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Leadership success through synergy: Maximizing performance in public sector management

Akintola Benson-Oke
EORGE Lizos, a student at the Imperial Business School wrote of his journey to believing in the power of synergy as follows: “I was never a big fan of teamwork. Being a naturally-inclined leader, I always felt that I could do things best on my own, and dismissed collaboration as a sign of weakness”. In his book: Success Intelligence, Robert Holden refers to this compulsive urge for self-sufficiency as the ‘By Myself Syndrome.’ According to Holden, “people who suffer from ‘By Myself Syndrome’ are lousy at asking for help. They are blind to opportunities for support. They are blocked by their inability to get past themselves.”

Continuing, Lizos said, “irreverently refusing to embrace the truth behind this concept, I skipped the entire chapter in the book and rendered it irrelevant to me or my success. It wasn’t until a year and countless burnouts later, that I finally decided to give up my ego and give in to teamwork. Having thrown myself into the heavily team-based MSc Management course at Imperial, I had the perfect chance to re-visit my rigid viewpoints. Although the transition from Me to Us was challenging at first, I was eventually awakened to the benefits of working in a team, and came to see teamwork as one of the most important aspects to success.”[1]

Indeed, synergy holds the key to maximum and ultimate performance. Stephen Covey, the bestselling author and management consultant said, “Synergy is what happens when one plus one equals ten or a hundred or even a thousand! It is the profound result when two or more respectful human beings determine to go beyond their preconceived ideas to meet a great challenge.”[2] Expatiating on the value of Synergy, Stephen Covey said, “synergy is better than my way or your way. It is our way.”

I have surveyed the views of many business thought leaders on the concept and value of synergy. Permit me to begin by briefly sharing the thoughts of these leaders with you. Mark Twain described synergy as the “bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously.”[3] “Synergy is everywhere in nature,” another observer noted. “If you plant two plants close together, the roots coomingle and improve the quality of the soil so that both plants will grow better than if they were separated. If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total weight held by each separately. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more.”[4]

Drawing from his extensive wealth of hands-on knowledge, Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Hellen Keller opined that “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” And Michael Jordan posited that, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

By now, I am sure you can appreciate the wisdom behind the decision of the government of Lagos State led by His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to approve this training programme. This is a proof that this administration recognises the importance of team work and synergy in achieving corporate objectives.

Of all the commentators, Carlos Ghosn made the best attempt to describe the wider benefits of synergy and team work when he stated that, “synergies are not only about cost reduction. Synergies can be access to markets, exchange of products, avoiding overlaps, and exchange of best practices.” And Babara Max Hubbard allayed the fear of those who think synergy would result in the loss of individuality. He rightly noted that, “Synergy does not mean giving up what we want. It means joining to co-create so each is able to receive ever more of what attracts us through joining rather than opposing.”

Having been converted on the indispensability of synergy to achieving maximum performance, George Lizos came up with what he referred to as the “the three most important factors to creating effective team synergy.” He described as follows: Diversity: Coming from a different geography, educational background, and having been exposed to a distinctive set of life-experiences, affords each team member with a unique perspective to dealing with a situation. It is when these uniquely diverse experiences merge in the co-creative environment of a team that the magic happens. Sharing their diverse perspectives not only provides team members with a more nuanced analysis of a situation; it also allows them to expand on each others’ ideas to create something entirely new.”

Creativity: Talent and creativity are two wholly different things. Unfortunately, the similarity of these two terms holds many people apart from their inherent creativity. When we perceive  every thought we have and every action we take as creative, we realise that creativity is not a gift of the few, but an intrinsic quality of every single one of us. The key to unleashing team creativity is to, first, release our limiting beliefs and perceptions of what creativity should be like, and second, to establish a safe and encouraging environment for team members to test-drive their ideas, make mistakes, and think out of the box.”

Focus: The metaphysical Law of Attraction states that “like attracts like.” This implies that the longer we focus our consciousness on a particular idea, the more that idea expands.

In fact, Abraham-Hicks suggests that “genius is just attention to something specific,” implying that by deliberately focusing our attention on a topic, we create a powerful momentum of attraction of people, knowledge and information, which allows us to evolve in its direction. With a focused attention on the task at hand, diversity and creativity can best be utilized to create a co-creative environment that breeds team synergy, and gives rise to innovative ideas for success.

  1. While George Lizos described the factors for describing effective team synergy, Luis E. Romero identified the factors that make synergy work. He said, “just as the numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons define the potential for chemical synergy, the combination of common interests, common values, and complementary talents defines the potential for team synergy.” He thereafter elucidated on these identified factors as follows:
  1. Common interests. When people share common interests, they align their individual efforts toward the same goal. More specifically, they find personal affinities that help them work together, seek opportunities to leverage each other’s talents, and measure the results of their collective efforts with respect to their common goal.
  1. Common values. When people share common values, they can forge strong, long-lasting alliances. More specifically, I have found that people who share the values of humility, honesty, trust, and discipline achieve the highest synergies.
  2. Humility is the capacity to acknowledge one’s own truth. This allows every team member to have a clear image of the self and address all personal growth and professional development needs in a timely fashion.
  3. Honesty is the capacity to share one’s own truth with others. This allows team members to know each other more closely, develop trust, help each other, and carry out team improvement initiatives with further reach.

iii.      Trust is the ability to focus on one’s task while letting others focus on theirs, thus optimizing efforts. Equally, trust also allows for team members to check up on each other to make sure all tasks remain aligned with the common goal. Likewise, trust leads naturally to loyalty and solidarity.

  1. Discipline is the ability to continue to work toward a goal regardless of the circumstances. Discipline requires commitment, courage, resilience, and drive.
  1. Complementary talents. When people have complementary talents, they can overcome adversity, stay focused, and achieve success more efficiently. In my professional opinion, every team’s ideal portfolio of talents is masterfully summarized in Dr. Ichak Adizes’ famous PAEI model. PAEI stands for Producer, Administrator, Entrepreneur, and Integrator. Not one person will have all four talents. Even the so-called Renaissance men or women, known for being multi-talented, will hardly be able to develop and apply all talents successfully within a team. Everyone needs help and teamwork is based on team members helping each other. Below, each talent in detail:
  1. Producers focus on the end result and make sure the final product or service meets all customer or client expectations. Producers are ultimately responsible for quality facing the market so they will make sure all other team members understand the importance thereof.
  2. Administrators focus on how the tasks are completed and make sure all other team members are in compliance with current policies, procedures, mandates, and guidelines. They are ultimately responsible for the overall sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the organizational system.

iii.  Entrepreneurs focus on envisioning and creating the future. They are inspired and inspiring. They often come up with new ideas about products, services, and ways to do everyday task. They are essentially behind every major innovation and are ultimately responsible for helping organizations stay current, move forward, and introduce market- disruptive innovations.

  1. Integrators focus on bringing people together and helping build personal and functional bridges among all team members. They are ultimately responsible for creating an organizational culture based on the vision and values shared by all team members.[5]
  2. Finally, let me leave you with this profound quotation: “Teamwork can be likened to two compounds, almost essential to modern life. It’s the glue which keeps a team together, a bond which promotes strength, unity, reliability and support. Teamwork is also the oil that makes the team work. It can enable smoother movement towards targets, can prolong forward momentum, and can help teams to overcome obstacles. Teamwork has the potential to underpin so much of what is valuable in work. In fact, maximised performance cannot be achieved without the teamwork synergies that are essential for effective organisational growth.”

*Being excerpts of  Keynote Addresss delivered by the Hon. Commissioner , Lagos State Ministry for Establishments, Training & Pensions, Dr. Benson-Oke at  a 2-day training programme of the Ministry.


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