In the workplace, this can be a catastrophic sentiment. If you do feel this way sometimes, you are missing the key ingredient to an effective work relationship: synergy.
What exactly is synergy?
Synergy is the working together of two things to produce a result greater than the sum of their individual effects (Wikipedia). When people come together to work towards a common goal, a team with synergy will accomplish that goal better and faster, than a team without synergy. To quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Hence, synergy can make 1 + 1 = 3.
Here are some concepts which can make or break synergy:
1. Knowing Your Team
To keep productivity high, you should know the strength and weaknesses of each individual on your team. No single person is an expert at everything. Place team members together to complement one another. For example, don’t make a habit of asking your web developer to do the job of a systems administrator, and your graphic designer to do the job of a web developer. Put the right people in the right place at the right time.
Listening to your team is crucial to the overall results. In kickoff meetings for new projects, rather than going through all the requirements in a meeting, and delegating responsibilities, give a quick overview of the requirements, and spend the rest of the time brainstorming and exchanging ideas. It gives people a sense of belonging and a feeling that their input can shape the outcome of the project rather than just being another cog in the wheel. And of course, try to implement their ideas! We often do this at High-Touch, with great success.
3. Communicating Goals
When people work together, they are trying to achieve a goal. Make sure your goal is realistic and that all team members are aware of it. Having a goal drives motivation. When breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks, the person responsible for each task should be informed of how his or her task impacts the final goal.
4. Communicating Rewards
It’s not enough just to know the final goal. After all, deep down inside, a team member might not really care about the final goal as much as you do, even though he/she says he does. Each team member needs to know that their efforts will be duly rewarded when the goal is reached, otherwise “what’s in it for me?” sentiments start popping up. Whether it’s cash bonuses, time off, personal recognition, or simply a gift card from Tim Horton’s, the added incentive gives team members a personal achievement to work towards.
5. Communicating Progress
Team members do not want to be kept in the dark, oblivious of what their efforts reap. Let them know how the team or project is doing overall. Communicate feedback from clients and any small milestone you may have reached. Keep them in the loop and they’ll keep working with an eye on the goal.
6. Playing Fair
Sometimes, you may have a favorite on the team. However, it is critical that you stay objective. Listen to everyone and demonstrate accountability fairly. Don’t play favorites or else the other team members will lose interest and simply stop caring.
In many offices, it’s all too common to have departments cut-off from one another, be it via cubicles, rooms, or an ill-configured floor plan. If this is the case in your office, consider re-organizing the placement of your team to allow easy communication between team members in different functional departments. Sometimes communicating over instant messenger just doesn’t cut it. At the High-Touch office, we have an open-space concept, so if I need clarification on a functional requirement, all I have to do is turn around and ask Freddy or Pat. If I have a question about Linux, I just turn to my left and ask L.P.
The easier it is for team members to communicate in person, the more likely synergy will be created. You can get a hint that you are doing it right if you find mini-meetings at a team members’ desk rather than in a common meeting room.
The project is complete and the client is happy. Just another day at the office? Perhaps. But don’t take it for granted: make sure you celebrate the victories as a team as well.
What techniques you do have for creating synergy in your teams? Share your ideas in the comments section below.