Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

2.10. Team synergy

ryanrori February 7, 2021

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If learning from differences can occur, synergy becomes possible. Synergy is another of those “flavour of the month” buzz words that rarely bear much fruit. Real synergy is the force that occurs when two or more agents act in concert so that the product of their combined energy is greater than the sum of their individual energies acting independently. 

There are several principles of synergy that can be helpful. They are as follows:

  • Synergy is possible within any team.
  • The amount of synergy possible is directly proportional to the amount of diversity within the team. 
  • The amount of synergy actually generated within a team is directly proportional to how much the team values and learns from its diversity.
  • All members of teams will willingly contribute to the synergy if they perceive from their individual perspectives that:
    • Their point of view will be fully and authentically considered when it is offered.
    • Their self-interests will be maintained or enhanced, but certainly not harmed.

A small group of people feed off each other’s ideas and backgrounds to invent something that none could have invented alone.

What is fascinating is that synergy occurs in most teams—when a real crisis hits. Virtually every team has legends about how everyone pulled together, invented new solutions, and met the deadline when the machine broke down, when the accreditation people were coming, when the proposal had to get out, when the CEO was going to visit. People will create synergy when mutual survival seems at stake—such irony. Synergy needs to be created before mutual survival becomes at stake. 

If power is seen as summarised in the following table, it can create synergy:

Power is perceived as abundant.Power is a positive-sum, win/win game. Determining winners and losers has no value.
The purpose is to maintain the play of the game.It is a game easy to play well and without anxiety, as no one’s survival or self-esteem is at stake.
The continuance of the game is dependent upon the well-being of the players and their other relationships.It is a game that evokes cooperation and openness, while never allowing self or any player to take a loss.
Differences are used for their inherent value. They are the only source of learning that exists.Differences lead to interest, enthusiasm, curiosity, and learning.
Differences in role, race, gender, background, conformity, ethnicity, appearance, ideas, opinions, beliefs, rank, and behaviour are sources of interest, curiosity and learning.Being different is safe and welcome. It is a matter of personal choice.
Playing with and outside the rules are allowed to assure the flexibility needed to maintain the well-being of the players, hence, play of the game itself.Allows play with and outside the rules supporting extensive creativity and full self-expression.
The idea “power is abundant” is a self-fulfilling prophecy as partnerships are safe, stable, diverse, meaningful, and unlimited. A rewarding, highly influential way of life whenever we remember it as a possibility.
The paradigm of choice when growth and learning are primary goals.Everyone wins and no one loses. 

As stated earlier, diversity initiatives aimed at only race and gender issues do not begin to get at the full range of win/lose issues driven by the finite paradigm of power. Team energy is wasted over differences in ideas, opinions, communication style, management style, and function. A most prevalent difference used for win/lose games is rank. All of these differences, when used finitely, decrease information flow and lead to poor decision-making as well as unnecessary turmoil and turnover. With discipline and support, this waste can be stopped and turned into the new productivity that synergy can bring. Go for it. It is more than worth it in terms of both team member satisfaction and productivity!

Diversity: Difference or variety

Workplace diversity means the inclusion of people who belong to various cultural groups, or people with different human qualities.

Diversity therefore has two dimensions:

The primary dimensions of diversity include inborn differences, which can hardly change and have an ongoing impact throughout a person’s life. They are the core elements which shape a person’s outlook on the world and include: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, race and sexual orientation.

The secondary dimensions of diversity can be acquired or changed throughout a person’s lifetime and include: education, religious beliefs, political beliefs, geographic location, income, work background, parental status and marital status.

Managing Diversity

With an increasingly diverse workforce, organisations are finding that a “one style fits all” approach to people management is no longer effective.

To get the best results, and to attract the best people, an organisation needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to diversity management, which:

  • Respects and responds to the diverse requirements and needs of different individuals
  • Enables individuals to make full use of their diverse talents and experience
  • Raises awareness and understanding of the legal, ethical and strategic reasons for supporting workplace diversity
  • Encourages managers and staff to value diversity
  • Ensures commitment and support from top management downwards, for flexible practices and approaches to working, which respond to the various needs of different working individuals
  • Trains managers how to choose from and use a range of different management styles
  • Trains managers how to identify and use different people’s talents and working styles to the best possible effect.

Encouraging people to value diversity

There is strong evidence that groups, which have a diverse mix of experience, skills, knowledge and approach to work, are generally more creative and productive than groups with a more uniform profile.

Diversity is therefore a valuable organisational asset and people should be encouraged to perceive it as such.

How can a supervisor / team leader contribute to change people’s perceptions?

Encourage team members to acknowledge:

  • The experiences, skills, knowledge and approaches which they themselves contribute in their work with other team members
  • The contribution their team members make to their work, especially by introducing different perspectives and ideas
  • Ways in which their own personal attributes and those of their colleagues complement one another and work together to deliver required results

“Walk the talk” by demonstrating through your management style that you value and respond to the differences in your team members:

  • Identify what each member needs from you as his/her leader
  • Review your management style and the message it sends out about your attitude towards diversity.