The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Two heads are better than one. Many hands make light work. There are so many ways we talk about working together, but one word seems to pop up a lot: synergy. However you choose to characterize work, team synergy is the way companies get things done. Synergy leads to higher productivity, fewer duplicative efforts, and optimal use of talent. But these days, it’s not always an easy dynamic to achieve.
Remote and hybrid working arrangements can make achieving synergy among teams and across departments challenging. You might once have thought these measures were temporary and things would return to a pre-pandemic normal. But the workplace has changed forever, and your team’s expectations have changed right along with it. Here are four tips for revamping your team’s synergy now.
1. Give the Gift of Time
The pandemic has changed the way we think about time when it comes to work. Normal routines have been altered by closures, safety concerns, and the voluntary cessation of unnecessary activities. The distortion is particularly acute to those working remotely.
Nonetheless, work life goes on. There is still a need to schedule appointments, meetings, and interviews, even if they’re going to be virtual. These interactions still need to occur with customers, with clients, within teams, and across departments.
You can increase synergy by using scheduling software that uncomplicates the entire process. Give everyone 24/7 access to everyone else’s calendar, and anyone can put a meeting in an open slot. It’s also a hassle-free way to accommodate the work schedule for remote workers who may not be clocking in for a traditional 9-to-5 work day.
You can’t cultivate synergy without encouraging people to spend quality time together. If you give your team an easy way to make that happen, they’ll have more opportunities to collaborate. And that is the timeless way to make them measurably productive no matter where they are.
2. Blow Lines of Communication Wide Open
Clear, open, and honest communication is a cornerstone of team synergy. Without that type of communication occurring at all levels, teams become breeding grounds for misinformation. That, in turn, feeds distrust and anxiety, which are completely antithetical to creating positive synergy.
Synergy also relies on the exchange of information and ideas, so communication must be a two-way channel. You may be the person charged with setting goals for your team, but you shouldn’t do so in a vacuum. Remember, you’ve hired some talented people, so give them a shot at weighing in on the discussion.
Many team members may work remotely all or part of the time, so make sure your team has the tech tools they need to keep ideas flowing freely. Messaging, meeting, and collaboration software are essential to synergy.
One-on-one, team, and departmental communication isn’t as easy as walking down the hall anymore. Providing a safe space for frank discussion and expression of ideas, and the tools required to facilitate them, keeps everyone part of the conversation. Remember that many voices make for good synergy.
3. Switch Up the Players on the Field
You can have all the very best talent on your team, but it won’t be a winner without the right chemistry. Given the changes to the work environment, the formula might have changed. If so, you might need to switch it up to get your synergy back on.
Of course, the differences between individual team members are critical. A football team needs slow, fast, beefy, svelte, feet-on-the-ground, and fly-through-the-air players to win. A field full of quarterbacks only will fail miserably.
To foster your team’s success, you need to have the right combination of players in the right positions, using their individual strengths to play as a unit. A pre-pandemic team leader might need to take a supporting role due to work-from-home realities. Another might be stepping up in unexpected ways. Aim to synthesize everyone’s strengths while honoring the new realities of how they work.
You are the coach in this analogy, which means it’s your job to shake up the lineup if the team’s synergy is waning. It’s OK if you don’t get the combination right the first time. But once you do, make no substitutions as long as your team is on a winning streak.
4. Empower Your People
There’s always the temptation for leaders to micromanage team members, but never more so than when they can’t keep an eye on them. Don’t merely resist the temptation. Do the opposite.
Lead with generosity by giving your team more control and being less of an overlord. You might be disappointed with some results but ridiculously delighted with others. You will be providing your team with some valuable lessons that will encourage them to be better employees.
Among the benefits of empowering team members are increases in creativity, collaboration, and corporate loyalty. This doesn’t mean you hand over total control, since, after all, the proverbial buck will continue to stop with you. Your empowered team will still count on you for input and guidance.
Team members are not unlike students who want to impress the teacher. But what they’ll realize is they can’t complete an assignment without the talent and insight of the other members of the team. For that, they need synergy.
There Is No “I” in Synergy
Synergistic results are unpredictable because you never know for sure what solutions will emerge from the intersection of diverse talents and skills. Not to worry — innovation is unpredictable.
What is predictable is that teams without synergy are lackluster and unproductive. Time, communication, and empowerment were easier deliverables back in the day. Although more challenging, they aren’t impossible to deliver now.
All it takes are the right tools, agile leadership, and a commitment to getting all those moving parts working together. The team may look a little different now, but there’s still no “I” in team — or in synergy.