HABIT 6: SYNERGIZE
Synergy is the magic that happens when one plus one equals three – or more. It comes out of the spirit of mutual respect and understanding you’ve created and produces a brand-new way to solve a problem.
A friend recently told me a story that captures the essence of Habit 6:
After one week of practice, my son wanted to quit the high school basketball team. I was very disappointed. I worried that if he quit basketball he would just keep quitting things. My son didn’t want to hear me at all. I was so upset I walked away.
Over the next two days, I wondered just what had made him want to quit. Finally, I decided to talk to him again. [Habit 5: seeking to understand.] At first he didn’t even want to discuss it, so I asked him about other things. After some time, he began to tear up and he said,
“Dad, I know you think you understand me, but you don’t. No one knows how rotten I feel.”
I replied, “Pretty tough, huh?” [Habit 5: empathic listening.]
He then literally poured his heart out. He expressed his pain at constantly being compared to his brothers and said he felt I favoured them, He also told me about the insecurities he felt- not only in basketball, but in all areas of his life. And he said he felt that he and I had somehow lost touch with each other.
His words really humbled me. I had the feeling that what he said about the comparisons with his brothers was true. I acknowledged my sorrow to him [Habit 1: proactivity ] and-with much emotion–I apologized.
But I also told him that I still thought he would benefit from being on the team. He listened patiently, but he would not budge from his decision. Finally, I asked him if he liked basketball. He said he loved it, but he disliked all the pressure associated with playing for the school team. He said that instead, he would really like to play for the church team – but that team’s coach had just moved away.
I found myself feeling good about what he was saying. I was still a little disappointed that he wouldn’t be on the school team, but I was glad that he still wanted to play [Habits 4 and 5: win-win thinking and effort to understand].
At that point, almost by magic, a new idea came into both of our minds at the same time. In unison we said, “You could coach the church team!” [Habit 6: synergy and a new alternative solution]. The weeks I spent as the coach of that team were among the happiest of my athletic experiences. And they provided some of my most memorable experiences as a father.
This father and son seemed locked in a win – lose situation. But then the father made an important shift. He sought to really understand his son. Together they came up with a better way-an entirely new solution that was a true win for both.
The key to synergy is to celebrate the difference. It’s not enough to simply tolerate differences in the family. To have the kind of creative magic we’re talking about, you must be able to say sincerely, “The fact that we see things differently is a strength-not a weakness-in our relationship.”
Synergy also helps you to create a culture in which you can successfully deal with any challenge you might face. The culture created by Habits 4, 5 and 6 is like an immune system. It protects your family so that when mistakes are made, or when you get blindsided by some physical, financial or social challenge, you don’t get knocked out. You can deal with whatever life throws at you and use it to make the family stronger.