In our previous post, we explored Habit #5 in Sean Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” a book that helps teens live their highest aspirations. (You can read about Habit #5 here.) This book is so life-changing, we send it to all full-time students upon enrolling! Today, we’re digging into Habit #6 in Covey’s book: “Synergize.”
Habit #6: Synergize
Do you know why geese fly in a V? Because drafting off each other-- much like cyclists in the Tour de France-- and taking turns being the head bird saves 71% of the energy it would take to fly solo. This, in essence is synergy: when two or more beings band together to create something better than they could have done alone. Covey calls synergy “the delicious fruit you’ll taste as you get better at living the other habits, especially at thinking Win-Win and Seeking First to Understand.”
To glean a better understanding of what synergy is, let’s first take a look, in true Covey-fashion, at what it is NOT:
Synergy is NOT tolerating differences. (Tolerance is oh-so-judgy.) Nor is it working independently, or thinking you’re always right. And surprisingly, it most definitely is not compromising. Tolerating differences, working independently, thinking you’re always right, and compromising are what Covey calls the four roadblocks to synergy.
Synergy IS celebrating differences, working together, keeping an open mind, and finding new and better ways. Some of these may seem like subtle distinctions, but they’re all reflections of the hard work you’ve already done shifting your mindset through the previous five habits.
“Synergy is everywhere in nature. The great sequoia trees (which grow to heights of 300 feet or more) grow in clumps and share a vast array of intermingled roots. Without one another, they would blow over in a storm.” - Sean Covey
So if synergy is so great, why isn’t the whole world tapping into its power? Remember those four roadblocks we mentioned? These keep synergy from rippling through us all like a huge, magical conductor.
The first roadblock to Synergy is diversity. Or, rather, how people approach it. Covey says, “The world is a great melting pot of cultures, races, religions, and ideas. Since this diversity around you is always expanding, you’ve got an important decision to make regarding how you’re going to handle it. There are three possible approaches you can take: Level 1: Shun diversity. Level 2: Tolerate diversity. Level 3: Celebrate diversity.” Covey goes on to explain that people who understand and embrace synergy “realize that celebrating differences doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with those differences, such as being a Democrat or a Republican, only that you value them. In their eyes, Diversity = Creative Sparks = Opportunity.”
Because of the different levels of approach people can take, diversity can be a contentious topic, but here’s the kicker: everyone, no matter their most prominently defining characteristics, is completely different. As Covey puts it, “we are all a minority of one.” Though we may group ourselves in with other people who look like us or share our religion, our gender, or our core values, the truth is, we’re all different. We learn differently, have different world views based off our unique experiences, and think differently. And good thing, too. If we were all the same, what a drag life would be! This is why we at CMASAS designed our personalized education program around helping students discover their unique genius: a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work.
So once you’ve learned to celebrate diversity, what gets in the way? According to Covey, the antithesis to celebrating diversity are threefold: ignorance, cliques, and prejudice. Ignorance comes from failing to question what you may not know, or which of your assumptions may be colored by your own narrative. Cliques keep us mired only in what we already understand, preventing real growth or discovery, and prejudice pins people into predetermined boxes, typically ones labeled “lesser value.” These bring us back to our second and third big-ticket Synergy roadblocks: thinking independently, and thinking you’re always right.
“Fortunately,” Covey counters, “the world is full of people who are warm within and who value diversity.” Think of the boy who stood up for you in the third grade lunchroom when that bully was pouring milk on your french fries? Or that friend from another culture who was genuinely interested in learning about yours? “Once you’ve bought into the idea that differences are a strength and not a weakness, and once you’re committed to at least trying to celebrate differences,” Covey states, “you’re ready to find the High Way.” (AKA: Synergy!)
When working together to build synergy, Covey explains, “it’s more than just compromise or cooperation. Compromise is 1 + 1 = 11/2. Cooperation is 1 + 1 = 2. Synergy is 1 + 1 = 3 or more. It’s creative cooperation, with an emphasis on the word creative. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Covey explains it like building a house. “If one 2" x 4" beam can support 607 pounds, then two 2" x 4"s should be able to support 1,214 pounds. Right? Actually, two 2" x 4"s can support 1,821 pounds. If you nail them together, two 2" x 4"s can now support 4,878 pounds. And three 2" x 4"s nailed together can support 8,481 pounds.”
No matter where you’re going in life, synergy can help you get there faster and easier.
Here’s Covey’s 5 Tip Action Plan for Accessing Synergy:
Define the problem/opportunity facing you. In one sentence, what’s the core issue at hand? Make sure you know what it is, or you’ll be going in circles. Ex: Mom and Dad want me to go on a trip, and I want to stay home with my friends.
Their Way. Practice Part I of Habit 5: Seek first to understand the others involved. Ex: How do your parents feel? Why do they want you to come on the trip? What’s their reason for you to not stay home? Use active listening to engage them by using techniques like mirroring.
My Way. Enforce Part II of Habit 5: Seek to then be understood by sharing your ideas. Ex: Why do you want to stay home? Remember to use Covey’s “I before You” sentence structure!
Brainstorm. Create new options and ideas. Get creative. Piggyback of each other’s best ideas. Avoid criticizing ideas you don’t like- that will shut down the synergy.
High Way. Find the best solution. (Then run with it!)
Covey says, “If you will follow the basics of the above formula, you’ll be amazed at what can happen. But it takes a lot of maturity to get to synergy. You have to be willing to listen to the other point of view. You then need to have the courage to express your point of view. Finally, you’ve got to let your creative juices flow.”
Join us next time as we delve into Covey’s final habit, Habit #7: “Sharpen the Saw.” Be sure to join our newsletter so you won’t miss a post!