The Law of the Catalyst

Winning Teams Have Players Who Make Things Happen


Most teams don’t spontaneously progress all by themselves. Without stimulus, they don’t develop, flourish and reach a competitive level. To the contrary, they usually unravel. The path to greater success is continuously ascending, and your Minneapolis team needs to be deliberately battling to progress upwards, or else it will unavoidably slip downhill. In a downhill state, the team’s single-mindedness evaporates, its harmony disintegrates, its power lessens, and its pace falls off. Unavoidably, it suffers the loss of vital members. And at some point, its peak performance winds down to average functioning. In order for a team to continue to execute at a high level, it needs a catalyst.



Three Kinds of Team Members

At pivotal moments, a catalyst is essential, no matter if it’s the sales rep who burns past the yearly target, the sports player who rallies the team for an important win, or a teacher who encourages a student to reach his potential. A team can only attain a target if it has a catalyst.

 Whether we’re looking at sports, business, education or family relationships, the same is true. When it’s crunch time, three types of people emerge in a team:


1.     People Who Know They Can’t Handle the Stress or Don’t Have the Talent

A first group are team members who aren’t able to carry the team in tough circumstances, and they are aware of their shortcomings. Consequently, they don’t want the duty of rallying the team to triumph. And they shouldn’t have it. They should be permitted to work in their zone of power.


2.     People Who Think They Can Handle the Stress, But Can’t, or Think They Have the Talent, But Don’t

Another group of people can’t push the team to triumph. The difficulty is that they are not perceptive enough to know they can’t. Many times, the basis is that this team member has a self-image that is bigger than their ability. This person may be hazardous to a team.


3.     People Who Know They Can Handle the Stress and Have the Talent

The last and smallest group is made up of people who want to be the team member everyone turns to in a tight situation and who are good in those situations. When a difficult circumstance arises, these teammates press on towards, move forwards towards, and set in motion success. Catalysts are what we call them.


Each team requires catalysts if it wishes to go to the next level. Even a team with a lot of talent needs a catalyst to make success happen.


Characteristics of a Catalyst


It’s straightforward to see the catalyst of a team after they have created success out of a tense situation. You can see specific instances when the individual created magic and brought the team with him. But how do you identify a catalyst in advance of him showing his talent? How do you search for catalysts for your existing team?

It doesn’t matter what type of team you’re a part of, you can be certain catalysts have distinct traits that make them stand out from their teammates. The following nine traits are usually existent in catalysts:


1.     Intuitive

Catalysts pick up on things other people don’t pick up on. They may identify a change in the market just as it is happening. They might be able to infer a jump that changes a difficulty into a benefit.  They use whatever they pick up on to assist the team in getting ahead.

With various teams, how intuition presents itself varies. That’s right, because the target of the team decides what the team sees as important. Another cause is that a person is most intuitive in their sphere of innate ability. For example, for a corporation, the catalyst may be a salesperson who can sense a customer’s need where no one else can. For a nonprofit business, it may be a leader who can recognize self-motivation and can sign on enthused volunteers. For a basketball team, it may be a point guard who senses a defense that isn’t adapting easily and decides on a play that wins the game. Each situation is different, but the outcome is the same: a catalyst perceives a chance, and the effect is that the team profits.


2.     Communicative

Catalysts are not afraid to say what needs to be said to shift the team to a higher energy. At times they talk to impart what they have intuitively felt, so that the team will be more equipped to go through the task. At other times their reason is to motivate or incite other teammates. And they normally understand when a team member requires a lift and when he requires something a little stronger. 

Whenever a team, all of a sudden, speeds up the tempo or raises their work up to the next level, you’ll observe one team member speaking, guiding, and encouraging others. You’ll observe it, also, with persuasive political figures. People such as Churchill, Kennedy and Reagan transformed the world with their comments. They were catalysts who communicated.



3.     Passionate

Catalysts are passionate about their work, whatever it is, and they aim to impart that enthusiasm to their teammates. At times the passion bursts out as a constrained ferocity to realize ambitions in their zone of passion. At other times it expresses itself as a spreading excitement. In whatever way it reveals itself, it can stir a team to victory.


4.     Talented 

Catalysts are able to do what other people cannot, because their ability is as robust as their passion. A person usually becomes a catalyst in an area of proficiency and genius. That’s true because of two principal causes. First, talent understands what the team needs to succeed. Second, a catalyst’s talent has to be superior in order for teammates to allow themselves to be influenced by the catalyst. Part of being a catalyst is sharing your ability with your teammates.


5.      Creative

A characteristic usually found in catalysts is creativity. Catalysts imagine in ways other people do not. While many team members may do their work by the book, catalysts think in ways different than their teammates. They are continuously searching for novel, inventive ways to work.

Says American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, “Almost all creativity requires purposeful play.” A catalyst finds their work fun. At times, what they create can vary the speed of how something is done. Then again, they might all together change how something is done.


6.      Initiating

Creative people are enjoyable to be around. To be honest, I consider myself one of them, especially in the area of problem solving. But creative people are not all created equal. Most have plenty of creative ideas, but they aren’t all good at executing their ideas.

Conversely, catalysts can and do execute their creative thoughts. They are able to do this because their acts are well-ordered. They are thrilled to make an idea materialize. Their lead can really take any shape: the drummer in a band playing riffs during the band leader’s introduction to relax the band and crowd, a single mom sending her troubled son to his father for some male influence, or a business owner giving out quarterly awards to improve morale. In this way they lead. And so, they prod the team as they prod themselves.


7.     Responsible

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself,” says artist Andy Warhol. This could be the adage for catalysts. Catalysts do not take the consultant role. They don’t advise a certain direction. They adopt the direction for their own and take the team with them.


8.      Generous

Catalysts are more giving than other people. A real sign of people’s taking accountability is their readiness to lend themselves to making success happen. Catalysts show that attribute. They are inclined to spend their assets on the team. That could mean giving their time, giving their money or foregoing personal gain.


9.      Influential

Catalysts guide team members in a way others cannot. Teammates will go along with a catalyst when they won’t act for anyone else. If a talented teammate is not skilled in leadership, he may still be a valuable catalyst in his area of proficiency.


When you see more than a couple of these nine traits in a person on your team, be encouraged.  In a critical situation, they are apt to stretch their abilities and challenge their teammates to stretch their abilities, too.

 With a catalyst, your team has a chance to succeed every time. On winning teams, there are players who surpass expectations. With these players, a team can reach its possibilities. That is the Law of the Catalyst.


Be a Better Team Member 

What kind of person are you in decisive circumstances? Are you the go-to person or is someone else? If there is a teammate with greater ability and who is more effectual, then you should not intend to be the catalyst. In that case, you can be helpful by supporting the spotlight person in order to aid the team. But if you are not the go-to person because you are fearful or because you haven’t exerted yourself as much as you should have to better yourself, then you ought to change your approach.



Change yourself for the better by doing the following:


  • Find a mentor. Team members become catalysts with help from people better than themselves. Find a person who is further along the path you are on, who wants to spend time with you.

  • Begin an improvement process. Develop your talents and skills. You can only bring the team to the next level if you’ve been there first.

  • Stretch yourself. Go past what you’ve done in the past. See what you are made of.


If you abide by these directives, you may become a catalyst, but you may not. What is important is that you will become a better version of yourself.


Be a Better Team Leader 

If you are a team leader, you must have catalysts to bring about progress in your team. By using the list of characteristics in this post, you can start to recognize team members who fit the catalyst profile. You can support these go-getters to be positive influences on the team. If no one on the team fits the bill, sign up new team members who can be catalysts. A team only reaches the highest peaks with catalyst teammates.



Stephen Crawford