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Getting back into the Habit: Number 6, Synergise

Here we are into January 2018. Christmas is well and truly over, the tree and trimmings are tidied away, and normal routines resume. Not much joy in this house about the return to school. And it’s FREEZING cold.

Ho hum.

Not a very cheery start.

So let’s talk about something much more exciting: a mind expanding approach to working together with other people – including and especially those you don’t normally see eye-to-eye with – to create something that is much bigger than it’s component parts. To synergise.

Because we are resuming our mini trawl through the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People with Habit Number 6: Synergise.

To synergise is to create something that is greater than the sum of it’s individual parts. I see one solution to a problem. You see another. We could get stuck in our own entrenched views that we are each right, and the other is wrong, and therefore achieve neither solution nor resolution. Or we could listen to each other with openness, seek to understand where the other is coming from, be motivated by seeking to achieve a creative solution, and work together to come up with a third way that neither of us would have thought of on our own.

This is synergy. It is the ‘habit of creative co-operation’ to quote Dr Covey.

This is perhaps the most difficult to get one’s head round without having read the whole book. All the previous habits lead up and into this one. How would I summarise this from my own experience?

Two examples spring to mind.

I work with a spiritual director, who is also a dear and precious friend. We are very different – our characters, our styles, our paradigms, our backgrounds, our approach. This could be a problem in working together if we allowed ego, insecurities or potential narrowmindedness to get in the way. But because there is a deep well of trust, authenticity and vulnerability in our relationship, and because we are both secure in ourselves and our skills in our respective professions, we are able to co-create materials and lead and work together in a way that is inspiring, energising and exciting. We synergise. We are open to new ideas and possibilities, and combine our skills and learn from each other in a way that makes something new and better than what either of us could do alone.

And in a recent experience working with a largish team, there was a moment when the dynamic in the room shifted. You could almost feel the creative energy crackling as people stopped being limited by what they couldn’t do, and their own individual view of the problem, and started collectively seeing a much bigger solution that was not about any one individual but about the team as a whole.

For me, the key ingredients in creating synergy are these:

Get yourself out of the way

This is not about you or getting your way. There is no room for being protective, defensive, adversarial, or judgmental of the other person.

Build internal security

Know who you are, what you can do and what is most important to you. That way, it is easier and less threatening to say to someone with a very different viewpoint – help me see it from your point of view, so I can learn.

Create trust, openness and safety

Be willing to be honest, real and authentic. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to be vulnerable and open up a bit. It can take considerable courage to talk about the elephant in the room, but if done with grace and a humble spirit, often it is a very powerful way of dismantling defenses, and moving beyond polite and respectful to real, open and empathic communication. Create freedom to think out loud, no matter how daft those

Do you see a young girl or an old woman?

Do you see a young girl or an old woman?

thoughts may sound in your head.

Value differences

Do you see a young lady or an old woman? Neither are wrong. It is possible to have a very different view from someone else, but for both parties to be right. If we take a “I’m right and it’s my way or no way” approach, we risk causing division, resentment and cutting off any kind of creative solution making. When we trust the other person and have taken time to really listen to and understand where they are coming from, if they then disagree with us it is easier to say “I trust and respect you, help me understand this from your perspective and see what I am not getting.”

Don’t be afraid of not knowing the process

You may know the outcome – an new solution that currently does not exist. But you may have no idea how to get there. This can be scary, especially if you like known processes and procedures. But embrace the spirit of adventure and creativity and be open to learn, grow, have your mind expanded!

When we learn to value each other and our differences in perception,  and we learn to see that there might not be a single black and white answer, we can work together to find a third, richer and more creative solution.

I see the young woman, and really struggle to see the old lady. You help me see the old lady, and I show you where the young woman is.

And together, we see two women. We synergise.



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