Flipping Heck! Learning To Be Productive One Day At A Time

7 Habits: Habit 6 – Synergise

7 Habits [2008] : Habit 6 Synergise

7 Habits: Habit 6 – Synergise

I’ve recently revisited the “7 Habits of Highly Effective people” (affiliate link) 6 years after writing this post. All posts in the new series are listed here or you can read my all of my 2008 take on the 7 habits here.

Oh dear, the title of this chapter alone had me cringing before I even started to read it. I detest management speak and jargon and this word really grated on me. But, being the trooper that I am, I got over it and read the chapter anyway.

For those not familiar with the evil word “Synergy”, the definition from


– noun, plural -gies.

  1. combined action or functioning; synergism.
  2. the cooperative action of two or more muscles, nerves, or the like.
  3. the cooperative action of two or more stimuli or drugs.

Hmm… I think we can discount the last two, don’t you!

The start of the chapter explains how all of the previous habits build up to reach this point of where we can interact in a “synergistic” way with others as synergy, Covey says, is the essence of “principle-centered leadership”.

Covey defines his idea of synergy in a different, and slightly more fitting way than the dictionary definition:

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts….
[so] One plus one equals 3 or more

Basically, synergistic communication and interaction is all about going off the beaten track and finding new ways of doing things.

At the start of the chapter, Covey is a little scary (to me at least) with the enthusiasm and vigour that he launches into the subject which is a bit over the top for my simple British way of looking at things; but once I got over it, it actually started to sound quite interesting.

Basically, Covey’s trying to get across the importance of co-operation – not just the act itself but the spirit of it – and how it usually only happens in unusual circumstances (like natural disasters, wartime etc).

This bit annoyed me a little. Maybe I’m lucky, maybe it’s because I’m English, maybe it’s because I live in a small tight-knit village community or work with a great team of people but I’m surrounded by co-operation. Constantly. And in all walks of life.

If Covey’s correct in what he says that the majority of people never reach a co-operative stage consistently then that’s a real shame in my view – but hey, I’m obviously one of the lucky ones!

That aside, Covey makes some interesting points as to what synergy is and how you achieve it.

  • You need to be authentic and genuine
  • You need to be open about your thought, feelings and fears
  • You need to be open about the thoughts, feelings and fears of others
  • You can’t be judgemental
  • You need to thin Win/Win or Win/Draw

If you can achieve this, and begin to communicate synergistically, then the possibilities (in theory) are endless. Synergy breeds creativity of thought and acts as people become more open as they receive more “Psychological air”.

An added benefit of communicating synergistically (to Covey anyway, I see it differently as we’ll discuss in a moment) is that it increases trust levels. Covey explains this with a simple graph:

7 Habits - Synergy Graph

His linear approach doesn’t quite sit that well with me. It’s all too neat, simple and ordered when you consider how wacky and irrational we humans are.

If people are overly co-operative – and I’m sure you know the type; eager to please, drop things at a moments notice – whilst this is initially nice, it can:

  • Become rather irritating after a while
  • Make you wonder “What’s in it for them”

Okay, I admit that this goes against the whole idea of Covey’s “Synergy Habit” but I’m cynical so I can’t help it. Here’s my take on the trust/communication relationship:

7 Habits - Maximum Synergy Level Graph

I think there’s a plateau of trust – sort of a maximum amount you can earn. Once you reach that level and keep on trying to pile it on and earn credits in your “Emotional Bank Account” it can begin to turn into feelings of mis-trust and even become a lose/lose situation again as you start thinking “Why are they helping me? What are they getting out of this? What will they want in return?”

This actually moves us quite nicely into Covey’s take on “Negative Synergy” which is pretty much how I see everything!

Negative Synergy is where we assist people purely because we’re in “cover my own arse” mode. We document everything, slag people off behind their backs and try to beat other people down. It’s basically a false representation of Synergising communication – you’re acting it but you’re not in the spirit of it.

If we’ve mastered the first 5 Habits, then we’ve moved above this negative synergy and can see the benefit of the whole rather than the one – or to quote Mr Spock from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one” (see how I managed to slip another Trek reference in? How Good am I?).

If we think, act and interact synergetically we learn to value and embrace differences. We may have a difference of opinion but still both be correct; it doesn’t matter though as we’re on the same side ultimately and those differences will lead to various opportunities to come up with solutions and lead us in new directions.

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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