Ray Garner said synergy was “when the creation of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Synergistic team cultures are the secret sauce of brilliant, results-producing teams.
But what’s the secret sauce of the secret sauce? How do you actually build synergistic team cultures when the parts of the whole are more like a box of tools than a synchronised machine?
[Not that I, or you, would ever call your colleagues ‘tools’. Note to self: metaphor could go wrong here…]
The solution is elegant in its simplicity, and deep with impact.
Here it is:
Step 1. Create Safety
It all starts with creating SAFETY in the group. When people feel comfortable in a group, it meets a deep, profound primal need to belong. Our ancestors roamed about in furs and gathered in caves together because it was literally safer in a group to fend off marauding flesh-eating nasties, and other rival tribes, than going it alone.
Creating safety in a group is actually more subtle than simply shoving a group of people together in some office cave and dubbing them members of the ‘fill in the blank’ team.
Creating safety requires strong commitment from the leader.
Here are some key starting tips:
- Set boundaries and guidelines for group behaviour – what is acceptable and what is not. Like, it’s ok to praise Susie publicly for her diligent work and buy her a donut, but it’s not ok to make fun of George for his body odour and tuna snacks.
- Celebrate the truth tellers for they share the golden nuggets of what-feels-like-snot-but-are-really-golden-nuggets. Truth is one person’s perspective, but sometimes that perspective is the part you can’t see – like the bald patch at the back of your head. It hurts to be shown, but if you don’t know about it, you can’t do anything about it.
- Know your peeps – them peeps be humans, and them humans have stories, and things they care about, and things they like, and don’t like, are excited about, and afraid of, and hope for. Don’t crush their soul by treating them like automatons.
Step 2. Leverage Talent
I had my biggest breakthrough as a leader when I learned that people thought differently to me, and preferred to work differently to me, and that my way was not always the best way. [Who knew? After all, I was so good and perfect and all …]
My favourite tool [there’s that word again] for understanding talent is the behaviour profiling instrument, DISC. I love it because it focuses on behaviour – and behaviour is adaptable and a choice. It also shows WHY people have certain behaviour preferences (and why some drive you absolutely batty while others you want to make your best bud).
Knowing your teammates’ behaviour preferences and strengths gives you secret insider magic to make the most of these – so your team is robust, thriving, and high fiving all over the place.
Step 3. Manage difference
As per my discovery that others are different to me, I also worked out that they don’t always agree with me. Shocking, I know.
Difference is a source of enlightenment. Feedback is good for growth. Repeat mantra.
As a leader, you will need to manage difference, like, all the time. As soon as you put two and more sets of eyes, ears, mouths in one place, you will have difference. And it’s a beautiful thing, when you do it right.
Here’s the best part of the model: it’s the magic that happens when these spheres interact.
Sweet Spot #1: When you create safety, and leverage talent, you get ENGAGEMENT. People feel secure in their work, and their best talents and preferences are being used effectively, they are free to excel and perform.
Sweet Spot #2: When you leverage talent and manage difference, you get RESPECT. Folks are feeling valued for their skills and talents, and being recognised for their unique perspective – they will feel respected, and will return that good stuff too.
Sweet Spot #3: When you manage difference and create safety, you get TRUST. Jim Bob and Mary Sue know that they belong and it’s ok to make mistakes, and it’s ok to have a different opinion and have different accents, then they feel trusted.
And trust will flow forth from them, creating the golden elixir of leadership – OXYTOCIN. Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone that occurs during breast-feeding, and also in well-bonded teams. It is the perfume and currency of synergistic team cultures.
If you sandwich synergistic team culture between a well-formed and meaningful purpose and its results, you have the breakfast of leadership champions.
Now that’s worth getting out of bed for!