You are currently viewing It is not enough to tell people to be brave.  Without psychological security, fear will silence candor and crush courage

It is not enough to tell people to be brave. Without psychological security, fear will silence candor and crush courage

NASA Challenger disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of British Petroleum. Volkswagen emissions scandal.

What happened?

The investigations yielded multi-layered results. But behind the complexity lies a common element.

afraid. People were afraid to tell the truth.

And so they didn’t.

Concerns weren’t shared, mistakes were rewarded, and valuable information was filtered as it traveled up the chain.

I speak regularly to leaders who share the importance of developing talent, building strong teams, and fostering great cultures. Yet again and again, people in their organizations say they regularly refrain from speaking out for fear of what might happen if they did.

The presence of fear in organizations imposes a tax that is rarely immediately apparent. Of course, people don’t always die, and companies don’t always go bankrupt or spend billions in settlements. Too often, the cost of fear in the workplace is a slow infusion of lost value, stifling creativity and squandering potential.

People stop taking initiative, asking questions, sharing ideas, and acknowledging mistakes. Decisions are delayed, plans are refined…and more refined. Innovation is slowing down. Silo wall thickness. Problems are not expressed.

People play it safe unless they feel safe to do otherwise.

The biggest problems in organizations can usually be traced back to the conversations that take place no It happens because people didn’t feel safe enough to have them. When leaders don’t make people Feel Safe to risk their vulnerability and speak the truth, they put the entire organization at risk. Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, also participated in Live Brave. Podcast “Insecure cultures put everyone at risk.”

This is why psychological integrity—a term popularized by Edmundson and defined as “permission to be honest” and taking personal risk—was found to be the strongest determinant of high-performing teams.

Of course, leaders play a pivotal role in building psychological safety and fostering what I call “cultures of courage.” Every leader is, as my colleague Sarah Jenson Clayton says, “a master cultural architect.” The more powerful they are, the greater their influence. through thick and thin.

If leaders do not proactively eliminate acts of weakness (such as pointing out problems), they inadvertently encourage unproductive behaviors that stunt growth and make individuals, teams, and organizations potentially dormant.

Feelings drive behavior, not logic.

Telling employees to “be brave” and “talk up” only creates cynicism if it is not accompanied by hard evidence that the behavior will be rewarded and there is no reason to suspect otherwise.

If people have any A reason to hesitate before speaking, it reinforces the fear-driven “play safe” rules. After all, no one gets fired for saying what their boss wants to hear. At least not in the short term, as our focus naturally snaps. As Edmondson puts it, “cognitive computation errs cautiously.”

While leaders have the greatest role in bending cultural norms toward courage, each person, regardless of their role, can play a role in making others feel more comfortable participating in the most important conversations (and that includes you) because it’s just like being fearless. Infectious, as well as brave. Here are some ways to help you do that.

Intriguing trade smarts

when Satya Nadella He took the reins of Microsoft and saw the need to shift from a culture of experts to a culture of curiosity and set about instilling a growth mindset throughout the company. He encouraged employees to shift from being a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all” and designed it himself.

Let’s face it, none of us know what is causing the error. As Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, most people have an “overconfidence in what we think we know” along with an “inability to acknowledge the full extent of our own ignorance.”

So get in the habit of asking questions before making up your mind. Get comfortable deliberately practicing “I don’t know.” Most of all, listen openly to change your mind.

Destigmatize incorrect steps (starting with sharing your own)

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus always started his weekly management meetings by sharing something he had no He succeeded last week. By publicly sharing his failures, he made it safer for others to try new things and expanded learning across the company by sharing it freely.

If you are a committed learner, you will inevitably make the “missed step” when you get stuck on the learning curve. When you do, don’t keep it to yourself. Sharing your learning not only enlightens others, but also relieves the shame associated with imperfect results.

Call in quieter voices until you feel all points of view are included

Our brains are designed to extend the credibility of VIP opinions. Therefore, if you are in any leadership role, it is likely that some of the people you trust will fail to think critically about what comes out of your mouth. While it flatters the ego, it creates vulnerability because, in the words of General Patton: “If everyone thinks alike, someone doesn’t.”

Be sure to invite the less vocal ones to challenge your thinking.

Encouraging the “loyal opposition”

Beyond boosting inclusion is eliminating the risk of discord.

Research shows that the best decisions are made when high intellectual friction is combined with low social friction. A leader’s job is to motivate people behind a common goal and then encourage people to challenge ingrained thinking about how to achieve that goal in life. Ask the people, ‘WHat maybe I’m missing here?.

Sometimes asking for just “one thing” can improve outcomes can reduce anxiety and result in more input… after all, you only want “one thing.” For example, “What is one way we can improve this process/strategy/product…?”

Respond well to ugly facts and “dumb” questions.

The culture at Volkswagen celebrated bold ambition but punished failure to meet goals. When VW engineers realized they couldn’t meet cost, efficiency and emissions targets, they were too scared to report it. So they lied. Fear of telling the truth drives gruesome truths underground. But they never stayed there.

Sometimes in our eagerness to reward results, we can encourage the behaviors we do no We want and praise those we do.

You may not like what you hear, but don’t ever make anyone regret shooting straight at you. A positive response can make an important difference for a long time to come. For example, I really appreciate you introducing me so quickly. I’m sure it’s not fun to share, but I’m grateful to you.

People need to believe that the benefits outweigh the pitfalls

Likewise, if you’re asked a “silly question,” don’t make the asker feel stupid (note: restraint may be required.) Doing so may turn off very smart questions in the future. People need to believe that the payoff for being brave is worth it.

Research has found that the time period between someone identifying an issue and raising it is a strong predictor of top performing teams. Psychological safety defines that time gap.

Leading from the inside out

Until a leader is secure in themselves, fear will be their main advisor and they will fail to make others feel safe around them. Examples of such leaders abound. However, working with people of all levels has taught me that the only thing needed to build leadership impact is having the courage to act as one – no matter the title.

Courage and psychological integrity constitute a virtuous circle. In the words of Edmondson, they are “two sides of the same coin”. So whatever your situation, take it upon yourself to make others feel comfortable being brave around you.

In every field, we need leaders who have the courage to put their vulnerabilities on the line for a worthy cause. No matter your title, you can choose to step up and be one of those leaders – displaying courage and humble curiosity that you’d like to see more of in others, especially those in the highest positions of power.

You could argue that leading change is not your job. It is very risky and not worth it. However, every time you rise above the urge to play it safe and actively choose to step up to the plate, you’re not only strengthening yourself, you’re emboldening others… spreading courage, minimizing stakes, expanding possibilities and improving outcomes.

This is what I call real leadership.

Dr. Margie Warrell is a global expert in courageous leadership. As a Senior Partner in Korn Ferry Leadership Consulting, they help organizations transform into “Cultures of Courage” that unlock talent and accelerate transformational change. Listen to Her interview with Amy Edmondson is here.

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