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Now is a good time for parents to model synergy

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Lisa Hill

Lisa Hill

In Stephen Covey's best-selling book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," he outlines critical skills that adults need to acquire to be efficacious in society. One crucial ability is synergy.

Covey describes synergy as the ability of multiple interests to form one goal to better the whole. It means setting aside one's interest to achieve a larger purpose. Synergy is when two or more parts cooperate or collaborate to produce an outcome that would be impossible for individuals to accomplish independently without all aspects.

Covey offers as an example, a business that is competing to be the marketer for a major company. The firm consists of an accountant, who will determine the profits, a marketer that understands how to reach people, and an advertiser that will choose the brand or the company's message.

All three of these entities are necessary to produce the desired outcome of the marketing company. However, if each works alone, they would be unable to create a complete, comprehensive, and efficient plan that would prove that they are worthy of the marketing contract. To demonstrate synergy one has to focus less on the individual piece and instead focus on the marketing contract.

All team sports show synergy to some degree; however, the game of tug-of-war exemplifies synergy. In the game, each team of equally qualified individuals uses their strength to move the rope in their direction. Even the weakest person on the team determines the winner because if he/she let go of the line, there is less strength on the team. Synergy is the foundational pillar of all relationships.

Systemically, when two people are in a relationship, if one person leaves physically or emotionally there ceases to be a relationship; in a family, each member establishes their role that makes the family thrive. If one person goes, the family system is at risk of failing. In a community, there need to be several laborers for the district to thrive. Finally, in a society, each member must perform the role they have prepared academically and experientially. The best way for children to learn and internalize the value and skill of synergy is by watching important role models model the skill.

The recent election has demonstrated that The United States of America, our country, is divided, and there is a resistance to synergize. This lack of collaboration could result in the breakdown of the democracy that I believe most Americans value. I hope that every adult who could positively influence children will model the skill of synergy.

As Covey writes, to create positive synergy, we must value the product over personal recognition and value diversity of every kind, and appreciate differences of opinion. The product that is at risk is the United States of America holding its position as a world superpower. To maintain our standing we must put aside our differences and push forward the democracy agenda.

Take time to explain the principle of democracy to your children. Each semester, I offer over 100 college students the following challenge: When confronted with an opposing opinion, listen carefully because one of two things will happen. You will either hear something that will strengthen your view or cause you to reevaluate or change your perspective. Either way, you will have a more substantial argument for your position.


Covey, Stephen (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press

Lisa Hill, Ph.D., is an associate professor in criminal justice at California State University, East Bay and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She also worked for county and federal probation departments for three decades and wrote a book based on that experience. She and her husband live in Tracy and have four children. Contact her at

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