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Chemistry matters: Ask the Blue Jays

'We' can be powerful

By Ian Hendry

Twenty-two years is a long time.

For those of you requiring some reference to this last statement, the Toronto Blue Jays have made the baseball playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993 — a drought of 22 years. Regardless of what happens in these playoffs, the media have spurred Blue Jay fan interest coast to coast. People I know who do not usually follow baseball have been swallowed up in this excitement. Suddenly, the Jays are OUR team. “We” want to win the World Series again.

As Tim Cork reminded me this week, “We” can be powerful. Last week, 20,000 people were at the Air Canada Centre to celebrate the success of the "Free the Children" movement. Over the past 20 years, Craig and Marc Kielburger have built this powerful movement fuelled by youth, many between the ages of 12-16. The purpose of Free the Children is to create sustainability in communities around the world that need help, hope, and a school built. The result --over 650 schools have been built, with 55,000 kids attending these schools every day, and, access to clean water for 1 million people who did not have this before. The collective “We” has made a huge difference.

The Blue Jays do not have as noble a purpose, but, nonetheless, their winning ways have galvanized Canadians. In describing their success, here is some of the language used by the players:

  • "we are a family."
  • "everybody genuinely cares about being a good teammate."
  • "we respect one another."
  • "we are brothers."
  • "you're worried about helping the guys around you. It allows you to be the best version of yourself that you can."
  • "no matter what kind of job you do, in any workplace, if you're surrounded by positive people you're going to be more productive."

The opposite was also cited by R.A. Dickey, a 40 year-old senior statesman who observed “when you’ve got a bunch of dripping faucets in the clubhouse who are negative all the time, that rubs off on everyone else.” All of these comments, and more, speak to team chemistry. One can debate the chicken and the egg scenario – does winning beget great chemistry, or does the character of the individuals create and build the chemistry that leads to success. It is those human intangibles that blend the right people, with the right character, with the requisite skills and attitude that lead the way to success. Even Anthopoulos, the GM, has acknowledged that his perspectives were a little misguided previously. “Performance, analytics, numbers. It isn’t everything. Chemistry matters.”

Rosie Di Manno captured it beautifully when she said, “if there’s a singular quality that defines this squad, it’s adherence to pure team ethos, so that no player – regardless of personal stats – breathes more rarified air.” It’s likely that many of us have used the expression, there is no “I” in team, but can many of us think of executive, or management teams we have participated in that would use all the descriptors that the Jays players have? Is it beyond reason that such camaraderie could exist in corporations? It’s the upcoming bonus season, and if we truly believe chemistry matters and the collective “WE” mentality is essential to success, can we seize the opportunity to provide a powerful message to the “I” contributors? As Anthopoulos recognized, “chemistry matters.”

Ian Hendry

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