5 Ways Chemistry Leads to Business Success

Last Updated Jan 11, 2011 4:21 PM EST

5 Ways Chemistry Leads to Business SuccessGot a coworker whose ideas really resonate with you? A boss you'd work for forever if you could? An employee who just seems to get you? A customer or vendor you actually enjoy working with?

You probably share something with these people that none of you are aware of. It's called "chemistry" and it plays a big role in your career and success in business. Not only that, but chemistry is unique because, well, it's not a skill or an attribute you can put your finger on. Rather it's a concept, and a relatively amorphous one at that.

Sometimes it seems that executive recruiters and hiring executives say they're looking for chemistry when they have absolutely no idea what they're looking for.

Have you ever been on an interview when the recruiter, HR person, or hiring manager says, "We're looking for a candidate who'll fit in with the management team's chemistry?" If you think about it, that tells you absolutely nothing about what they're looking for. So what do you do? Good question. We'll get to that in a minute.

In the corporate world, we use lots of terms to try to capture that nebulous quality that causes teams to resonate, complete each other's sentences, and operate more effectively than the sum of their parts. Chemistry, DNA, fit, sometimes we even say like-minded individuals.

Whatever we call it, it's a term we use to capture something we think is important but don't fully understand. So, in the interest of understanding this vague but all important term, not least of which so we understand what the hell others mean when they say it, here are 5 Insights Into the Role of Chemistry in Business Success:
1. Chemistry isn't a cause, it's an effect.
When people seeking to fill a position say they're looking for chemistry, they're not talking about particular attributes, since if they were, they'd simply name them. More likely, they're talking about the results of a team that works effectively together, i.e. the effect, not the cause.

What does that mean to you, the candidate? It means that if you spend your precious brain cycles trying to decipher what they're looking for, you'll probably screw up the interview and, more importantly, you won't figure it out anyway. Since it's not something you can control, just be yourself. Be genuine. If it works, it works.

2. Chemistry is independent of all demographics.
Age, gender, race, income, education, political leaning, chemistry doesn't care. Thinking back, I've had unusual chemistry with people I had almost nothing in common with.

I once met a guy in college from Hong Kong. His name was Manlung. I'll never forget him. The only thing we had in common was physics, but otherwise, zilch. Still, we hit it off and hung out together constantly for a long, long time. I've got dozens of stories just like that about a CEO, a distributor in Japan, my business partner, peers, employees, I can go on and on.

3. Chemistry is often the result of a confluence of external factors that have little to do with the individuals.
In the past we talked about the 10 Rules of Great Groups and the secrets of creative collaboration. Sometimes a team comes together under certain circumstances that, for reasons completely unrelated to the individuals themselves, they inspire each other and do great things. Some examples are discussed in the post and the referenced book, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman.

4. If you expect chemistry, you're setting yourself up for failure.
While chemistry is a wonderful thing, it's in no way necessary for success of any team, company, business, or situation. It's a rare thing so, if you expect it, you'll likely be disappointed and, more importantly, you'll be setting yourself up for failure. If you have it and lose it, don't panic. Organizations go through lots of changes. Adaptability and flexibility are key attributes in longevity.

5. When it happens, chemistry is an amazing thing to behold and cherish.
All that said, when it does happen, try not to screw it up. You know, if it works don't fix it. You might end up starting a company that makes it, producing a successful product, or just working so well together that it feels great to get up and go to work in the morning. Don't ask why, just enjoy it while you can and milk it for all it's worth.

Image courtesy Flickr user osed8info