This 'SP Page' is based on Covey, pages 261 to 284. Spend 2.5 hours on this material to successfully meet the module outcomes and requirements.

When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they're open to each other's influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.

Valuing differences is what really drives synergy. Do you truly value the mental, emotional, and psychological differences among people? Or do you wish everyone would just agree with you so you could all get along? Many people mistake uniformity for unity; sameness for oneness. One word—boring! Differences should be seen as strengths, not weaknesses. They add zest to life.

To put it simply, synergy means "two heads are better than one." Synergise is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. But it doesn't just happen on its own. It's a process, and through that process, people bring all their personal experience and expertise to the table. Together, they can produce far better results that they could individually. Synergy lets us discover jointly things we are much less likely to discover by ourselves. It is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. One plus one no longer equals two when discussing synergy. One plus one equals three, or six, or sixty—you name it.

Built on differences rather than similarities

The essence of synergy is placing value on the differences between people, and building on those differences to compensate for weaknesses. Synergy, in turn, is the core of principle-centered leadership. The author says that many of us haven’t actually experienced synergy in our family lives or in other interactions. We’ve been shaped into defensive and protective communications or into believing that life or other people can’t be trusted. Therefore, we have a tendency to not open up to this highly effective principle which “requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure”.

Mental, emotional and psychological differences between us mean that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. Recognising our own perceptual limitations and appreciating the rich resources available through the interaction with other human beings takes humility and reverence. Covey illustrates the point that two people can disagree and both be right with an illustration similar to this one:

Synergy and Communication

Below are 3 different levels of communication and the level of trust that is associated to each:

Defensive communication is of the lowest level and comes out of low-trust situations. It’s characterised by defensiveness, protectiveness and legalistic language which prepares for the eventuality that things may go wrong, that people may become resentful. Such communication isn’t effective and produces only Win/Lose or Lose/Lose outcomes.

Respectful communication is characterised by honesty, authenticity and respect which produces a low form of Win/Win, a compromise where 1+1 = 1½.

Synergistic communication means that 1+1 may equal 8, 16 or even 1600. The situation produced is better than any originally proposed.

Covey says that even if there are circumstances in which synergy is not achievable and “No Deal” isn’t viable, the spirit of sincere trying will usually result in a more effective compromise.

Unlocking the potential in others

Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.
  • Use the four unique human endowments to aid in unlocking the capacity of others to develop into something in the future.
  • Appeal to a Win/Win way of being by: putting ourself in the other person's shoes; identify the key issues and concerns; identify outcomes that would be fully mutually beneficial; and think up new options and possibilities to make these happen.
  • Seek first to understand—by way of empathic listening—to communicate in such a way that all parties are listening to be understood.
  • Live with an open heart and open mind.

How to communicate synergistically

How would we communicate synergistically, then? Is trying sincerely to listen all it takes? Well, not really. We should take into account how synergy is directly proportional to both trust and cooperation. One moves from defensive, respectful to synergistic as both trust and cooperation increase between people. A number of contributing factors nurture the movement from defensive to synergetic communication, including:

  • Value the differences between people;
  • Respect these differences;
  • Build on the identified strengths;
  • Compensate for any and all weaknesses;
  • Find a third alternative when stuck at an impasse; and
  • Avoid negative synergy.

Advantages of synergy

Synergy allows us to truly interact with other people, whilst learning a wide spectrum of knowledge and skills from them. It teaches us to affirm and trust others. We live more effective lives when we learn to respect others and allow them to become involved, and simultaneously, part of the solution to ongoing problems. These solutions tend to result in better, more creative outcomes.

Remember, in relationships the whole is more than the sum of its parts. One plus one no longer equals two when referring to interpersonal relationships.

Conditions for synergy

The following conditions foster an atmosphere of synergy and allow for us to place value on the differences between people:

  • Difficult tasks;
  • Absence of competition;
  • Mutual pursuit of Win/Win; and
  • Empathic communication.

Requirements for cooperators

  • Recognise the limits of your own understanding and insufficiently of your experience;
  • Perfect your strong points and compensate for your weak ones; and
  • Respect and value differences.

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