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Table of Human Elements: chemistry and team leadership

Shiloh Slomsky, MSA LTBB, SEEDS Director

As a follow-up to last month’s story about leadership, we heard from Shiloh Slomsky, SEEDS Program Director for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. She enjoyed the story and offered her thoughts on leadership/team building. We asked her to write a story for this month’s NLEA newsletter. Thank you Shiloh!

While attending Petoskey High School, one of my favorite classes was chemistry. The act of taking away or adding different elements and variables to create molecules or compounds was fascinating. Sometimes the end result was beautiful and other times disastrous. In either scenario, the experience allowed me to see how various interactions played out.

Over time my interest in the “what if” never ceased—eventually steering me to study leadership and social diffusion. One outlook I took home was the ideology that: contrasts within a group are advisable. However, to my surprise, I often see team implementation occur where people with like similarities are chosen under the assumption that an archaic group is most desirable. Yet, the method of creating a workforce or team in clone fashion is not necessarily the best practice. Usually, having a group with high levels in a few characteristics, abilities, and skills will often underperform a more complex group.

For perspective, I often compare community interactions and outcomes to chemistry. If you think of building a team or group in terms of creating a compound and all you have are oxygen and hydrogen atoms (both introvert and shy), the end result is a crew of oxygen and hydrogen. At this point, even the creation of water is not possible. Yet, if you have oxygen, hydrogen (introvert), and a burst of energy (extrovert), you get a positive reaction and can produce something new—water. Taking it up a notch, if you have a team of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and energy, the outcomes are greater and now the creation of water and sugar is possible.

Social synergy and corresponding conclusions are often greater when involving varied inputs, skills, strengths, and knowledge. Under these terms, a network of individuals with contrary expertise and proficiencies will generally result in the group’s ability to fill the gaps of any one individual by conglomerating between individuals. Similar to creating a complicated compound, the more variable the team or workforce the multifarious problems and innovations can be analyzed, answered or created.

The next time your organization seeks to create a team or add a member to the workforce remember that having all oxygen type people will limit the organizations’ ability to effectively face challenges, overcome obstacles, or be innovative. Instead, try to identify the individual who fills the gaps that currently exist. If the organization has plenty of extroverts, seek an introvert. If the organization is filled with people high in technical skills, seek a person with high social skills. Similarly, don’t perceive someone who is more social than most, or vice versa, someone who is not social at all, as a negativity. Rather, seek the value of both and take measures to create a complete Table of Human Elements within your organization. In doing so, you ensure the organization has the right components to face or create just about anything.

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