January 10, 2012
News & Opinion: The Synergist
Les McKeown's new book The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success, comes out at a perfect time to integrate into any group for the new year. All groups, teams, and organizations have goals they want to accomplish - things that will make them happy and successful - but the road to get there is often filled with uncertainty, apprehension, meltdowns, and gridlock. In fact, this process has become normal. So normal, that is exactly why it takes books like this to get us to identify and understand where gridlock begins, and how to avoid it from the start. While, as McKeown states, we're all Synergists, realizing that and using those skills on a conscious level takes some understanding. And his book is an ideal guide for bringing those listening, communication, management, and leadership skills to the surface. After reading the book, I sent McKeown a few questions about it, and have posted those, along with his answers, below. Don't miss out on this one. You don't have to be in management to put it to use. As mentioned, each of us have groups of people we work with, and it's helpful to understand and guide the group dynamic toward the goal, rather than being part of the roadblock. What was your impetus for writing the book? Les McKeown: 'The Synergist' is really the completion of what I started with my previous book 'Predictable Success' in 2010. They're inextricably combined, and together, they form the whole of the Predictable Success model. I originally intended to write just one book, but quickly realized it would be too long for most readers. Happily, I was able to split the model fairly clinically into two separate books. Both books are about the same thing - how groups of two or more people can achieve common goals. 'Predictable Success' describes *what* happens to such groups, and 'The Synergist' explains *why* it happens. All groups have patterns and cycles that we develop. How can we tell when these aren't working, and how do we break them? LM: If your decision-making process either gridlocks or compromises more often than not, then you have a dysfunctional team. Almost always the underlying cause of the dysfunction is the unstable relationship between the three 'natural' styles we all fall into - what I call the Visionary, Operator and Processor styles. Although they need each other, the Visionary (strategic, creative, charismatic, communicative), the Operator leader (driven, tactical, focused, determined) and the Processor (process-oriented, systems focused, iterative, conservative) don't work well together. What I noticed over 35 years is that over time high-performing teams develop a fourth, learned style, which I eventually came to call 'the Synergist'. The addition of the Synergist frees the previously gridlocked or compromised V, O and P team members to work optimally for the good of the organization overall. In the book, you say we all have The Synergist qualities. Why don't these strengths naturally come to the fore? LM: Simple lack of awareness that it exists. When we're first exposed to a gridlocked or compromised group or team, we tend to personalize what's happening. We say (or more likely, think) things like 'Joe's being such a jerk', or 'Why can't Grace let up on the grinding detail for just a minute or two'. We don't recognize that there's actually a systemic problem which requires a step change in how everyone interacts with each other. How can one best develop the sensibility to react accordingly to various personality types within a group? LM: I'd say read the book, of course :) To say the same thing more seriously, I noticed when working over the years with underperforming teams that simple recognition was more than half the battle. Simply learning about the V, O, P and S styles and sharing the vocabulary drains around 60-70% of the dysfunction pretty much right away. That's the primary reason I wrote the book. The other 30-40% of the group or team dysfunction comes from watching for verbal and other clues that someone is moving to the extremes of their V, O or P natural style and using the Synergist style to draw them back to a more centered position. I detail those exercises in part 2 of the book. How can a Synergist stay focused on the team, and avoid traps of self-concern? LM: It's actually a very mechanical exercise. Once people see the need for the Synergist style, and learn the simple exercises I provide to help develop their inner Synergist, it's simply a matter of remembering to use it. I show in the book how to use practical, mechanistic cues for a while as 'training wheels', like writing the Synergist's credo - what I call The Enterprise Commitment - on a notepad at the start of a meeting, printing it out on cards and distributing it - even wearing an elastic band on their wrist and snapping it from time to time - anything to trigger the Synergist mindset. For most people, after a month or six weeks of conscious reminders, it starts to become second nature.