team psychological safety adaptive leadership

How Uncertainty and Conflict Lead to Innovation and Creativity

Did you know that teams rated as the “best” make more mistakes (not fewer) than others? How come? Because the better teams that make more mistakes DISCUSS them. When they do this, they can work together to reduce them. In short, these “better” teams operate in an environment of “psychological safety”.

According to Harvard Business School professor and researcher, Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is the “belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”

In contrast to a work environment the emphasizes only accountability to produce results, an environment of psychological safety is one that:

• Appreciates diverse perspectives and encourages disagreement instead of assuming there is one correct perspective or answer.
• Allows team members to admit what is unknown, uncomfortable, or uncertain. It is not a trendy “safe space” designed to shelter team members from things they don’t agree with.
• Focuses on experimentation to find ways to address current challenge. To this end, it encourages appropriate risk and allows mistakes.
• Approaches challenges as a system instead of looking for one thing or individual to blame.
• Allows for imperfection and encourages acknowledging personal fallibility and flaws without encouraging unproductive, dysfunctional behavior.

Through her research, Edmondson identified 3 leadership behaviors that help create psychological safety:

1. A Learning Framework.

Work is framed as a learning problem; not an execution problem.  This is accomplished, in part, by acknowledging uncertainty and interdependence. In this way, the team knows it’s OK to encounter fits, starts, detours, and failure before it arrives at an end result.

2. Lean in to Vulnerability and Flaws.

As a leader, when you acknowledge your own fallibility, you emphasize the need for all to speak up and add their perspectives. You can say things, like, “I’m curious to know how you see this.” or “What am I missing here?”

3. Model Curiosity.

Ask lots of questions to show the team how to speak up to get the information they need without being afraid to look less than competent.

For your part, creating psychological safety means that you as a leader must manage your emotions and reactivity. You might think you’re modeling curiosity to encourage participation in a discussion. However, if you get visibly upset at what your team’s input, you’ll undermine psychological safety.

In conclusion, when you create psychological safety with your team, you create an environment that taps into the human element of work instead of treating them as simple cogs in a machine. When coupled with high accountability for results, psychological safety helps you create a learning team that constantly adapts to challenges. In this way, your team has the best chance of expressing its full potential. And that leads to more innovation and creativity in your organization.

Learn more about Amy Edmondson’s research and how to create psychological safety in your organization with her book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety or her TedX Talk.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater presence and composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Employee Engagement: Ready to Call Off the Wedding?

employee engagementTired of hearing about employee engagement or ready to give up? For some companies, it is an elusive concept that’s been around for decades. So, it’s telling that companies are still struggling to figure out the magic formula for attaining employee engagement nirvana.

Perhaps the quest to attain the optimal level of employee engagement comes from the fact that “engagement”, “motivation”, and “satisfaction”, while related, are confused as the same phenomenon. I think of these terms like this: engagement is how committed employees are to taking action that will benefit the company; motivation is the reason someone will put forth effort and take action to benefit themselves or the company, and satisfaction is how employees “feel” about everything once it’s all said and done.

Engagement, therefore, is intentional, committed action taken by employees to contribute, which is the opposite of being on auto-pilot. It happens when employees are so involved in their work that they take ownership in what the company produces because the see big picture for how they fit into the whole.

It all starts with respecting employees for their talents and contributions. While there may be generational differences, every employees wants to be respected and know that their contributions to the overall endeavor count for something.

With that, Liz Stincelli, DM. of Stincelli Advisors suggests these 4 actions you can take to create greater employee engagement.

  1. Be seen so each direct report knows you as a real person. Know at least basic personal information about your employees and retain appropriate workplace boundaries in place. “I do care about you, but we’re not friends – I’m still your boss”.
  2. Communicate the big picture. Give employees information about company goals and how they contribute to achieving them, basic financials, and what’s on the horizon for the company and the industry.
  3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Find out what’s going on at the employee issue and follow up on what you did with the information you gathered.
  4. Invest in employee professional development. Bolster their skills to further company goals and to build their capacity for future career development.

If your company is still struggling to achieve greater employee engagement, don’t call off the wedding or give back the ring yet. Be mindful that you might need to adjust the way you operate to move closer to your employee engagement goals.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their companies by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

 

Liz StincelliThis post was inspired by a conversation with Dr. Liz Stincelli. Find out more about her and her company Stincelli Advisors:
Her blog site: stincelliadvisors.com
Twitter: @infinitestin
Google+: Elizabeth Stincelli
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stincelliadvisors
LinkedIn: Liz Stincelli

The Insider’s Guide to Employee Motivation

employee motivation

Often, it can feel as though you are only one who cares and is willing to do the “heavy lifting” in your company. So, how do you get your employees to care enough to work hard like you and treat customers with care like you do?

Well the research has been around for decades, actually almost 100 years, but for some reason you might be fighting it. What seems to be the case is that your employees are already motivated to get out of bed each morning and do something they love. That’s called “intrinsic” motivation. You know, but might not want to admit, that you don’t motivate anyone but yourself, so stop trying to “make” your employees do things. (Want to see your employees go passive aggressive really fast? Try to put your thumb on them to control them. They’ll subvert you every time – and with smiles on their faces pretending to conform to your wishes.)

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” — Dwight Eisenhower

Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, reviewed decades of research that showed that Skinnerian behaviorism might work well on dogs and birds, but really doesn’t work on people. He boiled down what gets employees revved up to: Content (say over what they do), Control (say over how they do it), and Collaboration (be able to work with others to get it done). Daniel Pink did a similar review of the research in his book Drive, summing up the salient factors as Autonomy (self-direction), Mastery (develop and hone talent), and Purpose (have a really impactful reason for why they do the work).

In the late 1960s, an actual researcher, Frederick Herzberg concluded there were two factors required to keep people happy and productive, companies needed to (1) get rid of “dissatisfiers”, like bad policies, bad supervisors and unfair pay that caused employees to gripe about work, then (2) build in “satisfiers”, like meaningful work that gave employees a sense of responsibility and provided job opportunities appreciation, recognition and continued skill development.

So what can you do to unleash your employees’ natural intrinsic motivation?

First, set your ego aside.

Have you examined your abilities as a leader? Are you someone who others want to follow or work for? Or maybe your ego comes into play when you hire or promote people and they don’t work out. Are you willing to admit your mistake and let them go or move them back to a position that fits their skills and temperament?

Same goes for making sure that the company culture you created is not squelching your employees’ natural inclination to do something great. Make sure you don’t have restrictive or nonsensical policies, procedures, or pay structures that may be administered inconsistent or unfairly.

Second, focus on building relationships.

To build relationships with your direct reports. You should do things like:

  • Take stock their talents, current performance level, and long-term potential. This helps to determine what trajectory each employee is on — promotion, move to another position, redeploy, monitor more closely, etc.
  • Treat your people like people, not cogs or machines. Get to know them personally to a certain degree.
  • Appreciate their talents and the roles they might play in your company: devil’s advocate, trickster, historian, herald of danger ahead.
  • Set and communicate clear expectations for each direct report, tied to company goals
  • Acknowledge contributions made and note where they need to contribute more, better, or more often.Determine frequency and type of feedback they to hear from you.
  • Acknowledge their good work and willingness to go the extra mile when it happens. A simple thank you is good enough usually.
  • Reward them for their performance and commitment.
  • Develop their skills and competence.

As Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t build a business – you build people then the people build the business.” Spend time building your people, and their motivation will shine through.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How “Entitled” Millennials Will Make Your Company Successful

employee engagementMillennials!! As this generation has entered the world of work, the Boomer generation who spawned and raised them is having a hard time adapting to them as adults. Did the Boomers create a monster? Or did Millennials take their parents’ idealism to heart, growing up to believe in themselves and being less willing to compromise their personal ideals and values when “working for The Man”?

Millennials are now the largest generation on the planet, recently knocking the Baby Boomers from that spot. (Generation X is a much smaller generation, barely making a blip on the radar and sandwiched between these two large demographics.)

For all the workplace hand-wringing, eye rolling, and back biting between Millennials and Boomers, these two behemoth generations actually share some things in common: they are strong, innovative, and pioneering.

Here’s how Millennials will shape corporate culture and ultimately make your company more successful:

1. They are confident in their abilities.

This is great! They aren’t going to shy away from ambitious goals. Yes, you have to help them understand that while their confidence is great, it doesn’ t mean they are wise or seasoned enough yet to run a department – let alone be the CEO, but they will respond if you take them under your wing and mentor them.

2. They dream big.

They innovate like no other generation because they can envision big ideas, especially in the abstract and conceptual. They live and play in the virtual, abstract world where they can create and use technology to do tasks that people used to do. They just don’t have the experience or practice of bringing those ideas into physical reality like previous generations did. Give them more experiences interacting physically with things and other people in the same space to help ground them.

3. They are focused on the good of the group.

In contrast, to other generations, Millennials focus on the group instead of only on themselves. They also put a premium on fairness because of it. I think other generations have believed in fairness, too; they were just more willing to put with unfairness than Millennials are. Millennials can make your workplace better as you create and enforce workplace rules and policies using more participative methods of gathering input. This same participative input could be used where appropriate in designing products and services and other decision-making.

4. They are conscious of creating a better world.

This includes improving society and taking care of the environment. If your company mission is connected to impacting the world positively, you can use that to deeply engage this generation.

5. They are motivated by learning.

Decades of employee engagement research has listed professional development and training as motivators for employees, and the same is true for Millennials. The difference is they respond to learning and development where they are challenged to think and innovate. Be a guiding mentor who can provide them with useful experiences, instead of the usual training classes where they passively receive knowledge from a “sage on the stage”.

See? All is not lost. With guidance and structure from Generation X and the Baby Boomers for navigating the workings of and relationships in the “real” world, Millennials will be able to bring their abstractions into reality and fully appreciate and participate in the workplace with fewer misunderstandings.

Could it be that, at this point in history as we are experiencing a shift from a focus on masculine, patriarchal values (such as competition, central authority, hierarchy, and independence) toward more balance with feminine values (such as cooperation, shared authority, egalitarianism, and interdependence), that Millennials are the generational step in this general direction?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

8 Dysfunctions That Undermine Company Culture

corporate culture, dysfunction

 

 

Do you recognize any of these archetypal energies in your workplace culture?

Business Dysfunction #1 – Shortsightedness

Inside shortsighted companies, leaders lack a clear vision, and employees are confused about the general direction in which the company is heading. With an emphasis on short-comings and deficits, these companies lack an inspired purpose. Consequently, they are problem-focused and often lose sight of the big picture.

The leadership style driving the dysfunction of shortsightedness is the Aloof Expert who spends most of the time in her head in the land of theories, ideas, abstractions.

Business Dysfunction #2 – Fear & Panic

These companies play it safe. They are risk-adverse and avoid failure at all costs, focusing on avoiding the worst case scenario, favoring comfort over growth and innovation at a cost of obsolescence.

The leadership type behind these companies are Worry Warts, who are very loyal, stable individuals. Unfortunately, they tend to be hyper-vigilant of potential threats and skeptical of almost all information.

Business Dysfunction #3 – Busy Distraction

In contrast to Fear and Panic companies, Busy Distraction companies find it hard to get in a groove. These companies want to be creative and innovative but don’t have the disciplined processes that foster focus and follow through. “Squirrel!”

The Disorganized Dreamer heads these companies as very inspirational and undisciplined: they can inspire others with magnificent ideas but don’t finish what they start.

Business Dysfunction #4 – Control & Micromanagement

In these workplaces, employees feel tightly controlled and micromanaged. It’s not necessarily that the policies and procedures are tightly monitored (although that could be the case); rather, employees can never seem to do anything right. Either their work is criticized as not good enough or their bosses take over their projects and tasks because “if they want it done, they’ll do it themselves”. These companies are short on employee appreciation and long on cracking the whip.

There are two types of leadership styles that can contribute to the Control & Micromanagement dysfunction: the Persnickety Perfectionist and the Pushy Power-Grabber. The Persnickety Perfectionist is a “black and white” thinker who focuses on flaws, criticizing and rarely praising because nothing is ever good enough. The Pushy Power-Grabber is demanding, blunt, angry, intimidating and subject to angry outbursts who desires control.

Dysfunction #5 – Disconnection & Withdrawal

With this dysfunction, things move slowly or not at all because being non-confrontational is valued. Being “nice” is rewarded with less concern for getting results. Goals might be set, but there is no penalty for failing to achieve them. Decisions are delayed or not made at all. Policies mean nothing as exceptions become the rule to keep the peace.

The leader in this company type is a Peacemaker at all costs, who avoids ruffling feathers by appeasing whoever cries the loudest. Consequently, leaders in this company don’t stand firm on anything.

Dysfunction #6 – Over-care with Lack of Accountability

This dysfunction emphasizes being helpful to others. Sounds good until you see the downsides. Leaders fail to delegate appropriately because they rescue employees by making excuses for them and/or picking up employees’ slack instead of holding them accountable. Out of the blue, the leader blows her stack because she suddenly feels taken advantage in spite of creating the situation with poor boundaries in the first place.

The corresponding leader type for the Over-care dysfunction is the Martyr. This is the person who gives and gives and gives until realizing they are not getting reciprocity, at which time they can give you a piece of her mind!

Dysfunction # 7 – Workaholic Culture

This workplace often sets huge goals and pushes its employees to get there no matter what. Failure is not an option, and peer pressure enforces showing that you’re working harder and longer than anyone else. There is nothing wrong with stretch goals and achieving great things. However, here it is all-consuming without an emphasis on guiding principles.

The leadership style that tends to drive the Workaholic Culture is the Overachieving & Ambitious Chameleon, who outwardly displays all the trappings of success – the house, the car, cool vacations – while feeling like a failure on the inside — always driven to prove herself.

Dysfunction #8 – Irresponsibility

In these companies, no one accepts accountability, responsibility, or ownership or displays integrity. It’s everyone else’s fault.

The leadership type is the Misunderstood Misanthrope, a “tortured soul” who wants to be unique and edgy but accepted by the mainstream at the same time.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

8 Reasons Your Employees Want to Break Up With You

February is the month we think about our relationships. While you might not go so far as to call them your “valentines”, do you have good relationships with your employees? Having good relationships with your employees increases productivity and retention of top talent. Leaders who don’t foster good relationships with employees will find themselves rejected and abandoned like a jilted lover.

Beware of these eight reasons your employees might want to break up with you:

1. You’re Incompetent. Employees want a competent leader who knows how to communicate, sets clear expectations, addresses all relevant issues (even tough ones), gets results, and holds everyone accountable. In short, they want a good leader. If you’re not at least average in these areas, you’ll see higher than average employee turnover rates for your industry as employees say, “It’s just not working for me anymore.”

2. You’re Not Credible. (Note: there is a difference between lacking credibility and being “incredible”.) Employees want a leader who says what she means, means what she says, and does what she says she’s going to do. These admired leaders have character and integrity. Employees notice when a leader’s conduct is inconsistent with her stated values and when promises are broken. In that situation, employees will dump you for someone else as soon as something better comes along.

3. You’re Not Personally Committed to the Organization’s Mission and Goals. While you ask your direct reports and other employees to give their “all” at work, do you put the effort and time into achieving your company’s goals? As a role model in your organization, you of all people should be working hard. To do this, use your time wisely and put in the planning it takes to fulfill the requirements of your leadership role. Otherwise, your employees will break it off saying, “I’m not saying it’s you; but I know it’s not me.”

4. You’re Rigid or Stuck. While “resilience” might be an over-used, trendy buzzword right now, your employees don’t want to be involved with a boss who can’t roll with the punches. Employees want a leader who can bounce back from failure, who can cope with the disappointment of an unrealized goal, while renewing their sense of hope and re-energizing them as the company gets back on track. If you can’t bounce back when you fall, your employees will break it off and find someone else they can admire on this score.

5. You Are Focused On Your Own Needs First. Do you seek personal ambition over putting the needs of the company first? When you egocentrically put your own desires and ambitions first, your employees understand that you are simply using them to enhance your own status instead of the company’s brand. Employees provide better value to customers when they feel they matter and their leaders care about their well-being. If you’re a “user”, employees will kick you (and your company) to the curb.

6. You Are Not Committed to Employee Success. Do you think your employees should just know what to do with little guidance from you? Employees want to know how they can improve. A good leader understands that talent must be continually developed for the good of the organization. Leaders who don’t, lose bench strength quickly. Without giving specific and frequent feedback and without supporting employees to gain skills, you might just miss out on some of the best employees you could have ever asked for. They will be the “ones that got away”.

7. You Don’t Admit to Your Mistakes. Can you admit when you are wrong? Or do you stubbornly insist on being right? Leaders who admit to their mistakes show humility and courage and emphasize that taking risks may not always lead to the ideal outcome – and that’s OK because you learn something along the way. Leaders who admit their mistakes teach employees that failure is a part of trying and can be more helpful than success.

8. You Need to be Liked Instead of Respected. This is the romantic equivalent of being co-dependent. These leaders curry favor with employees in the hopes of making a friend at the expense of their duty to do what’s right for the company. Of course, it’s ideal to be both liked and respected, but if you have to choose one, choose respect. Employees will see you as unbiased and consistent (fair) if you do. And you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: www.bethstrathman.com.