In the last blog, I introduced the concept of psychological safety. Researchers at Google discovered that teams that nurture spaces where team-members can be themselves, will move from simply surviving the daily uncertainties, complex interdependencies and ambiguity that our work presents to us, to thriving in them.
A few years ago, a colleague and I had the opportunity to work with and advise a senior leader who was facing many large changes within her team, from structure to strategy to systems. She modeled the following leadership characteristics:
1.Curiosity: She was open to consider new ideas and learn from others’ experiences. She surrounded herself with different groups of people (at all levels), advising her, drawing from the wealth of knowledge throughout her organization. By modeling this attitude early on, she fostered an open-door policy of ideas, feedback, reflections and early warnings, if things went a bit sideways. No-one feared this leader.
2.Lifelong Learner: She was comfortable with failing fast, or as we re-framed it: learning fast. To her, the very act of doing something outside of her comfort zone was a positive move as it signalled that she had an intention to do things differently and that this would include a learning curve, even for her. She was forgiving of herself, and those around her, as they learned fast in their commitment to the end-goal, even if there were a few missteps along the way. I remember early on, in an effort to increase this leader’s accessibility and reach across her large employee base, we tried a new communication technology. And as with new technologies, there were a number of “glitches” and the experiment was less than perfect. For some leaders this would have shut down their openness, but this leader was able to see the upside of the parts that had worked well (e.g., hearing directly from employees about issues that were bothering them) and learn from what had not (e.g., improving our technology capacities).
3.Carved out the Space: As a senior leader, she had NO extra time in her day, but she would ensure that the meetings with her network of “advisors” always had dedicated time on her agenda. Even if she missed a week or two, she would instruct her office to find the time, the space, for these important conversations. This was important to her and she advocated for this space.
And as I remembered this particular leader and this particular dynamic, I realized in retrospect (without necessarily having the concept, terms and definitions of psychological safety spelled out to me), that I had in fact experienced what it was like to work with a leader who cared about nurturing Psychological Safety (MyOh, I get in now! moment). This leader made me feel like she was really counting on me to bring my whole self, questions, ideas and concerns to the table every day.
In her Ted Talk, Amy Edmondson, offers 3 places that teams can start from if they want to improve the Psychological Safety on their teams:
1. Reframe the Narrative – become aware of the language that we use to describe our work challenges as “execution/implementation” problems and instead think about describing them as learning problems. This would sound something like this: “We’ve never been here before; we can’t know what will happen; we’ve got to have everyone’s brains and voices in the game”.
2.Own your blind spots (especially if you are the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion or HiPPO) – this sounds like: “I may miss something, I need to hear from all of you on this”.
3. Be the change you want to see – model curiosity and ask lots of questions. This can go like: “what point of view or perspective are we NOT hearing?”
So, what do you think? Are you tempted to try out some of these tips and see what impact they could have on the teams you lead or are a member of?
Oh, now I get it!
Have you ever found yourself having one of those Oh-now-I-get-it-moments? They just seem to kind of happen, and then you realize, “oh…so this is what all the fuss was about, I get it now.” It’s like you finally tap into this deep wisdom that’s been lurking under your nose all along, but that you’ve just been unable to see. It’s a combination of the obvious with a dash of Oprah-level “aha”. In this blog, I will be sharing some of my experiences with these kinds of moments as they show up in my life on a pretty regular basis! Enjoy!