Coworkers high-fiving Chemistry is a key ingredient in a strong team.

Team chemistry is especially important in the workplace. It’s like the chemistry you feel when dating – when you have it, you just know it, and when you don’t, you know it even more.

An article from Accounteer said it best: “No matter how talented people are, if they don’t work well together, they won’t accomplish much. Exceptional talent can carry a big ego. Sometimes sacrificing the talent can help you avoid power struggles and team fragmentation … Experts suggest that teams with good chemistry are more productive because they understand what each member brings to the team and work to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses of the other team members.”

Several years ago, I worked on what I felt like was the dream team – we had that “it” factor. Our skills and personalities complimented each other so well. Where one of us was weak, another person was strong, and no one was too dominant or overbearing – there was room for all of us to shine. Our team had a nice mix of personalities, which made for great collaboration and ease of communication. There were five of us in total – Gaby, Mike, Nick, James and me, and I’m still friends with all of them to this day.

Gaby is a highly intelligent, kind, thorough and reserved peacemaker. She has the best memory of anyone I know. She had (and still has) this impressive ability to recall random tidbits of information – which was wonderful because I have a terrible memory. She was the team anchor, always organized and ensuring we stayed on task.

Mike was, and still is, a genius with technology. He had this insane ability to teach himself how to complete typically challenging tasks, like video editing and animation. He pushed all of us to advance our skills, just by example. He was unflappable, and when I got frustrated he frequently reminded me that it wasn’t worth it.

Nick was, and still is, the calmest person I know. His obsession with sports always made for great conversation with clients and within our team. He was up for any task he was assigned and never caused any conflicts.

James was our insanely creative graphic designer, and he and the guys would frequently banter about all things related to being a guy – fashion, sports, engagement rings, etc.

My co-workers always helped to offset my sometimes-intense personality. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, I learned about how to better collaborate while improving my conflict management skills. There was no one person in the group who was overly dominant or carrying a hidden agenda in which they were seeking all-star status. We were usually able to debate things out and come to a consensus during any major project. This helped us all shine in our individual ways without building animosity. Most importantly, we all just worked well together.

However, not all of my coworker experiences have been that great. One person can have the ability to destroy an otherwise good team dynamic. I once worked on a team where everyone got along except for one person. This person had an agenda in mind, and would often interrupt in meetings and adopt other people’s ideas as her own. She was exceptionally smart and delivered great work, but her toxicity spread like wildfire across the team, canceled out all of her good qualities and destroyed the team’s chemistry.

This can all be avoided though strategic hiring. While interviewing experts on employee engagement for a CU Times feature article I’m writing this month, I was reminded again of the importance of strategic hiring to promote employee engagement, productivity and good chemistry.

Strategic hiring is the first step to building a good team. So what does that mean? It means being thoughtful about what you need instead of simply getting a body in a seat.

Here are a few tips to ensure you’re hiring the right person for your team:

  • Before putting out a job advertisement, consider meeting with the other team members to get an understanding of the desired personality and technical traits. If you already have team members who are Type A and hyper-dominant, perhaps you’ll want to hire someone who isn’t like that.
  • Don’t just hire for technical skills. Technical skills can be taught, but it’s much more difficult to shape and teach personality traits.
  • Ask behavior-related questions while interviewing. For example, get multiple examples of how the person manages conflict.
  • Consider having more than one person, such as other team members, meet with the potential hire.

A little extra leg work on the front-end will ultimately save you lots of headaches on the back-end. According to the Accounteer article, “When there is team chemistry, individuals work together to advance the team’s goals, leading to a higher chance of team success.”

Tahira Hayes

Tahira Hayes is a correspondent-at-large for CU Times. She can be reached at thayes@cutimes.com.