The Contagious Nature of Synergy


The Contagious Nature of Synergy

synergyFlu shots are big right now. An inevitable wave of symptoms is expected to hit the workplace, and your managers are understandably concerned. One well-situated sneeze and an entire work team could be calling in sick by the end of the week.

One thing you DON’T want to inoculate your staff from, however, is the persistently contagious bug of good synergy. Wait, you say. Is synergy contagious? Yes, say the experts. And, when shared liberally, it can spread quickly.

Not long ago I was invited to assist a rapidly changing organization in its struggle to overcome a “rut state.” The CEO described what he perceived to be a persistent inability by his senior staff to move away from analysis paralysis and toward an action-oriented mindset, and he was eager to help them find a way out.

I offered to quietly sit in on one of their half-day jam sessions in hopes of gaining some insight.

As the meeting progressed, each member of the team presented and debated over the next phase of the organization’s evolution. I was pleased to see the team in a healthy state of interaction: communication was honest, direct and equally distributed among the players. The CEO had a great team of courageous leaders.

The “rut state” the CEO had described, however, was also visible. Continued discussion and commentary on the diversity of recommendations was allowing everyone to share their opinions, but doing nothing to move the organization toward common ground. The group repeatedly would inch close to a point of agreement and then fall away.

Voices would get raised, other voices would sound defeated, and then the roles would reverse. At moments, however, just as some insightful point or observation was being made, there would be a moment of synergy. Each time it happened, I would watch it come … and I would watch it go.

No one took notice and the opportunity to move forward would disappear. Here was where the CEO could do the most good, by offering the kind of encouragement and support to keep the synergy alive. If he could sustain that moment of connection long enough, it would take hold, like a contagious emotional bug, and permeate the room. Of this, I was sure.

The CEO and I sat down during a break and I shared my observations.

“Leverage those moments with positive encouragement and reinforcement,” I said.


I offered some suggestions, and, with plan in hand, we resumed the session.

The meeting moved along as it had previously when someone made an astute and insightful observation. The team made its usual, momentary shift toward the idea. And, just before the moment was lost, I spoke up.

“Would you all mind pausing for a moment and notice what just happened?” I asked. “Raise your hand if you noticed the change in tone when _____ spoke. How many of you felt a change in tone, in energy levels, in how fast you were speaking, or even a sense of ‘ah-ha’ or some other feeling of connection?”

All hands went up.

“In there,” I said, “is the synergy you’re looking for. DON’T WASTE IT!”

Then, the CEO spoke. “I want to see more of it. _____ makes a great observation, and I’m glad to see the rest of you in agreement. Can we start there? If we were to move forward with this idea, what do we need to do next to ensure our success?”

What happened next was, in a word, amazing. When it was all over, the team was ready to move forward. More importantly, everyone now knew of what synergy FELT LIKE, and they were eager to create more of it.

Management guru Annie McKee describes this phenomenon as Limbic Resonance. “Emotions are contagious,” she says. They, more than knowledge and expertise, are powerful drivers of team synergy and cooperation.

Today’s leader is a communicator of thoughts, ideas AND EMOTIONS. The best leaders resonate synergy, and encourage others to resonate that same synergy across the whole organization.