Harness Synergy

Harness Synergy

What is the usual scenario in your office whenever it is time for you to be away for a few days, either on business or on some personal matter?

Is the atmosphere frantic, with you feverishly giving last minute instructions to your staff, telling them you will be expecting regular reports from them over email and voicemail even when you are away and grating on each other’s nerves?  And while you are actually away, are you always worried that something might go wrong at work without you to watch over your staff?

Or is the atmosphere relaxed, just like it normally is, with everything going smoothly like clockwork as it always does?  In this case, do you find that it is no longer necessary for you to press any last minute instructions because you know that it is clear with your staff just what you expect from them while you are away?  And while you still expect your staff to give you feedback through email and voicemail, you trust them enough to know that the work that needs to be done will be done by the time you get back?

If the scenario at work whenever you need to be away from the office is similar or even better than the latter, then you have already discovered how to harness synergy.  If it is the first scenario that you always need to face whenever you need to go on travel away from the office, then it is hoped that this article will be of help to you.

The practice of harnessing synergy is the sixth habit described in Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  The idea behind the concept of synergy is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It means that the combined effort of two or more people is greater than the effort they each exerted alone. Synergy, according to Dr. Covey, is the essence of a principle-centered leadership.

Synergy is powerful in teams when it is harnessed, be it in the workplace or in families, because it builds on the strengths that the individual members of the team offer. Conversely, these strengths compensate on the weaknesses possessed by each individual member.  In the process, the atmosphere built by synergy in the office, at home and anywhere else is an atmosphere that nurtures trust, generosity and self-esteem, an atmosphere where members of the team are more focused on providing service and contributing to the team, and an atmosphere where people are less selfish, less judgmental and less polarized.

Synergy, however, depends largely on trust. In order to unleash and harness synergy in your team, you need to build a large reserve in your team’s emotional bank account.  It means that you need to build your team’s trust in you as the leader, and you have to encourage your team to start trusting each other. 

Understandably, it is not easy to build trust.  Building trust, after all, takes time.  This is why some managers are hesitant to take on this approach; they consider this “inefficient.” Harnessing synergy, however, yields to results that are exponentially greater than what would have been expected without it. As Dr. Covey put it, in synergy, 1 + 1 is not just equal to 2, but it can be equal to 3, to 8, to 16, to even 1,600. 

Building the trust that is necessary to harness synergy takes time.  And as the leader of your team, it has to start with you. The more you open yourself – your ideas, your thoughts, your doubts and your problems – to your team, and the more genuine you are in your expression, you make it safer for the other members of your team to be as open as you are with them.  It is an application of the Golden Rule; if you want your team to be open with you, you have to be open with them as well. In this way, you pave the way for mutual understanding and creative cooperation to develop in your team.  You allow synergy to develop and be harnessed in your team.

If synergy is harnessed in your team, then it means that each member of the team knows and understands the quirks of the other members.  They are aware of how the other members think, and they know that each of them is different from the other. In spite of these differences, there is respect and there is trust. Most importantly, they learn to value what these differences bring to the team.

Naturally, because the people that make up the team are different, there will be conflicts and disagreements. Nonetheless, if synergy is harnessed and the emotional bank account is high, the attitude taken when dealing with these conflicts involves a genuine effort to understand where the other is coming from, other than being defensive of one’s own position.

According to Dr. Covey, this attitude is embodied by this statement: “If a person of your intelligence and competence and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something to your disagreements that I don’t understand, and I need to understand it.”

In a team where synergy is harnessed, therefore, the members of the team trust each other enough to value the differences that make each member unique and what these differences bring to the team.  When there is conflict, they learn to not face conflict defensively and instead attempt to understand the reason behind the conflict.  This understanding broadens perspectives.

If synergy is harnessed in your team, you do not need to worry about things not going smoothly and goals not being achieved whenever you need to be away from the office, whether to go on a business trip or to attend to personal matters.  You will be confident that your team will remain functioning as if you are physically there.  And if problems do erupt while you are away, you know you can count on the team to get in touch with you as soon as possible. This is what harnessing synergy entails.

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