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.

Unwrap the Gifts of Leadership

giftThe workplace is like a playground where we get to play with ideas and try out new roles and identities every day. If you approach work with an attitude of having fun and are open to learning new things about yourself and others, you will receive many valuable gifts of leadership. Each leadership gift presents a conundrum, which only you can “unwrap” for yourself. To do so, consider your unique values, strengths, tolerances, and circumstances.

Below are a few leadership gifts that are waiting to be unwrapped by you. Use the questions provided to tear away the gift wrap, revealing a gift that is chosen uniquely for you:

Ego Equilibrium
Definition: The ability to balance service to others and the group while honoring your own vision and values.

Reflection:
• How do you lead without being the focus of attention?
• How do you move an agenda forward without thinking you must do the work yourself or your way?
• How can you be authentic while playing the multiple roles required of a leader?
• How do you commit to your organization without compromising core personal beliefs?
• How can you maintain leader status without losing accessibility?

Flexibility
Definition: The ability to modify, yield, or adapt plans to relevant changes in circumstances.

Reflection:
• How do you position your employees and your company to pivot when circumstances change?
• How do you regularly challenge your own assumptions about what is true?
• When is it more important to forego adapting in favor or stability?
• When is it more important to forego stability in favor or adaptation or change?
• What are your non-negotiables in any given situation?

Humility
Definition: The ability to maintain a modest perception of one’s own importance

Reflection:
• How can you remain confident in your decisions and abilities and legitimately seek feedback from others?
• How do you accept and incorporate personal feedback and remain confident?
• How do you seek input from others and remain decisive?
• Admit mistakes and misjudgments while inspiring confidence?
• How do you ensure others understand your vision without dictating the details for how it should be carried out?

Resilience
Definition: The ability to recover or bounce back from adverse circumstances

Reflection:
• How do you remain optimistic and realistic at the same time?
• How do you reframe specific setbacks as opportunities?

Innovation
Definition: Seeking or introducing new or different ideas and methodologies

Reflection:
• How do you maintain solid operational processes or corporate identity while encouraging “no limits” creativity and innovation?
• How do you accept both success and failure?
• How do you avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water”?
• How do you avoid compromising for mediocrity?

Throughout this winter season, unwrap at least one leadership gift for yourself and enjoy.

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.