Team Chemistry


During a meeting with a potential client I was asked to offer my interpretation of the term “team oriented.” The concept of teams is one of familiarity for me; intentionally I avoid calling myself an “expert” as I consider that title to be as reverent of one of nobility. To provide an appropriate response I inquired if winning was a principle of their definition.

Analogy Time

When it comes to the definition of teams my tendency is to reference professional sports as an analogy. No matter the sports, men or women, all members of a professional team represent athletes of distinct caliber of talent. At early stages of their respective careers, each player progressed and excelled to reach the elite stage of professionalism. So what’s wrong with this story? Despite being made up of outstanding athletes, each professional team is not undefeated, nor all pro teams champions. So there’s no validity to support logic to attain success a team must be represented by exceptional members, players and/or employees

A Winning Team

To paraphrase the response generated by the client, they simply wish to establish a “winning team.” I find it amusing when I hear the words “simply” or the ever so popular “basically” – Folks, there does not exist any instant, easy or microwave version of this formula. Back to my sports analogy, if a team has a winning record and let’s say maintains consistency for three years straight would they not be considered a winning team? Yet if the same team does not win a championship during this time-frame, aren’t they still a winning team?

Hot, Yet so Cold

A few NFL seasons ago, the Buffalo Bills made it to the Super Bowl four years in a row, yet never won “the Big Game.” When you consider the factors and improbabilities to reach this major plateau four years straight; this was an incredible achievement.  Yet despite the paramount level of success; many only categorize their teams with the failure to win the Super Bowl – Ridiculous! Blame it on the coach, the kicker, or the quarterback – Sorry, as everyone was integral part of the whole to reach the NFL‘s ultimate stage, everyone shares in the results.

To create, establish and maintain a successful team requires delicate and premiere elements, such as: talent, trust, balance, devotion, commitment, visionary traits and much, much more. In this day and age of constant turnover in business, consistency is likely the most challenging quality to maintain. The tendency for businesses to invest so nominally in training and or limitation to on-line learning functions, any wonder why the concept of team is so evasive,

When Observed, it’s a Beautiful Thing

I recently moved and witnessed a Starbucks store group of associates that exemplified the external qualities of a team.  Now my observation is limited to a few visits, but they appeared to flow. They reminded me of Christmas elves working at Santa’s Toy Shop.  Now, I don’t know how they function behind the curtain, but on stage they were impressive. Yes, I did share my observations to the store manager and district manager, I adhere to the perspective as much as one voices criticism, one should equally applaud performance.

For me growing up positive commentary was rare; however criticisms always seem to be “in season.” My father and grandfather representing both sides of my family embraced this philosophy; since they never experienced positive reinforcement as children – No compliments for you!  Subsequently, my drive was to avoid criticism, and not strive for accolades. I was fortunate to be open-minded and live in a time to overcome embedded scars, or fall victim to embrace this logic.  Let me take a moment to acknowledge a scar creator, the word – But. The word “but” at the end of a compliment is similar to inflating a punctured tire.

Back to Teams

During communications defining ideal qualities and receiving confirmation from members is critical.  I often hear managers/supervisors communicating (not sharing) definitions of team principles that lack clarity or validation.  To me, it’s like providing instructions to someone of another language – something will be “lost in translation.”  A common culprit of dysfunction is the expressed term “know what I mean.”

Another analogy to exemplify the concept of team is that of religion. Without going too “deep” whatever one’s beliefs, acknowledging that there exists enlightenment, after-life or a higher-self, we may share common traditions, rituals, practices and thoughts. To succeed in tandem with others, multiple traits, restrictions and objectives must be defined and managed to prosper. People working together may, or may not be a religious experience, yet it is an integral part of our existence.

Recipe for Success

Back to the origin of this Article, I expect the person who asked for a definition of the term “team oriented” to omit this question from their future interview script – No simple or abbreviated response from me.

To succeed as a team is true chemistry searching and using the right ingredients for the application and then, hoping for the desired outcome. There’s an abundance of trial and error in the process. Nothing is instantaneous about this transition and no app available for your smartphone.


Al "Skip" Solorzano
SKIP is a recognized expert in the field of diversity with keen ability to build strategic alliances, and successfully expand supplier diversity initiatives. He has consulted with multiple client sectors including pharmaceutical, insurance, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, utilities nonprofit organizations, business entities and employee groups. As a facilitator and learning consultant presents unique perspectives to develop solutions; and promote qualities to successfully work with others through diversity, team-building and leadership development. Solorzano has been featured as a presenter at conferences sponsored by such entities as: AT&T, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Social Security Administration. A former Governor appointee and member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Solorzano has been recognized by United Way as Most Influential Hispanics of the Bay Area; and a recipient of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Corporate Advocate of the Year award. Skip’s career endeavors as a corporate liaison, community leader and entrepreneur, provides the unique insight to write on an array of subject matter from learning processes; diversity; with a shared humorous perspective of life.

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  1. To get a team to gel, I use a picture I either draw with my hands or on a whiteboard. People need to understand people to work with people. So I do my best to show people where they fit together as a group and where they fit together in the organization. I then give them the choice on how they can streamline their own fit.