Meaning what, I hear you say. Well, it asks us to appreciate and seek out the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and to actively play a personal part in creating this scenario. In other words, parts can combine to create new and excitingly unexpected discoveries that would not have been possible on their own. Call it creative co-operation, call it whatever you like, but the principle is that, as effective leaders, we should be the one looked to in order to spot those parts, and actively pull them together in order to make unique and marvelous circumstances. It is the very manifestation of all the other habits, combined.
Would an example help? Thought it might!
Yesterday, I ran a session which was the very process of discovery. A very special team I work with were struggling to find their own path through a difficult problem they were grappling with. The solution was blindingly obvious to me (Habit 2 if you remember was “Begin with the end in sight”), but not to them, and they were the ones who had to present and lead a session which would do just this: ie bring together a diverse group of individuals and produce a commonly agreed way forward.
They were very focussed on the differences between everyones agendas and couldn’t see the wood for the trees given these very real and omnipresent differences.
I listened intently to someone drafting these differences out, painstakingly, on a very large white board. (Habit 5 if you remeber was “Seek first to understand, then to be undersood”). I tried to understand the problem from their perspective and came to the conclusion that they lived and breathed this problem every day, and in their day jobs they were too close to it. So I deployed my favourite: Habit 3, Putting first things first and tried to do a gentle bit of prioritisation, what is both important AND urgent? So I I suggested we think about a “win win” approach given the event is less than 2 weeks away, focussing them on what they needed to get out of the session, that would also help (if not in the totality, but in some simple way) the diverse group that would be in the room: ie find the common ground (Habit 4 if you remember was think win/win – everyone always needs mutually beneficial solutions). So we spent some time instead of thinking about the differences, thinking about the similarities, and before long, we had a couple of things that were suitable to be the focus of the session.
They loved the session and actually said it was the best one they had had in ages. Last night I reflected upon why they should say that and came to the conclusion that the PROCESS I led was one of SYNERGISING (Habit 6!) but most importantly, they felt they had been hugely involved and that the solutions had come from them. This is the very essence of team spirit, when you work along synergistic lines you can never be sure what the final result will be. The only thing you can be certain of is that the end result of applying method will truly justify the means.
You literally can achieve more as a combined group than you ever could alone. Another examples which spring to mind of this sort of process include: working on developing a mission statement.
BUT BEWARE: I would say that this sort of process requires very high levels of mutual trust. Trust then brings mutual co-operation. If trust is low, participants will eternally protect their own interests. If trust only reaches a medium level, you get respectful communication with polite intellectual compromise.
I have a relationship of very high trust with the team I worked with yesterday. It worked! As Edwin Markham once said:
“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; now let us commit it to life“