I want to talk about how synergy is the culmination and an underlying essence and guide of all the other habits we have learned. When we put into practice being proactive and defining our goals, synergy starts to happen for us - we start to see opportunities present themselves to us that synergize with our dreams and aspirations. Some call it "the secret," others call it "blessings," and others call it angelic assistance. It may just be that when someone works towards what they want, they start to manifest it themselves because those around them observe their diligence and proactive demeanor and open doors for them overtly or behind the scenes. In any case, synergy starts to be felt within this invisible process of manifestation started by the first two habits.
However, if we don't put first things first, we fall out of synergy because we are out of alignment with what is really important to us. We experience what we may consider set-backs and obstacles. We feel that our "flow" is disrupted and that achieving synergy is elusive. In my experience, these are often nudges that help me get back into alignment and in touch with what is most meaningful to me. They help me slow down to enjoy the journey, refine my dreams, and reassess priorities. Sometimes they serve to re-calibrate my compass, which has been pointing to a false North, which had put me on what I thought was the right path for my life. When I combine the first two habits with putting first things first, I experience a burst of serendipity and open doors - aka synergy.
The same is true of Covey's fourth habit of highly successful people. It states to "think win-win." Win-win solutions are inherently synergistic. When we employ the win-win paradigm in our lives and our work, we move into a new level of synergy because we become active agents in creating synergy with others and for others. We take synergy a step further and go from experiencing synergy in our lives to nurturing synergy in those around us. This, in turn, allows us to experience even more synergy like a wave of momentum moving us forward towards our own dreams AND the dreams of those we synergize with.
This goes hand-in-hand with being an active listener and seeking first to understand. We can't truly employ win-win thinking without being a good listener and internalizing other people's opinions and perspectives. I would say it is impossible to achieve win-win solutions without the ability to truly listen. This means not just listening when someone comes to us to speak to us, but also creating opportunities and eliciting conversations that will allow us to engage with what our colleagues, friends, family, students, etc. think about things that affect them.
I spoke with my family and children about synergy. They were aware of this concept, even my youngest of only six years old, because it is a common word used in our home. It is also a very common concept in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, it is one of the reasons why my husband and I chose to settle here permanently. Our adult son shared that he was very glad that the schools he went to in San Francisco all had educational leaders that appeared to understand and employ the concept of synergy intentionally in the schools he attended. He has grown up with this concept and thus, considers it common sense, but acknowledges that when he lived in rural Arizona last year, the "vibe" was different. When I asked him to elaborate, he said that it felt like most people he worked with at a supermarket in Arizona were more competitive, not as cooperative, and more suspicious of each other. In contrast, at his job at a market in California, co-workers were quick to figure out ways to help each other, coordinate schedules, divy up tasks in a synergistic way, etc. This ultimately made everyone's work more efficient, pleasant, and in his words "even fun." I agree that all aspects of life are more "fun" with synergy so they and I committed to synergizing even more with the distribution of household chores.
Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is the foundation needed to truly implement win-win solutions and make stakeholders feel welcomed and listened to. Active listening is a skill that requires intention, practice, and determination. Holding one's tongue and waiting for the other person to express themselves fully takes patience and discipline. Asking follow up questions before speaking one's own opinion takes a bit of courage too, especially the topic is controversial and we do not agree with the speaker's opinion.