Bill James, the father of baseball sabermetrics—the search for objective knowledge about baseball—answers reader questions on his website nearly every day. Recently, someone asked about the importance of chemistry for a baseball team, and James answered with an anecdote about the great chemistry of the 2004 Boston Red Sox championship team. He contrasted that team with the 2011 Red Sox, who had an epic collapse and went from a championship contender to nowhere in no time flat. So, how much does chemistry count when it comes to being a winning team?
Strong chemistry supports big success for concrete contractors
This applies to construction as well, particularly when thinking about the team aspect of a successful contracting company. I can hear you now: “Can the person project manage? Can the person estimate? Can the person operate equipment? Chemistry doesn't matter in construction. It’s the technical skills that count!”
Yes, those skills are critical, but we've held this belief for too long in the construction industry. “This guy may be a jerk, but he can get it done," we've all thought. "Yeah, he upsets everybody else on the team, but he's a go-getter. And his jobs always come in on time and on budget.” This thinking requires contractors to put up with a high degree of foolishness that is, in fact, avoidable if you take your leadership duties seriously.
However, James noted, chemistry works in so many different ways, and that's why it's hard to explain. Whether you work in an office, on a construction site or in a school, he asked, can your colleagues make you more or less productive than you otherwise would be? "Of course they can," James said. "If other people want you to succeed, the odds that you will succeed are better. If you make yourself disagreeable, people don't want to help you. If you help others, they will help you. So, in putting a team together, it becomes very important to stock it as much as you can with people who get that."
The confidence-terror scale for concrete contracting team dynamics
James described a scale in which one side has confidence and the other has terror. When people talk about "terror" in sports—and I think in business, too—what they're really talking about is anxiety and fear. Thinking about that spectrum, if you have a supportive group around you—people you know are interested in your success just as you're interested in theirs—you inspire confidence in each other. That puts you on the confident end of the scale.
What bad teammates do is increase your fear and anxiety. You can probably recall people who increased your anxiety on purpose—ones who were mean and negative, who just never had anything nice to say. While it certainly is not healthy or helpful, these people feel better when they can make other people feel bad. If you have to work on a team with this type of person, it's a real challenge because they want to see other people fail. But it's important to not let their bad attitudes affect your work or happiness; I know that's easier said than done, but work to find the people who build you up, remember to say "thank you" and return the favor.
Whether it's baseball or construction, does chemistry matter? I’m with Bill James; I think it does!