after that–was a lot of fun, great people. strong energy. This is an area that is completely coming on the map.

Talent. Excitement. Commitment.

Thanks New Jersey, for adding to the great memories.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all season. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.