Four behaviors of high-performing leadership teams
How to build psychological safety
The ‘holy grail’ of any team is to have a high level of psychological safety. The problem with psychological safety is that it can’t be easily created. It requires repetition, reinforcement, and experience, just like you’re training a new muscle. And these experiences need to be happening with the whole team present.
"Psychological safety is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking" - Amy Edmondson
How to do it? I believe that if a team adopts a great improvement habit; makes decisions in a way where every voice is heard and integrated; when the members can get what they need from their meetings; and when their strategy habits create meaningful results on their shared objectives, psychological safety is built automatically.
The result: a team where people feel comfortable speaking up, making proposals, disagreeing and exploring multiple truths, naming feelings, and holding space for each other.
In other words, by adopting habits #1-#16, you’ll create an environment that will promote psychological safety in your leadership team. Then behaviors #17, #18, and #19 are a result of it.
This month, I’m covering the 20 habits of high-performing leadership teams. Last week I covered meeting habits. This week is all about the behaviors I’ve observed in the best leadership teams.
#17 Equal talking time; everyone makes proposals
To strengthen this habit:
1. Appoint a facilitator that keeps an eye on equality of voice. Allow them to ask dominant voices to 'step back' and request silent people to 'step in.'
2. To hear all the voices in the room, request to speak 'in a round.' Everybody takes a turn to share their opinion. Everyone else listens. No cross-talk.
3. During or after a lengthy discussion, ask: does anyone have a proposal on how to move forward or is willing to make one?
It is easy to opine. But it is rarely productive. When there is a (written) proposal of what to do, there is something people can react to, and it creates forward momentum. To decide, ask, 'is it safe-to-try?' (more about this in the edition on decision-making habits)
#18 Disagreement is seen as an opportunity to explore multiple truths.
When you're facing disagreement, try this:
1. Lean into curiosity by asking clarifying questions.
2. Ask yourself, what am I assuming that might not be true?
3. What about the other's perspective might be true?
In the book the '15 commitments of conscious leadership', commitment #10 reads:
"I commit to seeing that the opposite of my story is as true or truer than my original story."
#19 Members name feelings and hold space for processing tension
We're told: leave your feelings at the door. Be 'professional' and focus on the task.
If we're doing this, we're missing out. Feelings like fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness are important signals that something is *off*; that a need is unmet.
The best leadership teams talk about how they feel. And explore where things are coming from.
Use this 'tension' as energy to make things better. To make agreements. To notice important things that are emerging and require initiative.
"Leaders are the ones who have the courage to go first, to put themselves at personal risk to open a path for others to follow." - Simon Sinek.
#20 Model the behavior shift you’d like to see in the rest of their organization
To change the culture, leaders have to go first.
You can’t ask your people to ...
...take ownership and initiative, but still need to approve every detail;
...' be agile,' but hold onto outdated planning and budgeting practices;
...have a 'growth mindset' but don't welcome being challenged yourself;
...innovate, but scrutinize the consequential failures.
As a leader, model the behavior you'd like to see. Tell your organization what you've tried, what was hard about it, and what you've learned by leaning in. Then you can authentically request and support your people to do the same.
This concludes the newsletter series diving deep into the 20 habits of high-performing leadership teams. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
Here’s some final leadership inspiration from the fast-paced world of Formula 1:
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