Thriving in Times of Change: The Magic of Synergy

Everyone is talking about the new normal, but nobody knows what that really means for individuals and businesses. All we know is that much of what we took for granted has changed and that we need to change too.

This is part two of my reflections on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of my favourite management books. As I revisited the book, I was struck by how much we need to understand and apply these timeless principles today.

I think one of the positive things to emerge from people’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic is the realisation that we need each other, that we are truly interdependent. We need to understand, more than ever, the principles of creative cooperation – that’s Habit 6, Synergise.

Stephen Covey says that achieving synergy is the “…highest activity in life, the crowning achievement of the other habits.” It means making the whole greater than the sum of the parts, bringing people together to find new solutions.

Managers, leaders: This is how to thrive in a time of change – be courageous and seek to create the magic of synergy within your organisations and within your customer and supplier relationships. The 7 Habits tell us how to do it.

First, cultivate the first three habits to create the truly secure and independent foundation you need – be proactive, start with the end in mind and put first things first.  As Stephen Covey says, “Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships”.  Pay attention to your ‘emotional bank account’ with people – deposits made through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping commitments build a reserve of trust.

Next, apply the habits of creative collaboration (4, 5 and 6).

Think Win/Win

Look for mutually beneficial solutions. Commit to discussions that combine a high level of consideration to understand what the other party wants, with a high level of courage to present what you want. Believe that for you to win doesn’t mean that the other person has to lose. For example, think about supply chain agreements, or framework agreements with clients, that you want to deliver value over the long term. Or consider how to set up the best conditions for colleagues to cooperate rather than compete.

Seek First to Understand…Then to be Understood

This principle of empathic communication is the single most important principle to improve relationships – personal or business. When we really listen to understand, not just waiting for a gap to reply, we show that person that they are affirmed, valued and appreciated. This in itself is a significant deposit into the emotional bank account and builds trust.

Next time you are entering a discussion with a colleague, supplier or customer, try listening to really understand first. Stephen Covey points out that you wouldn’t want your doctor to prescribe without first listening to diagnose! When you fully understand the other person’s needs and concerns, make sure they understand yours too. Now you both have a full understanding of the issue and, perhaps, different viewpoints that bring in new information or possibilities.


This is where the magic happens. Based on high levels of trust, understanding and valuing the differences, and a commitment to cooperation, seek the third alternative – the win/win outcome. Managers who create the greatest synergy within teams, will achieve outstanding results. Businesses that do synergistic deals with suppliers and customers will thrive in times of change.

And finally…

Sharpen the Saw

The 7th habit is well known and I’m sure many have taken the opportunity of lockdown to do just this. It’s about taking care of your own physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual wellbeing, perhaps involving exercise or learning for self-improvement. Don’t be like the man struggling to saw down a tree with a blunt saw and arguing that he did not have time to sharpen the saw. This habit supports all the rest, ensuring that you maintain and develop your greatest asset – you.

If you are thinking about the issues and ideas presented in the 7 Habits and discussed above, you may find coaching helpful. Contact me via this website or LinkedIn if you would like me to help you to do some productive thinking on these topics.