May 9

Lead with the Dimensions of Chemistry and Capacity

By Chuck Coker

Managers traditionally have a strong, objective task focus ? this is was what got them to their current positions. However, they want to achieve excellence they must add a more subjective, feeling aspect to their leadership style. For many this is difficult, but it is something that can be learned and integrated into a very objective planning process.
Besides the work, the leader must also focus on what will motivate individual employees to stick around and that is where chemistry and capacity come in. As a leader you must ask yourself two critical questions: (1) ?Can this individual work in our culture and with our unique team?? and ?Will they be able to mature personally and professionally??

Often, leaders? hands are tied by previous management decisions or lack of funding. Therefore, it is incumbent on you to take the steps necessary to meet these needs, even without funding; otherwise you will spend a fair amount of time under stress due to lack of competence and character from your team. Here are a few very immediate benefits you will receive if you intentionally add these two dimensions to your strategic planning.

You will:

  • Increase the effectiveness of your existing team
  • Increase departmental ROI because of improved performance and productivity
  • Watch your new hires more quickly acclimate to, and produce more within, your culture
  • Observe departmental synergy multiplying efforts as members acquire increased knowledge
  • Benefit from employees who want to fulfill a career path that provides greater competencies

When chemistry and capacity are ignored it creates turnover. While an individual employee may not start as quickly when you focus on the whole person, the long-term results far outweigh the trade-off. Remember, turnover is higher in marketing than just about every other department according the BLS. This is a reasonable indication that chemistry and capacity are the reason why this occurs.

Consider the implications of the graphic below, keeping in mind that our study indicates that 73% of every organization says finding competence is their biggest issue.


Organizations first look for competence to ensure skill sets are available for task completion. Once those skill sets are in place, managers need to know that employees possessing the skills will, in fact, complete the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, this is where most managers stop, as they feel as if they have done all they need, except designate the tasks to the appropriate skill sets.

There is a significant difference in mindsets of the engaged employee who wants to contribute to organizational success. This discrepancy between our two illustrations is currently the major contributing factor for turnover. Our job is to help you identify, grasp and implement key principles to ensure your department achieves its objectives.

To do this, your department (and organization) will want to rethink your approach to hiring, managing, developing and retaining employees. Let?s first turn to chemistry first:

The greatest majority of negative comments in the benchmark survey had to do with chemistry. So, what is chemistry? It can be most easily explained as ?the mutual attraction, attachment, or sympathy between people working together which makes their interactions harmonious or effective.? Chemistry is the catalyst for collaboration, and encourages individuals to contribute unselfishly to a mutual goal of departmental excellence. Without it, your people:

  • will not develop connections in the workplace;
  • will require more effort to perform their job responsibilities;
  • will not work efficiently, avoiding collaboration; and
  • are forced to struggle against their natural tendencies, inducing stress.

Developing departmental chemistry is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. The secret to success lies in understanding the unique personality of most employees. Our benchmark study and research of more than 1,600 employees tell us that employees are more conceptual, decisive and communicative, and less worried about details and people?s opinions, because their primary focus is garnering results.

If you know this, then you know that employees need individual attention, as well as being groomed in a manner that boosts their self-esteem to a greater degree than an average employee. This will also require you to become a mentor/coach in areas they normally struggle with, like:

  • Appreciating other employee differences and learning to interact in multiple scenarios
  • Being able to work in teams and accept feedback
  • Learning how to openly praise each others’ strengths? and accomplishments
  • Embracing other employee?s desire for success
  • How to handle surprise encounters with dissimilar personality types

One of the best ways to teach employees how to interact with other departmental members is to set an example of embracing differences, and spending time with each employee individually. You can use this time to encourage and help them with strategic work plans, presented in the context of how they will benefit with each project. To do this you must have an understanding of each employee?s values, and how they believe work should be approached and accomplished.

Those values MUST be aligned with corporate and departmental values. Even if your company does not have mission and vision statements, executives or owners know what the priorities are, and how they want things accomplished. Those goals will always be accompanied by value mindsets. The important thing is that those values can be measured with assessment. If they do not coincide with the corporate values, DO NOT bring the person into your department; if you do, you are asking for problems.

Eventually, different values will clash. However, where values are aligned there is great flexibility in the ways those values are expressed. Simply, we may not like the way a person acts, but we are much more tolerant of them if we espouse the same values.

Capacity development should be at the top of every CMO and marketing manager?s agenda; unfortunately it is not. In addition to this being the #1 people issue for employee?s worldwide, the University of Continuing Education says:

?The #1 retention factor listed by best performing employees under the age of 30 was the opportunity to develop new skills through training.?

The United Nations has even taken them time to define its importance as, ?The process through which individuals, organizations, and societies obtain, strengthen, and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.? In other words, it is the way a marketing department obtains the competencies that 73% of employees lack ? and it is best done internally, NOT through turnover. Employees want to grow and prosper within the organization ? their organization is where they want to find fulfillment. Otherwise, they would not have joined the company in the first place.

Capacity can be enhanced in your department, even if you do not have an abundance of funds. While we will provide dozens of examples throughout this ongoing blog (excerpts of a book by Dr. Charles Coker, CEO LifeThrive), here are a few things you may want to consider as you focus on maximizing your leadership potential:

Help your employees develop increased confidence by improving their:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Acceptance of constructive feedback
  • Have regular one-on-one meetings, rather than just annual reviews
  • Annual reviews assess competency
  • One-on-one meetings build capacity
  • Make an effort to become creative as well as an ?armchair? psychologist
  • Find ways to communicate with others? personalities
  • Find ways to enhance employees? personal well-being

The employees we surveyed indicated that capacity can be measured at greater than 70% accuracy. The problem is that, of those surveyed, less than 10% indicated they had been assessed for their ability to grow and mature as employees. This seems to be a very short-sighted approach from an organizational, operational effectiveness and investment perspective.? There are numerous assessments that measure individual capacities on multiple levels.

Best practices organizations make sure they identify an individual?s ability to solve problems, conceptual thinking and continuous learning. This ensures there is room for growth and development, so employees can take on new jobs and leadership roles. They want to create a perpetual cycle of growth by increasing the competence level of the individual?s skill sets, and deepening their character which increases their willingness.

Focus on the right priorities

As we bring this to a close, our hope is that you understand competence and character do not guarantee success. It also does not slow down turnover, which is a genuine problem in organizations of all sizes. You must also consider the fact that your employees? focus is normally different than that of the organization.

Your challenge as a manager is to bring the tasks and people together in a way in which everyone benefits.? This can be referred to as people optimization. And, the first step to optimization always starts with measurement. Understanding how to measure the all aspects of an employee?s motivations will be your first step to success.

As there are 4Cs you will want to focus on, there are also four stages of an employee?s life cycle. By focusing on the right priorities, and measuring the key components of those priorities, your chances of success grow exponentially. By focusing on each step of the process you will save time, money and stress. As you have learned by now, successful employees are comprised of much more than skill sets. After addressing the types of assessment that will best address your needs, we will give you guidance on how to handle challenges that you face, including:

  • How, despite behavioral benchmarks, it?s rarely possible to hire a candidate that perfectly fits your job profile
  • How you can only manage certain aspects of your employee?s makeup ? competencies and character
  • Development of an individual?s potential, capacity to grow, and department chemistry
  • Possessing a ?win-win? strategy in order to retain your best employees

About the author 

Chuck Coker

For more than 30 years, Chuck has focused his career on people's development. He has implemented proprietary Personal Formation, Human Capital, Talent Management, and incentive-based programs across a broad scope of Fortune Companies, regional organizations, and educational institutions.


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