Episode 7

full
Published on:

1st Dec 2022

Psychological safety in leadership

This episode is an in-depth exploration of psychological safety, what it means for you as a leader, for your teams and your organisation. We share our own experiences, thoughts and advice and really do get personal to help you understand the importance of psychological safety.

In this episode we share our own views, thoughts and experiences:

  • 02:50  – what do we mean by psychological safety
  • 11:42 – imposter syndrome and safety
  • 17:30 – the nuances of trust and psychological safety
  • 19:54 – fear, innovation and risk
  • 28:17 – psychological safety for your stakeholders
  • 35:15  – reputation management and a safe culture 
  • 40:55 – how to...

As always we share our top takeaways and in this episode, we encourage you to have conversations about psychological safety and listen to your colleagues and stakeholders. Being mindful of the impacts of your own behaviours will go some way to supporting a psychologically safe environment and demonstrating your appreciation for feedback, no matter the outcome, will also help. 

In this episode we reference The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson.  And we also mention the McKinsey research referenced in Leading Off

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Transcript
Lee:

What's the, what's the phrase?

Lee:

Close?

Lee:

All the hatchets?

Lee:

No, I, I dunno what the phrase is.

Lee:

Er hatchets.

Lee:

No, what's, what's the

Carrie-Ann:

Well, you've confused me now cuz there's so many in there.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm like, I dunno which saying she wants.

Carrie-Ann:

Hun hun.

Carrie-Ann:

I dunno.

Carrie-Ann:

And we hun her in down.

Carrie-Ann:

Are we closing that?

Carrie-Ann:

I dunno what we're doing, but I get, I know what you

Lee:

You know what I mean?

Lee:

Some kind of Doro Wizard of Oz in the storm kind of

Lee:

situation I've got in my mind.

Lee:

hello and welcome to another week of How to Take the Lead.

Lee:

I have my lovely collaborator, Carrie Ann with me,

Carrie-Ann:

For some reason I thought you were gonna call me your assistant,

Carrie-Ann:

and I was gonna become like Debbie McGee,

Lee:

Do you know, as I was saying it, that picture also came into my mind,

Carrie-Ann:

Also reference points.

Carrie-Ann:

That's gonna mean nothing to quite a lot of our listeners, I should imagine.

Carrie-Ann:

But anyway,

Lee:

How weird that we both had the same image yeah.

Lee:

That, isn't, we're not here to talk about magicians , although I have Paul

Lee:

Daniel's magic set when I was little.

Lee:

Did you have one?

Carrie-Ann:

No, I didn't, but I feel like I've missed out now and I'm

Carrie-Ann:

gonna speak to my parents about that.

Carrie-Ann:

Why did I not have, you've had a neighbor's board game.

Carrie-Ann:

I didn't have one of those Paul Daniel's magic set of, seriously,

Carrie-Ann:

my, parents need to up their game.

Lee:

I'm gonna have to rethink my narrative to my younger sisters who

Lee:

I always complain, got everything when they grew up and I got nothing.

Lee:

But actually, I think I had quite a fruitful upbringing compared to you.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm writing a letter of complaint to my mum and dad

Carrie-Ann:

straight after this episode.

Lee:

But also all of these games are in a storage unit somewhere.

Lee:

So I think you and I have got a day some point in the future where we just,

Lee:

we can relive our eighties childhoods

Lee:

call that team building?

Lee:

I love it.

Lee:

Anyway.

Lee:

Well that's quite a frivolous start for a topic that we are covering

Lee:

today that isn't that frivolous

Carrie-Ann:

I know, I know.

Carrie-Ann:

But the only thing I'm really pleased about is we haven't mentioned the weather

Lee:

Oh, you had to go there, So today, we wanted to explore psychological safety.

Lee:

and what that means for you as a leader and for your organization as well.

Lee:

And so I suppose it, it feels quite a grand term.

Lee:

So to explain what we mean by psychological safety, It's that

Lee:

sense or that belief that you are not gonna be punished or made fun of

Lee:

or have any negative ramifications.

Lee:

If you speak up, and when I say speak up, it isn't about whistle

Lee:

blowing, which is what people often think about with that term.

Lee:

It's about feeling that you can share ideas, you can ask questions, you can

Lee:

raise concerns, you can make mistakes.

Lee:

You have that sense of safety amongst your team to take that risk.

Lee:

That's what psychological safety means and.

Lee:

All of those things we're gonna be covering in today's conversation.

Lee:

And the reason I wanted to cover this topic was because I read Amy

Lee:

Edmondson's brilliant book, the Fearless Organization, which will link, if

Lee:

you've not read it, I highly recommend.

Lee:

And it was a book that gave me so much to think about.

Lee:

I was reading it quite often in my random commutes into London to meet up

Lee:

with people and I was marking up pages, getting my phone out every few minutes

Lee:

to take notes the whole way through, which I don't often do with books.

Lee:

So it was one that spoke to me and I got really reflective, um, about the

Lee:

organizations that I'd worked in in the past, how safe I felt in them, and also

Lee:

how safe I made it for other people.

Lee:

And I've said before, about some of the organizations I've worked for have been

Lee:

quite toxic at times, but I'd never really considered it in terms of did

Lee:

I feel safe being in the workplace.

Lee:

But I think now in hindsight, I can absolutely see there

Lee:

are times I didn't feel safe.

Lee:

And I can think of examples where, you know, a boss who didn't

Lee:

want to hear bad news at all.

Lee:

Literally shouting at me in front of other people, accusing me of not protecting

Lee:

her when we hit a really bad point in, in our kind of organizational history.

Lee:

My team didn't want to deal with this person and I became a

Lee:

buffer to protect them so my mind immediately went to situations I

Lee:

had to deal with with that person.

Lee:

I think of another place that I worked when I didn't feel listened

Lee:

to or didn't feel my views were appreciated by certain people around

Lee:

the table, and their bad behaviors weren't being tackled by other people.

Lee:

So I actually started avoiding having conversations or avoiding situations where

Lee:

I had to deal with those individuals.

Lee:

And then I reflect as a manager.

Lee:

I've shared, you know, the hideously embarrassing story of me slamming

Lee:

my hand on the table to show authority, which is so, so cringe.

Lee:

And it was a one off thing and I definitely didn't do it again cause

Lee:

I immediately knew how cringe it was.

Lee:

But now I realize just that behavior, that one action, I wasn't creating

Lee:

a safe environment for my team.

Lee:

And, what impact did I have on them?

Lee:

I don't, I don't really know.

Lee:

So I've had a real journey exploring this and having looked

Lee:

more into the topic as well.

Lee:

There's, there's so many different ways that we can go with this conversation.

Lee:

I think it's really important as a leader that you need to build

Lee:

connection, as I always say.

Lee:

But you've got to create safety to do that.

Lee:

And so that's really like how I come today with this topic.

Lee:

And I suppose I just wanna lay it on the table where my

Lee:

mind's gone with some of this.

Lee:

Get your early thoughts on it as a topic.

Carrie-Ann:

absolutely.

Carrie-Ann:

And gosh, the, yeah, it is, it was a frivolous start to a

Carrie-Ann:

heavy conversation, wasn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

but I'd like to think that that Frivol came because there is a level of

Carrie-Ann:

trust between us that we can have.

Carrie-Ann:

Any sort of conversation, no matter how lighthearted or how heavy it might be.

Carrie-Ann:

So one of the things that struck me as partly as I was listening to you and

Carrie-Ann:

partly have my own reflections on where I've worked and, and who I've worked with.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think trust for me feels like such an important aspect of

Carrie-Ann:

building that psychological safety.

Carrie-Ann:

And I know we've done an episode before.

Carrie-Ann:

Done the plug for people to listen to that one.

Carrie-Ann:

But I think, you know, part of, of being able to share your opinion,

Carrie-Ann:

being able to share ideas, it doesn't even have to be a controversial

Lee:

No.

Carrie-Ann:

could be a creative idea or possible solution to

Carrie-Ann:

something does often come with that.

Carrie-Ann:

Need to be open and to be vulnerable in terms of being able to share

Carrie-Ann:

that without that fear that you are, that you're going to be judged.

Carrie-Ann:

So I, I absolutely think this is a really important topic to talk about, and I

Carrie-Ann:

reflect on some of the situations I've been in before where like you, I wouldn't

Carrie-Ann:

maybe necessarily have described it at the time as not feeling psychologically

Carrie-Ann:

safe, but actually on reflection it, it definitely has been that for me.

Carrie-Ann:

I've worked in a leadership team where there were two, absolutely,

Carrie-Ann:

defined camps in that leadership team.

Carrie-Ann:

And you were either in the CEO's camp or you weren't, and actually there were

Carrie-Ann:

a couple of us in that leadership space who didn't really want to align ourselves

Carrie-Ann:

with either camp and, but actually what happened was we didn't share a view

Carrie-Ann:

at all because it didn't feel safe.

Carrie-Ann:

I realize now to have an opinion or to share your professional view on

Carrie-Ann:

something, because the safest thing to do was just to keep your head down.

Carrie-Ann:

So actually, That on reflection now has resulted in me thinking, how many

Carrie-Ann:

times did I, um, accept or enable bad behaviors by just keeping my head down?

Carrie-Ann:

Because personally for me, that's where I felt safest, but also it meant I wasn't

Carrie-Ann:

contributing to the success of anything.

Carrie-Ann:

I didn't feel valued as part of that team because actually, just to get through the.

Carrie-Ann:

Head down, you know, don't make a view cuz you'll be judged, you'll be

Carrie-Ann:

perceived to be in one camp or the other.

Carrie-Ann:

And that will have, have ramifications.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and I also thought about a time, quite early on in my career where I

Carrie-Ann:

worked for a leader who it was now on reflection quite complex, I think in

Carrie-Ann:

terms of the kind of impacts of that bit was a leader who actually in the early

Carrie-Ann:

days of working with, did absolutely load to make us feel safe as a team.

Carrie-Ann:

You know, lots of team building activity, lots of opportunities

Carrie-Ann:

to come together and share ideas.

Carrie-Ann:

Appeared to be very openminded.

Carrie-Ann:

Um, very empowering, very enabling.

Carrie-Ann:

They would all be words I would use to describe that leader.

Carrie-Ann:

But then at some point, something obviously shifted for them and actually

Carrie-Ann:

their actions changed and their behaviors towards the team and individuals in

Carrie-Ann:

the team started to become quite toxic.

Carrie-Ann:

And again, it was your point about sometimes as well, You end up in a

Carrie-Ann:

position where you are acting as a buffer, around some of that to try

Carrie-Ann:

and help other people to feel safe.

Carrie-Ann:

So you absorb a lot.

Carrie-Ann:

A lot of what you've said is, is really resonated with me and, and I've definitely

Carrie-Ann:

come away from my thinking ahead of recording this episode with you about,

Carrie-Ann:

what impact do I have in my own team?

Carrie-Ann:

Do I help to create a culture of psychological safety?

Carrie-Ann:

Am I putting in enough time together as a team to help build that trust?

Carrie-Ann:

And I, and I think one of the things I've reflected on is.

Carrie-Ann:

Despite having been in my organization for six and a half years, I've actually

Carrie-Ann:

got quite a new team now because we've got new people that have joined.

Carrie-Ann:

We've been through a restructure that actually is creating that

Carrie-Ann:

psychological safety harder.

Carrie-Ann:

When we've been developing as a team in a virtual world, we don't

Carrie-Ann:

have time together in person.

Carrie-Ann:

We do a lot of what we've done online.

Carrie-Ann:

We've had people who joined the team and for, for many months, didn't

Carrie-Ann:

even meet in person, another member of the team because of the pandemic.

Carrie-Ann:

Has that had impacts on how psychologically

Carrie-Ann:

safe my team feels?

Carrie-Ann:

So you opened up a whole Pandora's box by having the conversation with me about

Carrie-Ann:

recording an episode around this thing.

Carrie-Ann:

But I feel like it's been an opportunity to, to really reflect

Carrie-Ann:

and try to gain some insight.

Lee:

And you're right about the different types of work spaces and the

Lee:

different generations and all of that will will view certain situations,

Lee:

certain ways of work, and certain expectations all very differently.

Lee:

And that can all impact on how safe someone feels.

Lee:

Thinking about this topic actually got me thinking again about imposter

Lee:

syndrome and anyone that's listened to the Women in Leadership episode would've

Lee:

heard my views that, imposter syndrome, usually a cover for something else.

Lee:

And there's something behind that feeling, something that's happened.

Lee:

And I suppose when I started to read that book and think about more

Lee:

broadly, creating that sense of psychological safety at the workplace.

Lee:

It connected some dots for me.

Lee:

And when people are reporting that they feel like an imposter in

Lee:

their team or organization, I'm not made to feel comfortable here.

Lee:

Does that mean they don't feel safe?

Lee:

I don't feel like I know enough people know more than me is

Lee:

that they're not feeling safe.

Lee:

So is imposter syndrome another symptom, I suppose, of people not feeling safe.

Carrie-Ann:

I, I think that's really interesting and the more you've talked

Carrie-Ann:

about it, the more I, I would absolutely start to think yes it is for sure.

Carrie-Ann:

I think it's linked to, definitely that sense of psychological

Carrie-Ann:

safety for sure, but also that.

Carrie-Ann:

What's, what's your experience been to date?

Carrie-Ann:

And if your experience of sharing your professional opinion, for example, has

Carrie-Ann:

always been met with that negativity, or somebody putting you down, or somebody

Carrie-Ann:

making a, a judgment that has impacted on you negatively, then you are gonna

Carrie-Ann:

be more and more cautious to do it.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that's where that imposter syndrome, you know, whatever we want

Carrie-Ann:

to label that creeps in and, and maybe it is just another label for people

Carrie-Ann:

not feeling safe in their organizations or safe to, perform in their role

Carrie-Ann:

in the way that they really should.

Carrie-Ann:

So yeah, I think that's quite an interesting take on it Lee.

Lee:

Just thinking, I can absolutely close my eyes and I am back round, the

Lee:

executive table and I can see certain individuals, um, It might be their body

Lee:

language folding their arms when certain other people are talking around the table,

Lee:

rolling their eyes, sighing if we verge into a conversation that they don't like

Lee:

or they feel bored or they don't want to engage in it, getting really defensive

Lee:

if you question something in their area and, and quite often people would feel

Lee:

threatened, maybe that is a strong word, but they would feel like, oh my opinion

Lee:

doesn't matter, or I'm not allowed to, to tread on, you know, stay in your lane.

Lee:

I hate that phrase because that's that sense of you can't get involved in

Lee:

conversations that don't relate to you.

Lee:

And so all of that for me, I think that's is why I don't really resonate

Lee:

with the term imposter syndrome.

Lee:

Cause I just think stuff sits behind.

Carrie-Ann:

Absolutely.

Carrie-Ann:

And your point about you can close your eyes and go straight

Carrie-Ann:

back into those circumstances, that's really powerful, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

That resonates with me because I can now think of, a handful of individuals

Carrie-Ann:

who probably haven't made me feel psychologically safe in different

Carrie-Ann:

parts of my career journey that actually if now, even now, if somebody

Carrie-Ann:

said their name, I would probably start to feel a level of anxiety.

Carrie-Ann:

I would question how good I am at, at something, because I, I think,

Carrie-Ann:

oh, how would that person react?

Carrie-Ann:

I've been in situations where, you know, they haven't been supportive or they

Carrie-Ann:

have thought I've not been good enough.

Carrie-Ann:

And despite how confident I can be and what I've achieved in my career,

Carrie-Ann:

just the mere mention of a few different individuals will throw me

Carrie-Ann:

right back into that, that space.

Carrie-Ann:

And I can't do it.

Carrie-Ann:

I dunno what I'm talking about.

Carrie-Ann:

Somebody's better than me.

Carrie-Ann:

And you are right.

Carrie-Ann:

That's, that's that imposter bit, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

So maybe imposter syndrome's the label for a whole range of symptoms

Carrie-Ann:

that are caused by not being psychologically safe in the work.

Lee:

but I dunno about you.

Lee:

But certainly I have that everything just goes rigid when I think of,

Lee:

you know, one or two in particular people that I've had to deal with

Lee:

in my kind of corporate career.

Lee:

And when they moved on to other places, my trust in where they went

Lee:

and the judgment of the people that appointed them and the people who became

Lee:

friends with them or became part of that inner circle was all affected.

Lee:

So, so actually that, that safety net doesn't just limit to your organization,

Lee:

but can limit to how you view anyone that interacts with people who make you feel.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, and it's back to that trust point again, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

You start to lose trust in other people because of decisions they're

Carrie-Ann:

making around those individuals.

Carrie-Ann:

So, uh, I think it's, it is hugely complex and hugely nuanced.

Carrie-Ann:

And about the only experiences that, that you've actually had For sure.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and I would say just on that point, I have actually been doing some

Carrie-Ann:

work myself around reframing, some of my thinking about some of those

Carrie-Ann:

individuals that still actually do fill me with fear and try and really hard

Carrie-Ann:

to, to reframe that to be actually when I think about those individuals, I'm

Carrie-Ann:

reframing that to actually remind me of how confident I should be because

Carrie-Ann:

there's a, a bit of that as well that surround other people's insecurities

Carrie-Ann:

and maybe people, people have their own insecurities that play out because they

Carrie-Ann:

don't feel psychologically safe either.

Carrie-Ann:

It is so complex, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

For sure.

Carrie-Ann:

But it has such a huge, huge impact that sometimes I don't think

Carrie-Ann:

you realized till much later on.

Carrie-Ann:

As you've said, you do those reflections now and you go, actually, that was

Carrie-Ann:

about me not being psychologically safe.

Carrie-Ann:

It wasn't about some of the other things that I, maybe put around that.

Lee:

One of the interesting things I read around this concept of trust and

Lee:

psychological safety, as you've mentioned trust a few times, was that often they

Lee:

do get used in quite an interchangeable way, but they aren't necessarily one

Lee:

in the same thing, so safety is how you feel perhaps at that group level.

Lee:

But trust is definitely that one to one thing so, safety might happen

Lee:

in the moment, whereas your trust will that person do The right

Lee:

thing is, is more future focused.

Lee:

Um, safety is, I might not say something or take an action or flag

Lee:

something up cuz I'm worried about the immediate consequences, whereas

Lee:

trust, Do I think in the longer term, the right thing will happen.

Lee:

So there are some nuances in trust and psychological safety.

Lee:

I dunno whether trust would exist if you don't feel psychologically safe.

Lee:

But, um, I think if, if you do feel psychologically, psychologically

Lee:

safe, it doesn't necessarily mean you also have trust.

Lee:

If that makes.

Carrie-Ann:

That absolutely does make sense cuz I think if you

Carrie-Ann:

think about trust in terms of those one to one relationships,

Carrie-Ann:

that takes a long time to build.

Carrie-Ann:

But I, there is something about if you are in that group scenario, How many

Carrie-Ann:

people in the room do you feel like you trust and do you trust them enough to

Carrie-Ann:

air an opinion and feel like you can do that safely without a consequence?

Carrie-Ann:

And actually the, the bit that's quite frightening for me is sometimes just one

Carrie-Ann:

individual in, in a group can limit how psychologically safe everyone else feels.

Lee:

Yeah.

Lee:

Yeah, absolutely.

Lee:

So one of the conundrums that I've had, and I'm, I'm sure other people have

Lee:

as well, is this concept of how do you as an organization, as a leader of an

Lee:

organization, develop a safe culture, but also ensure high performance and

Lee:

accountability because there's a sense of, oh, well if you're psychologically

Lee:

safe, do you just let things slide and anyone can do what, do what they want?

Lee:

And you see organizations, the book talks about Volkswagen, it talks about Nokia,

Lee:

for example, as organizations where they really drove performance and, and wanting

Lee:

to be the best at all costs and actually what they ended up creating was really

Lee:

unsafe environments that that failed.

Lee:

This links with empowering innovation in organizations.

Lee:

And there was a McKinsey study, which we can put a link to that showed

Lee:

something like 85% of executives believed fear was holding back

Lee:

innovation in their organization.

Lee:

So that's fear of criticism, fear of uncertainty, fear of negative

Lee:

career impacts and, all the rest.

Lee:

So how do you start to create a culture of safety whilst ensuring innovation,

Lee:

accountability, high performance, which as leaders you strive for.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, it's, it is really interesting, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

That perception that is perhaps been out there that you can't have both.

Carrie-Ann:

And like you say, you've given some examples of companies where they've

Carrie-Ann:

been so focused on one, it's been at the neglect of the other, and that.

Carrie-Ann:

Created sort of unsafe outcomes for sure.

Carrie-Ann:

But I think a lot of the research and a lot of the reading that you can do

Carrie-Ann:

around, um, psychological safety does demonstrate that high performing teams,

Carrie-Ann:

so we're talking about performance often have a high sense of psychological

Carrie-Ann:

safety when you delve into that.

Carrie-Ann:

Because I think for me, psychological safety is really linked to being open to

Carrie-Ann:

having an approach to problem solving.

Carrie-Ann:

And solution finding and creating an environment where

Carrie-Ann:

there's divergent thinking.

Carrie-Ann:

People in, in psychologically safe teams, I think often feel more motivated or

Carrie-Ann:

it's linked to things that motivate them.

Carrie-Ann:

There's higher motivation in high performing teams, and it's a word

Carrie-Ann:

that I'm sometimes uncomfortable with as a description, but I also

Carrie-Ann:

think the research shows high performing teams with a high sense of

Carrie-Ann:

psychological safety are more resilient.

Carrie-Ann:

So actually when there are issues that come up, they are able to deal with them.

Carrie-Ann:

I, I guess, in, in a more comfortable way.

Carrie-Ann:

So I think for me, building that culture is around self-awareness, both

Carrie-Ann:

self-awareness of you as a leader, but self-awareness within the team as well.

Carrie-Ann:

Think that, you know, again, thinks maybe back to some level of, of emotional

Carrie-Ann:

intelligence around some of that.

Carrie-Ann:

Having that insight in terms of, how you are having an impact

Carrie-Ann:

on your team and how other team members are impacting on each other.

Carrie-Ann:

But I think the key things are around that blame avoidance.

Carrie-Ann:

We've talked about fear, people fear being blamed if something goes wrong, if

Carrie-Ann:

they have an idea or share an opinion, they're gonna get blamed If people take

Carrie-Ann:

action on it and it wasn't quite right, you need to find a way to avoid that

Carrie-Ann:

blame culture if you can in your team.

Carrie-Ann:

There's something about how do you engage with each other as members of that team

Carrie-Ann:

and as a leader of that team, are you being open to, to seeking feedback.

Carrie-Ann:

There's something about that clarity of purpose as a team, if you are a

Carrie-Ann:

high performing team, you are often very clear about what your purpose is.

Carrie-Ann:

So having that clarity of purpose is really important.

Carrie-Ann:

But creating an environment for people to constructively challenge that I think is

Carrie-Ann:

the bit where you come into that space of people feeling psychologically safe.

Carrie-Ann:

Your bit about fear, I think is an important one because I personally

Carrie-Ann:

think fear does hold back innovation.

Carrie-Ann:

I think it's fear of failure and I think sometimes that, there are leaders who

Carrie-Ann:

often fear failure, so they start to lead with a bit of an iron rod and that

Carrie-Ann:

psychological safety isn't there because it becomes all about the performance

Carrie-Ann:

because they don't want to fail.

Carrie-Ann:

That, that fear of being blamed with, we kind of mentioned fear of speaking,

Carrie-Ann:

speaking out, but if you can start to develop a culture of people in your

Carrie-Ann:

team feeling psychologically safe, I think that encourages experimentation,

Carrie-Ann:

creativity, people to really foster and, and build on new ideas.

Carrie-Ann:

Focus on sort of being curious about actually where certain things

Carrie-Ann:

can take you I think all feel like an important kind of test bed for

Carrie-Ann:

innovation, to be honest with you.

Carrie-Ann:

So for me, I think psychological safety and and performance almost work together.

Carrie-Ann:

I, I think it's better if it works together rather than being

Carrie-Ann:

focused on one or the other.

Lee:

The point you make about clarity of purpose.

Lee:

I think when you look at organizations that have failed, they might have had

Lee:

a clarity in purpose, but there was a rigidity in the leader who was so

Lee:

outcomes focused that they weren't willing to try different things and

Lee:

to test whether the purpose was the right purpose or the question they were

Lee:

seeking to answer was the right question.

Lee:

So I think that's really important.

Lee:

. And I think on the accountability part, that's an important part of making

Lee:

people feel safe as well, because we all can think of, well, I go back to

Lee:

my earlier example of bad behaviors not being tackled made me feel unsafe.

Lee:

So if people are seeing an injustice of people not being held to account,

Lee:

if someone has put someone at risk or, or perhaps not met the organizational

Lee:

policy or whatever it might be, if that's not dealt with appropriately, it

Lee:

is gonna impact how people feel about the safety of the organization, if they're

Lee:

being protected, by their leader, by their manager, by the organization.

Lee:

So I think that's an important part as well.

Lee:

You can be tough without creating

Lee:

fear.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, I, I think that is absolutely true.

Carrie-Ann:

And it, it is really important.

Carrie-Ann:

It's part back to that sort of role modeling, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And that action and addressing poor behaviors.

Carrie-Ann:

You are right, you can do that and still create a sense of psychological safety.

Carrie-Ann:

Cause I think we touched on it in this conversation earlier, if, if people see

Carrie-Ann:

poor behaviors not being addressed and being allowed to continue and allowed

Carrie-Ann:

to fester, that stifles people's ability to be able to participate, fully,

Carrie-Ann:

and that that therefore will have a knock on effect on your performance.

Carrie-Ann:

So you do have to address some of those more challenging issues,

Carrie-Ann:

obviously, in a compassionate way, but to demonstrate that actually certain

Carrie-Ann:

things are not acceptable in terms of behavior because it doesn't create

Carrie-Ann:

that psychologically safe environment.

Lee:

Yeah.

Lee:

And I think when we've, we've touched on this before about the sense of

Lee:

not having too much ego as a leader.

Lee:

And I think, um, that sense of.

Lee:

Power and ego are all things that influence the creation of an unsafe

Lee:

environment If you are a leader, so if you think you know best, if you are super

Lee:

directive or micromanaging people, then you are reducing the likelihood each time

Lee:

you behave like that, that someone's gonna speak up, is gonna give you a suggestion,

Lee:

will report a mistake, for example.

Lee:

So there is a lot of stuff that you need to do as a leader.

Lee:

Who you choose to listen to.

Lee:

We've all seen that where people have been dismissive and I'm sure we've done it as

Lee:

well, been dismissive of people who they think aren't perhaps expert enough in the

Lee:

field to have a, have a view on something.

Lee:

And that plays to your ego.

Lee:

Just look at your staff survey results.

Lee:

Are people saying that they feel their opinions matter?

Lee:

Do they feel they can raise issues or ideas?

Lee:

Do they feel listened to?

Lee:

You've probably got a weight of data out there around how people are feeling

Lee:

about either you as, as a manager or a leader, or your organization as a whole.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, I, I think that is a really good point to make

Carrie-Ann:

in terms of how do you work out?

Carrie-Ann:

I mean, I, there's a bit of you that wants to think it should be really

Carrie-Ann:

obvious as a leader if you're not in a psychologically safe organization and

Carrie-Ann:

you're not help helping to create that.

Carrie-Ann:

But I think the point you're making that there are some leaders

Carrie-Ann:

who are not open to seeing that.

Carrie-Ann:

And

Lee:

Because of the ego.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

because of the ego.

Carrie-Ann:

So I think to be a good leader, you, you do need to.

Carrie-Ann:

You know, triangulate all of that data that you've got that is telling

Carrie-Ann:

you whether or not people feel able to speak out, share new ideas.

Carrie-Ann:

The point you raise about do people feel that they can report a mistake

Carrie-Ann:

or an error without that fear of being blamed or judged for it.

Carrie-Ann:

I think that's really crucial, isn't it, to being able to

Carrie-Ann:

improve as an organization.

Carrie-Ann:

So if as a leader you are not open To thinking differently about that and

Carrie-Ann:

starting to understand where people are on that spectrum of psychological safety,

Carrie-Ann:

then I think you are hugely missing a trick because it's gonna impact on,

Carrie-Ann:

on your organization, the culture, the workforce, the performance for sure.

Lee:

I also think we've, we've been talking a lot about staff within

Lee:

organizations and your role as a leader, but I do think this is more broadly.

Lee:

Than that.

Lee:

I think it extends to people who interact with your organization.

Lee:

So how safe are you making it to speak up or to feedback?

Lee:

After I left my corporate role, I had, uh, quite an intense time with a family

Lee:

member who needed, care from the health service and it was interesting in, again,

Lee:

when I look back now and reflect, so my mom didn't want to complain about

Lee:

the issues because she thought A, it was gonna impact on the care that this

Lee:

person was being given at the time.

Lee:

And B, she assumed that the professionals knew best.

Lee:

So those were things that she was like, oh, we just have to go

Lee:

with what people are telling us.

Lee:

I knew better because I worked in a system and understood the process and,

Lee:

and knew I just wasn't gonna stand for that as, as a kind of quality issue.

Lee:

But even the first response we got through the complaints process, she would've just

Lee:

sat with that and accepted it even though it was really, really poor because she

Lee:

thought there was nothing she could do about I wasn't necessarily made to feel

Lee:

welcome when I did raise things, but.

Lee:

I suppose I knew enough about the rights and wrongs and felt I

Lee:

had a duty to do something about it for those who who couldn't.

Lee:

And I think about, you know, interactions that we had with individuals and we were

Lee:

having a conversation, my mother and I went on behalf of, of this relative with

Lee:

a doctor who was going to give some life changing news that was really hard for

Lee:

us as a family to process and, and my mum asked a couple of questions and the doctor

Lee:

waved in her face and said, hello, hello.

Lee:

Do you not understand?

Lee:

And we were shocked.

Lee:

And it shot my mom up.

Lee:

And even now, two, three years later, you know, she'll talk.

Lee:

I'm, I'm getting emotional thinking about it, but you know, that sense of someone

Lee:

in the way that they physically reacted, the words they used, how they made her

Lee:

feel stupid and belittling would've stopped her from taking that forward.

Lee:

Now I've pushed through my red headedness came out and I wasn't gonna stand for it.

Lee:

And, and so we have gone through quite a, a detailed complaints process with, with

Lee:

the people and the organizations involved.

Lee:

But my mom wouldn't have done that.

Lee:

And that organization would never have learned, they would've

Lee:

never known there was an issue.

Lee:

And that was cuz they didn't make the people who used the services safe.

Lee:

Sorry, that was a long

Lee:

no, no,

Carrie-Ann:

no.

Carrie-Ann:

And I, I can feel the emotion coming through in, in the

Carrie-Ann:

conversation and there's frustration there as well, isn't there?

Carrie-Ann:

And the bit that really frustrates me about that is you're not demonstrating,

Carrie-Ann:

you know, I, I just feel like.

Carrie-Ann:

None of us organizations or individuals are finished articles.

Carrie-Ann:

There is always, always, always room for improvement.

Carrie-Ann:

And actually, if you are gonna be closed minded and you're not going to listen to

Carrie-Ann:

people and you're not going to create a culture or an environment where people

Carrie-Ann:

can speak up and say, this doesn't feel right, then I think, know, you are not

Carrie-Ann:

being an organization or if you're an individual, a leader who is, is open

Carrie-Ann:

to that learning and that improvement, and that just makes me feel sad.

Carrie-Ann:

Actually, that makes me feel really sad because I'm like, actually the people

Carrie-Ann:

who know best of the people who are receiving your service or the goods or

Carrie-Ann:

whatever it is that you are, you know, your purpose is to serve someone else

Carrie-Ann:

when you are leading an organization and actually to, to not create an environment

Carrie-Ann:

and the conditions for people to tell you when something isn't going right just

Carrie-Ann:

feels like an absolute failing to me.

Carrie-Ann:

And that makes, that does make me feel really sad.

Carrie-Ann:

I know that doesn't just happen in healthcare, but I know

Carrie-Ann:

healthcare's where we've got a lot of our background and that.

Carrie-Ann:

Is always a very emotive place to be in because it is

Carrie-Ann:

genuinely about people's lives.

Carrie-Ann:

And I just think that's very narrow minded of organizations to be so

Carrie-Ann:

dismissive of people's experiences and it, it is just sad that there will

Carrie-Ann:

be individuals who don't have family members like you Lee, who feel that they

Carrie-Ann:

can keep pushing through to be heard.

Carrie-Ann:

That would just accept that first even when it's not right.

Lee:

Yeah.

Lee:

That's what drove me because I just knew I just wasn't going to accept it.

Lee:

And it, and it upset me to think that other people would be

Lee:

experiencing what we experienced.

Lee:

It upset me to think that, um, people who don't have the contacts or the

Lee:

knowledge of the system and the ways of working aren't helped to understand

Lee:

or feel that they can actually, but it goes back to the organization saysall

Lee:

this stuff that, they're open, they want to learn, blah, blah, blah, but

Lee:

their behaviors and actions don't match up with the, the things that,

Lee:

that perhaps the top team are saying.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

And the experience therefore of their customers, clients, patients, whichever

Carrie-Ann:

scenario you want to put that in.

Carrie-Ann:

I think that just from, from my point of view, I feel like You showed

Carrie-Ann:

a level of bravery and a level of courage there because you continued

Carrie-Ann:

to speak out and you continued to push even though the conditions were not

Carrie-Ann:

psychologically safe or safe in any way.

Carrie-Ann:

From, From,

Carrie-Ann:

know what I know of your experience, but.

Carrie-Ann:

But that took a level of bravery and that took a level of courage and it,

Carrie-Ann:

it probably took a lot of energy at a point in time and in your circumstance

Carrie-Ann:

where actually your energy would've been better spent somewhere else.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and for me, that makes me cross because I feel like that's very unfair.

Carrie-Ann:

Fairness is something that's really important to me.

Carrie-Ann:

And I'm like if I was a leader in that organization, I would really struggle.

Carrie-Ann:

With how well I slept at night, because sadly, I imagine your experience

Carrie-Ann:

won't be one of an exception, but the organization won't know that because

Carrie-Ann:

it's been made too difficult for other feel like it's safe to speak out.

Lee:

It does have that knock on effect, which, you know, as we've already spoken

Lee:

about, that sense of someone can move or you have one experience somewhere,

Lee:

and then it can have a ripple effect in how safe you feel in other environments.

Lee:

When you're trying to build trust, you don't know that starting point when

Lee:

you're trying to build safety you don't know that starting point that someone's

Lee:

coming at and what they've experienced and, and where they might need to be met.

Lee:

It will be different for every person.

Lee:

Yeah, people's

Carrie-Ann:

backstory is always gonna be there, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And unless you take the time to be curious about that and, and understand

Carrie-Ann:

that you could be acting with all good intent and still have a negative impact

Carrie-Ann:

you don't know that person's story.

Carrie-Ann:

So I think that is a really important point.

Lee:

So moving this on.

Lee:

One of the other responsibilities that that leaders have is this notion of

Lee:

they need to protect the reputation of the organization that they serve.

Lee:

And sometimes in the need to preserve the reputation, it

Lee:

ends up directly or indirectly silencing other people's voices.

Lee:

And I suppose again, this is another question of can the two exist?

Lee:

You know, can you create or protect the reputation whilst ensuring safety that

Lee:

means people are speaking out and stuff.

Lee:

Well, I

Carrie-Ann:

think the example that you've just gave, which was a very personal

Carrie-Ann:

one, Lee demonstrates that perfectly, that actually if the organization had

Carrie-Ann:

reacted differently and started to demonstrate and create conditions of

Carrie-Ann:

safety and people being able to speak up.

Carrie-Ann:

It might have had a more positive impact on their reputation because

Carrie-Ann:

actually what you've just demonstrated is that organization now has a

Carrie-Ann:

really negative reputation with you.

Carrie-Ann:

It's not a

Carrie-Ann:

reputation that stands well, but then with your family, your family members,

Carrie-Ann:

the people that are close to them, like you said, that's not an isolated incident.

Carrie-Ann:

So that will continue to have that ripple effect that you talked.

Carrie-Ann:

In relation to reputation.

Carrie-Ann:

So for me it feels like that, there is obviously a tension there, I think,

Carrie-Ann:

because it, it can feel like quite an uncomfortable space to operate in.

Carrie-Ann:

But for me, leaders who are genuinely open, genuinely transparent, genuinely

Carrie-Ann:

compassionate, will not be looking to silence people and they will actually

Carrie-Ann:

see the act of somebody speaking up, sharing feedback, giving a good

Carrie-Ann:

idea, talking about a mistake that's happened as an opportunity to learn

Carrie-Ann:

as an organization, to grow as an organization, and therefore to have a

Carrie-Ann:

positive impact on that reputation.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think you can see examples of leaders where, quite frankly,

Carrie-Ann:

the crap has really hit the fan.

Carrie-Ann:

And something terrible has happened actually, the way that

Carrie-Ann:

person chooses to handle that and represent their organization.

Carrie-Ann:

Can mean that that reputation is there as, as an organization that learns, that

Carrie-Ann:

is compassionate, that holds its hands up to the mistakes that's made and, and

Carrie-Ann:

makes every effort not to make them again.

Carrie-Ann:

for me, I want them to be able to coexist so passionately because I

Carrie-Ann:

think it's so important and, and where there is something negative

Carrie-Ann:

that needs addressing then you are more likely to find the solution if

Carrie-Ann:

you are working in a psychologically safe environment, rather than shutting

Carrie-Ann:

people down and silencing them.

Carrie-Ann:

So I guess for me, there's something about organizations needing to create

Carrie-Ann:

mechanisms for people to share their voice rather than silence in it.

Carrie-Ann:

Because I think that silencing whether it is intentional or not, it does

Carrie-Ann:

actually quite a lot more damage to an organization's reputation than it

Carrie-Ann:

mm mm

Lee:

And I think that's because often, and I'm not saying this, across the

Lee:

board happens, but often leaders who perhaps aren't open to listening and

Lee:

all of that kind of stuff, they think or behave as if managing their reputation

Lee:

means they've got to keep the bad news out, they can't be criticized,

Lee:

and all of that kind of stuff.

Lee:

Whereas for me, I always think of, it's more about making sure you're not

Lee:

bringing your organization into disrepute.

Lee:

And that is absolutely linked to people's trust and respect,

Lee:

and that's completely different.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, I agree with you.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that view of like we can't ever have any bad news is very

Carrie-Ann:

naive view of have and I have worked with the leader like that who pretty

Carrie-Ann:

much was asking me to spin what they perceived to be some bad news.

Carrie-Ann:

And it was like, absolutely no, that's not, that's not what's gonna happen here.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think that also comes back a bit down to personal integrity, doesn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And if

Carrie-Ann:

you, Mm.

Carrie-Ann:

if you have strong moral compass, then you will always be striving to do the

Carrie-Ann:

right thing and if that means that you have to be open about a mistake

Carrie-Ann:

or something that's gone wrong, that is the right thing to do to be able

Carrie-Ann:

to fix that and resolve that for other people and people you are right, will

Carrie-Ann:

respect you more, and therefore your reputation, you know, stays intact, or

Carrie-Ann:

it does have a positive impact on your reputation by actually openly addressing

Carrie-Ann:

an issue rather than trying to cover.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, it all, it

Lee:

all goes back to what are the boundaries that you are setting as

Lee:

a leader, as an organization, and how clear are you in the process?

Lee:

So if someone does something to breach that, Boundary or that

Lee:

policy or whatever it might be.

Lee:

Then obviously you need to act, as we've already talked about.

Lee:

If you've got something that's really woolly and unclear, then that's

Lee:

when you get the noise and the mess and the confusion and you're gonna

Lee:

have to take a different approach.

Lee:

I kind of want anyone listening to this not to think that managing

Lee:

their reputation means they've got close down and hunker down.

Lee:

What's the, what's the phrase?

Lee:

Close?

Lee:

All the hatchets?

Lee:

No, I, I dunno what the phrase is.

Lee:

Er hatchets.

Lee:

No, what's, what's the

Carrie-Ann:

Well, you've confused me now cuz there's so many in there.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm like, I dunno which saying she wants.

Carrie-Ann:

Hun hun.

Carrie-Ann:

I dunno.

Carrie-Ann:

And we hun her in down.

Carrie-Ann:

Are we closing that?

Carrie-Ann:

I dunno what we're doing, but I get, I know what you

Lee:

You know what I mean?

Lee:

Some kind of Doro Wizard of Oz in the storm kind of

Lee:

situation I've got in my mind.

Carrie-Ann:

Down the hatches.

Carrie-Ann:

Are we down the hatches?

Carrie-Ann:

I was like, goodness, if one of us can't think of the saying, then I've

Carrie-Ann:

definitely caught your Leeism affliction

Lee:

To move us to a conclusion, I suppose, of our conversation

Lee:

cuz it's been a meaty one.

Lee:

But if you want to build a more psychologically safe

Lee:

organization, where do you start?

Lee:

I say that as if that's like a really simple one

Carrie-Ann:

Yes.

Carrie-Ann:

Hang on, let me just get out my, uh, action plan with my 10

Carrie-Ann:

points of what you need to do.

Carrie-Ann:

We've, I think.

Carrie-Ann:

Agreed.

Carrie-Ann:

It's very nuanced and it's very complex, isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And it's all about people's own personal experiences.

Carrie-Ann:

But for me, I think it's about starting to have conversations

Carrie-Ann:

in your organization about this.

Carrie-Ann:

Listen to what your organization is really telling you.

Carrie-Ann:

If you want some tips on that, listen to episode six of this podcast

Carrie-Ann:

where we talked about listening, and then try to think about working

Carrie-Ann:

out what's needed to enable others to feel more psychologically safe.

Carrie-Ann:

It is about listening.

Carrie-Ann:

It is about trying to build that trust, and again, we've talked

Carrie-Ann:

about that in another episode.

Carrie-Ann:

I think it's as a leader about being compassionate, but all of that

Carrie-Ann:

needs to come from a genuine place.

Carrie-Ann:

For me, I think you have to be a leader who wants to create and

Carrie-Ann:

enable that environment for people to be able to feel empowered and to

Carrie-Ann:

raise concerns and to challenge the status quo if that's what's needed.

Carrie-Ann:

But you know, you have to be on board with that because if you're

Carrie-Ann:

not, it, it won't come across as genuine and it won't therefore

Carrie-Ann:

start to create that psychologically safe culture in your organization.

Lee:

I think those are all really important points.

Lee:

And, for me, it can be as simple as what are the questions that you need

Lee:

to ask to, to try and be more open in the way that you inquire of people.

Lee:

It could be how you choose to respond.

Lee:

When people are taking risks, so, you know, appreciate the fact, even if you

Lee:

don't like what you're hearing, appreciate the fact that they've taken the time that

Lee:

they've risked it to raise it with you.

Lee:

How are you praising people for the efforts they make

Lee:

regardless of the outcome?

Lee:

Again, links to that sense of, if failure doesn't need to be a bad

Lee:

word, if you've learnt from it.

Lee:

. And a lot of that comes to how, how you frame stuff as leaders.

Lee:

So what's the language you are using, what's that culture

Lee:

you're trying to create?

Lee:

And there is something that I read in the book that there were the four phrases and

Lee:

I suppose I would want to leave people with, with a question to themselves.

Lee:

When was the last time that you said one of these phrases?

Lee:

I don't know.

Lee:

I need help.

Lee:

I made a mistake.

Lee:

I'm sorry.

Lee:

Because if you're not using words like that, you're not role modeling

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About the Podcast

How to Take the Lead
Unfiltered conversations for the modern leader
How to Take the Lead is a show exploring all things leadership.

Every week we'll be exploring a different part of life as a leader, questioning everything we've ever learnt and sharing a few of our own stories along the way.

If you want to learn how to do leadership your own way, join hosts Lee Griffith (from www.sundayskies.com) and Carrie-Ann Wade (from www.cats-pajamas.co.uk) as they debunk myths, tackle stereotypes and generally put the leadership world to rights.

New episodes are released every Thursday. To get involved, share your thoughts and stories or to ask questions visit www.howtotakethelead.com or DM us via instagram, LinkedIn or twitter.

About your hosts

Lee Griffith

Profile picture for Lee Griffith
Lee Griffith is an executive coach and leadership communications strategist who works with CEOs and senior leaders to maximise their impact. A former award-winning communications and engagement director with over 20 years of experience, Lee has supported everything from major incidents to reconfigurations, turnarounds and transformations. She now runs her own company, sunday skies, and speaks regularly about how leaders can build connection and effect change through great communication and engagement. Find out more via www.sundayskies.com.

Carrie-Ann Wade

Profile picture for Carrie-Ann Wade
Carrie-Ann Wade is a communications director in the NHS with over 20 years of communications and marketing experience. She is also founder of Cat’s Pajamas Communications which focuses on mentoring communications professionals to grow and thrive in their careers. She has been named one of F:entrepreneur's #ialso100 2020 top female entrepreneurs and business leaders, and Cat’s Pajamas has been recognised in Small Business Saturday's UK #SmallBiz100, as a business with impact.
Find out more via www.cats-pajamas.co.uk