Synergy: Safety

“The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy” (Kerry Patterson, Crucial Conversations)

Shared meaning can be missed, suppressed, blown up, or ignored for a variety of reasons. If the mission (purpose / what) is unclear it is harder to join in. If the vision (why) is unclear, we may join in effort, but in the wrong direction. If the values (how) are unclear we may be working against each other within the purpose / vision.

Possibly one of the most subtle yet damaging ways to blow up synergy is through intimidation.


NASA – The spaceship Columbia disaster could have been avoided if NASA engineers had been listened to, and their concerns addressed. Instead, senior managers ignored and suppressed the information and did not delay the launch.

SURGERY – A lady known to the author of Crucial Conversations had part of her foot removed, when she was admitted for a tonsillectomy. Why? Several of the attending medical staff thought to ask the surgeon…yet none had the guts to confront him.

Obviously leadership must work to create an atmosphere wherein it is safe to bring forward critical information.Why does leadership not do this?

Could it be that we are simply insecure? Even in the case of arrogance, is it possible that insecurity is at the base? What is the quality of a “confidence”, existing within a leader, that needs for others to see them as all-knowing, or perfect…at the cost of the mission?

It is estimated that 200,000 hospital deaths in the USA each year stem from human error…in part due to health-care professionals that are afraid to speak up.

Do the people that work with you feel they can tell you what you may need to know?