Several of us were in the conference room discussing consumer complaints. We were working to reduce the complaints received for the products produced in our plant. I have strong opinions on some measures that would reduce the complaints and as the team leader I could easily influence the team to implement my ideas. But the team is cross functional and most of the team members have worked at that food processing plant longer than I have. The wise choice is to respect the opinions and value the differences of each member of the team. The synergy of the team as a whole can do more than the sum of the parts and certainly can do more than I can alone. Synergize is the 6th habit of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey:
Habit 4: Seek Win / Win Solutions – Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood – Principles of Empathic Communication
Habit 6: Synergize – Principles of Creative Cooperation
Covey teaches that the essence of synergy is to value differences, respect them, to build on strengths, and to compensate for weaknesses. Be open to new possibilities, new alternatives, and new options. He also teaches that as the levels of communication increases, so does trust and cooperation. As communication, trust, and cooperation all increase, you can move from defensiveness to respectful compromise to synergistic win-win scenarios. How can you apply this at work? Let’s look at a couple of teams in a lean manufacturing plant:
The first is a safety team. They are meeting to review the safety audit results. This team has members from all departments and different levels of seniority within the plant. Each brings a unique perspective to the team. Each opinion is valued and the team seeks to understand each other’s opinion. They bounce ideas off each other until they have a solution that everyone feels good about.
Another team is a Productivity Kaizen team. They are working to reduce the issues causing line down time. There could be a lot of defensiveness in some plants as lines are drawn in the sand and everyone is guarding their turf. This team though is looking for ways to improve rather than looking for someone to blame. As a result, each member is willing to concede that they can learn from each other and are willing to make changes to improve efficiencies. Operators accept changes to operating procedures. Mechanics accept improved inspections and planned maintenance procedures. Engineers accept design changes to improve the production line. Each group works together to identify the needed changes, implement systems to support the changes, and to communicate those changes to the plant.
These examples may sound idealistic yet teams are meeting like this every day. Synergy is powerful. I was able to achieve more with my Consumer Complaint team by building on the ideas of others. What problems could you solve by truly working with a team who has different opinions than you do? Synergize and you will become a better leader.
View all 7 Habits