Remember the surprise winner in this year's Super Bowl? The New England Patriots, the team with a poorer win-loss record than its opponent, outplayed and defeated the St. Louis Rams, a team that boasted reputedly superior talent. Was that victory just another example of any team being capable of beating any other "on any given Sunday?"
I think something else was at work in this year's Super Bowl game. That "something else" has appeared in other places. Remember the U.S. hockey team, with its roster of amateurs, winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics? On the way to the gold, they beat a team from the Soviet Union that was stuffed with professional and superstar hockey players.
How do you think coach Pat Riley got the New York Knicks, with a team of average players and only one superstar (Patrick Ewing), to play consistently well enough - all year - to earn a spot in the NBA finals? For that matter, why couldn't the Los Angeles Lakers, who had the best basketball players money can buy, win an NBA championship until coach Phil Jackson joined the team?
What causes a team of players with just average talent to outperform a group of superstars? I suggest to you that a group does not necessarily a team make! Just because a group of players wear the same uniform doesn't make them perform as a team.
"It's easy to get the players," observed legendary New York Yankee manager Casey Stengel. "Getting them to play together - that's the hard part."
A "team" is defined as a group of individuals who are committed to achieving common goals. They meet regularly to identify and solve problems, and to work and interact effectively together. Together, they produce optimal economic and motivational results.
What happens when a so-called team becomes a real team? What happened when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal started playing together with their L.A. Laker teammates, sharing the common goal to win the NBA championship?
What happened is a phenomenon called synergy. Dr. Louis Tartaglia, my personal friend and author of "The Great Wing" and "Flawless," calls it "inexplicable synergy." Synergy is not necessarily logical. To use a mathematical analogy, synergy occurs when 1+1 = 3. (If I'd told my grammar school teacher that 1+1 = 3, likely I'd still be there - unless, of course, they'd thrown me out by the age when I started shaving.)
Synergy is defined as "the simultaneous action of separate, individual parts that together produce more, or a greater effect, than the sum of all the parts could have produced if working independently."
In "The Great Wing," Tartaglia (who asks friends to refer to him as "Dr. T") writes about Gomer the goose. Gomer migrates south for the winter with a flock of his fellow geese. Dr. T describes this flock of geese to provide a visual and memorable example of synergy.
Observers have found that a flock of geese flying in their characteristic "V" formation can fly 72% farther than a single goose could. (The birds trade places at the front position to rotate the task of breaking the wind and providing a draft for each following goose.) Each goose seems to understand that she or he wins when the flock works together.
Dr. T suggests that geese stay with the flock because they have the "Flock Mindset." The goose with the Flock Mindset focuses on the team's common purposes. Each thinks, "It's not what I get from the team, but what I give to the team and its purposes."
You've heard it before, there is no "I" in team. Perhaps you've heard that "TEAM" is an acronym for Together Everyone Accomplishes More. Team members focus on the common goal or purpose, with a "flocked mind."
Why does the Flock Mindset produce more? Before you read my conclusions, think about your own experience. Have you noticed synergy in your family, with your spouse, brother or sister, or in an athletic team, church or community group? What caused the synergy?
Teams create synergy when members willingly cover each other's weaknesses and, as a result, the team becomes stronger than the sum of its parts. "None of us is as smart as all of us," is how Ken Blanchard, co-author of "The One Minute Manager," puts it.
In my seminars, I teach that everything is about results. I constantly emphasize that we learn by process, but we serve by results. I believe we owe it to our families, employees and ourselves to produce the most we possibly can in every task we undertake.
It's through synergy that great leaders bring about optimal results. It's amazing when chemistry develops between players. For when it does, they achieve optimal results.
Stephen Covey, author of "7 Habits of Highly Successful People," teaches that, in every relationship or team endeavor, the most effective people synergize to get the most benefit (optimal results) for all parties concerned.
However beneficial that may be for other families, teams and companies, the crucial question for you is: Which people in my business or my family have the Flock Mindset? Are your installers, subs and salespeople working together for the common goal of pleasing the customer? In my consultations with businesses, I often find a tension between installers and salespeople, and between salespeople and customer service representatives. What would happen if you got them to play together? That, as Casey Stengel said, is the hard part.
The power of synergy became apparent to me when I was asked to facilitate a training session for the installers and salespeople of Supreme Carpets in Saginaw, Mich. Owner Jack Weidner and his sons felt their customers would become more loyal and profitability would increase IF they could get their "so-called team" working together. In our group discussions, I observed some exciting potential as installers and sales people began to talk to each about how they could better work together, instead of against each other. Communication and focus on the Flock Mindset will begin to build the bond that leads to inexplicable synergy.
Don't expect a quick fix, however. Developing synergy is a process, not an event. Trust is an integral part of synergy. It does not flow from one single event but, rather, builds over time. Trust takes years to build, but only seconds to destroy.
Because trust is not established overnight, you and I would do well to focus on it today - and every day hereafter.
Don't wait until tomorrow to build trust. Trust grows slowly like a tree. The Chinese have a saying, "The best day to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and today." If you didn't plant trust 20 years ago and if you haven't nurtured it every day since, then the second best day to do that is today!
How much of a Flock Mindset do you see in members of your family and employees? Do they participate in goal setting and problem solving? Do they encourage and support the other members? Are they frank and open with you and each other? Do they complete action items on time? Do they contribute knowledge and abilities to the company mission and team goals? Do they act as hearty advocates for the team? Do they share responsibility for the team's success?
The Flock Mindset creates results and power because of inexplicable synergy. Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world - that's about the only way it has ever happened in the past.
So don't underestimate the power of the flock. It may take you 72% farther - and faster - to your goal.