- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On August 21, 2015
This post is the sixth in a series summarizing the book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m breaking the book down into 7 posts, one blog post per habit, and publishing one per week.
Today I’m covering habit #6, “synergize.” The definition of synergy used in the book is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In the context of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, synergy comes about by using the first 5 habits together. Stephen Covey states that the results you will get by using the first 5 habits together are far greater than you would get using each habit independently.
This kind of synergy occurs when we interact with other people but it rests upon us building a strong “internal base.” We build this “internal base” by learning and using habits 1-3 that apply to our own personal development (being proactive, beginning with the end in mind and putting first things first).
Value the difference
This is the toughest part of habit #6 from my experience. Covey wants us to value other people’s opposing opinions. He mentions early in the book that we all have different frames of reference. To obtain synergy in our endeavors we need to seek out frames of reference that differ from ours and embrace them.
The problem with this is it means well and truly parking your ego. That means having true control over your emotions. You are going to be in situations where you are really sure you have the correct answer but other people say you don’t. Can you embrace their point of view? Can you keep your emotions under control to understand before being understood?
If you’ve mastered habits 1-3 in the book then maybe taking personal criticism is easy for you. After all habit 1 is all about the choice we can make between stimulus and response.
The book uses the example of Viktor Frankl who survived in a concentration camp by changing his perceived reality. Compared to that situation changing your reactions to criticism in a business setting should be easy.
In reality however this skill is something I believe needs a large amount of practice. The times I’ve said something that in hindsight I would rather withdraw went by in the blink of an eye. In order to pull off this embracing of other people’s critical opinions you will need to catch yourself with some kind of “muscle memory.” You won’t have time to consciously think of it when the time comes.
Seek different ideas
The sixth habit is about truly listening to others. The goal is to get their help as they may see a problem from a totally different angle to you. Their view of the problem intermeshed with your view is where the synergy develops. It’s where the most creative ideas come from—from two, or more, people with widely different views of the world putting their thoughts together.
If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably been put in the position of being a change agent at some point. I find myself in this position quite a lot.
Being a change agent sounds exciting but it can be frustrating. Sometimes it seems that nobody wants to change. Even when you think your argument is overwhelming, other people will still say, “Why change? We’ve always done it this way. I don’t think this new way is any better.”
Covey points out that in most situations the forces pushing for change are typically logical whereas the forces holding back change are typically emotional—even subconscious. In order to make changes (where it makes logical sense) you have to create an atmosphere where the restraining forces weaken. Just increasing the logical force alone will not work.
You need to create an atmosphere in which people will talk about the emotional reasons they don’t want to change and you have to invest in truly understand their concerns. Once you truly understand their view of the situation you can work together to create win/win solutions. You will create goals together. Since these goals are developed jointly other people’s resistance to them will dissipate.
Seek out difficult people
Real synergy will likely occur when you work interdependently with people who are different to you. They may well be people you consider to be “difficult” because they do not share your worldview. It’s no easy commission but Covey directs us to seek out people who will disagree with us, truly listen to their view of things and then create win/win solutions. If we do this, he tells us, 1+1 will be way be bigger than 2!
You can read the other posts in this series here:
- Highly Effective Habit #1
- Highly Effective Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind
- Highly Effective Habit #3: First things first
- Highly Effective Habit #4: Think win/win
- Highly Effective Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then be understood