I’ve heard how people who check money to see if it’s counterfeit study “real” money to be able to quickly discern which bills are real and which are not. They touch the real money, examine it, hold it, and peer intently at it.

Discerning if a team has synergy or not is something most of us intuitively sense. But since synergy isn’t something tangible like a $100 bill, how can we study to recognize the level of synergy that a group or team has? And more importantly, as a leader, how do we assess synergy in a team we are leading, and make improvements in the team by leading differently?

Assessing If Your Team Possesses Synergy

Synergy is often defined as what occurs when members of a group cooperate in connected ways to achieve a goal – and their work together exceeds expectations of what could have been accomplished as individuals.

Synergy has an intangible “it” factor. Because of this, by understanding what synergy is NOT can helps us to:

1) Assess our team’s level (or existence) of synergy, and

2) Increase the effectiveness and synergy in our team.

So what is synergy not? Synergy is not:

  • When a team’s work is halted or hindered from external obstacles and insurmountable challenges that they can’t seem to work through.
  • When a group prevents or stops its progress – from internal communication and collaboration issues.
  • When a team’s efforts are thwarted, encumbered, or blocked from an inability to collaboratively work together toward a single goal.

Questions for Leaders to Assess & Improve Synergy in Your Teams

So next time you notice that your team is clicking well, step back and examine WHY? How has your leadership (and/or contribution as a team member) increased the collaboration and synergistic work of the team? Tuck these effective behaviors away in your mind and use them again!

When your team seems to be at a stopped place, can you identify any external obstacles? Can you articulate what they are – because sometimes a team feels like they are blocked but don’t truly know the real cause(s). Can you share the specific obstacles you see, AND contribute 3 or so ideas for working through it to prompt the group to problem-solve?

As you consider your team, if you sense internal relational, or communication and collaboration issues, can you reflect on it as if you were viewing a video camera? What would a video reveal as some of the team’s root problems when it comes to its communication or collaboration problems? Can you objectively share what you believe these are with the team, AND provide a few ideas to move past them toward your group’s common goal?

If you think or feel that your team’s efforts to collaboratively work together toward its single goal are currently thwarted, ask yourself if each team member possesses extreme clarity around the purpose of the team’s work. Does every team member agree on the team’s goal in working together? How can you bring momentum to the team to help them move past a “stalled” point in work and increase focus on the goal of the group?

As you consider your team’s lack of synergy, what behaviors that contributed to that state do you need to own? How can you take responsibility with your team by honestly communicating how you may have contributed to its lack of synergy? How can you verbally commit to “fixing” these behaviors of yours?

What you discover to some of the questions above may help you effectively turn the tide as needed with your team and lead in a way that increases its synergy. This self-reflection process may also help you effectively lead a different team in the future.

Or, if you’re ever a part of a team that is not experiencing synergy, rather than lamenting about how dead, not-fun, or unproductive the group is, review the questions above.  Assess how you can alter your contributions to the group to help stir up synergy, helping the group reach its goal in working together.