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What Your Team Chemistry And The Cleveland Cavs Have In Common

What Your Team Chemistry And The Cleveland Cavs Have In Common

Chemistry. It’s one of the most complex elements of a team’s success but it’s often ignored or marginalized in favor of talent. Great teams are more than just a collection of talented individuals – great teams strategically combine the strengths and abilities of talented individuals to create a winning combination.

Exhibit A: the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers.

Just a little more than a week ago, the Cavs were stuck in third place in the Eastern Conference. Locker-room bickering, finger pointing and toxic comments on social and traditional media were becoming the norm. Something needed to change, and the Cav’s management didn’t mess around.

In three massive trades, the Cavaliers shed 6 talented (and popular) players for 4 arguably less-talented, but better-fitting players and some draft picks. Notably, they sent their most significant acquisition from the offseason, Isaiah Thomas, to the Los Angeles Lakers. Thomas was in the news for publicly criticizing his teammates and the Cav’s management, while reaffirming his desire to stay in Cleveland.

Changing up nearly half your roster is huge in any environment, whether sports or business. Usually, a move like this signals desperation, making change for change sake. But, with an eye to building chemistry, a bold move can pay off.

All the players involved in the Cav’s shake-up were talented for sure, but the moves had less to do with individual talent and more to do with the team’s chemistry. Thomas is a great example. He’s a gifted player and worked well within the Boston Celtics system last year, taking his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. But when he joined the Cavaliers, the mismatched chemistry showed.

At the end of the day, team chemistry is far more important. Finding the right balance, the people who fit, is far more important than focusing just on the numbers.

A study by Deloitte gives some insight into why the Cav’s were struggling. During their work, researchers at Deloitte identified four primary work styles within teams trying to accomplish shared goals. These styles are pioneers, guardians, drivers, and integrators. Pioneers spark energy and imagination, take risks, and go with their gut. Their focus is big picture.

Guardians value stability, and they bring order and attention to detail. Drivers challenge their teammates and generate momentum. For them, winning matters most. Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Each style brings something important to healthy team functioning. Each is necessary for success.

But an imbalance on a team can lead to trouble.

For instance, say you have a team with too many Pioneers and Drivers who don’t pay attention to the other styles on the team. You would rightly expect such a team to perform inconsistently as individual members vied for dominance and control of the team’s agenda. One solution to this problem is for the team leader to reign in the strong personalities and get them all on the same page. Sometimes that’s not possible. That’s when it’s necessary to change the team.

It’s not simply by chance that Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Iman Shumpert, and Derrick Rose were traded for younger role players. Now the Cav’s have fewer Drivers to compete with LeBron James.

The results speak for themselves. After one abbreviated practice, the New-Look Cavaliers trounced the Boston Celtics 121-99, the most points Boston has given up all year long. Then, to prove that the new team chemistry is for real, they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that annihilated the Cavs in an embarrassing 24-point blowout less than a month before.

After the trades, the Cav’s chemistry looks better than ever.

If you’re looking to improve team performance, don’t blow up your team right away, but do focus on the chemistry of your members. Taking a look at personalities and individual styles can be much more effective for your overall performance than just focusing on top individual performers.

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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