Synergize your management team

August 1, 2004 By    

When you combine the right people, assets and capital in just the right combination, you can create a value that is much greater than the sum of its parts. This concept – called synergy – is the notion that power is released as individuals work better together to produce greater results than they could ever do on their own.

Habit six of highly effective propane companies is to synergize.

There are many great examples of synergistic teams and organizations all around us. One of my favorites comes from the sporting world. The Detroit Pistons recently crushed a heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers basketball team that had the two best players in professional basketball, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Everyone predicted a Lakers win because of their superior talent. But it became apparent as the championship round began that the Pistons had something special going for them.

None of the Detroit players are superstars. In fact, most of us could not name
even one team member. But those players created a significantly more powerful force when working together and, in the end, the lesser stars dominated the better players.

When Detroit coach Larry Brown talks about the satisfaction of winning the
championship “the right way,” I think he means that basketball is
best played when the combination of players working together are better than the players individually. The Detroit Pistons synergized.

The management of a retail propane business is fertile ground for synergistic
opportunities. The daily interactions between drivers, service technicians and customer service representatives means there are wonderful opportunities to improve service, increase profitability and grow more effectively. Synergies occur when team members are trusting, have open dialogue, and have common objectives.

Value the differences

At the core of synergy is the ability for team members to value the differences
between themselves. We don’t all see the world the same. Some of us see only
black and white, while some of us see shades of gray. Some of us are thinkers
while others are feelers. Your management team will be stronger if it is comprised of differing perspectives and each person truly values the others’ different views of the world.

Here’s an example of a synergistic retail propane operation. A retailer was
considering a significant change in the routing and scheduling of a major customer segment. The company’s accountant saw the hard dollar savings, and not much else. The dispatcher saw improved efficiencies and less overtime.

But another employee – invited late into the plan but who was very close to
the customer base – pointed out that a part of the plan was terribly inconvenient to a large number of the customers affected. The team considered the issues and made adjustments because of the sensitivity to their customer base. The result? The combined team made a better plan.

The true power of valuing the differences is the improved knowledge and insight the individuals gain from each other. In truly valuing the differences, we gain a clear view of the issue – and new and better solutions often arise.

Negative synergy is equally real. Organizations can be so dysfunctional that
they can have negative synergy. You know these when you see them. It is when trust and cooperation is so poor that employees avoid each other instead of passing along valuable data that can either secure or serve a customer for a profit.

It can happen in small organizations and at the top of large companies. Don’t
ignore this in your company.

It all starts at the top

Synergy can begin when we master the other five habits – particularly thinking win-win, and seeking first to understand. It is in the trusting atmosphere of open communication that teams begin to flourish and see superior results. Creative power is unleashed when leadership teams know they can be vulnerable by making suggestions or offering ideas that may not fly.

The leaders in your company must practice what they preach. Are they open to suggestions from subordinates and peers? Do they seek first to understand the positions of others before sharing an opposing position? Are they willing to subordinate their position for the benefit of the organization? Do they seek
to find solutions from others who may approach the problem in a different way?

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