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.

By the Numbers – Capturing Lessons Learned

Much institutional knowledge in companies is lost through turnover and poor communication. Such institutional information is often critical to successful operations and execution of company goals. One way to preserve and share knowledge and expertise is to actively capture, store and share “lessons learned”. However, for most, it’s easier said than done.

This infographic compiles the numbers related to capturing, retaining, and sharing lessons learned:

lessons learned

 

 

How to Shift Your Leadership from Park to High Gear

shift leadership into high gearLeadership is the process of inspiring others to achieve what you have in mind. And it will be one of the most challenging things you set out to do. You may have found out soon enough that you can’t do everything to achieve your business goals alone. It may be even more surprising that your employees aren’t mind readers. Consequently, they often do things in ways you never anticipated . . . or not at all.

Like a finely-tuned machine, the component parts of your company must work together in a highly-coordinated and high-functioning manner. You can use the following touchstones to coordinate and maintain your “machine”, and you will shift your leadership from park to high gear:

1. Formulate and Convey Your Vision

Leaders create a compelling vision of the future to create mutual understanding and to enlist the enthusiasm of others to join in the bringing of that vision into reality. Create a detailed picture in your mind of where you want your company to look like in the foreseeable future. Then, share that vision, or at least relevant aspects of it, with employees in almost every interaction. This serves to describe the finish line you’re heading to and ties what employees are doing now to where the company is going.

2. Practice Humility

Truly powerful leaders know their capabilities and are comfortable in their own skin. Hold on to your confidence but set your ego aside and acknowledge that others have talents and capabilities that you don’t. Take yourself out of the center and out of the role of “doer” and see yourself as the conductor of a very capable orchestra.

3. Put Strengths in the Limelight

Great leaders know that strengths will move your goals forward, not weaknesses.That’s why it’s important to know which strengths you need in each position in your company, so you can hire employees who have them. Then harness and highlight those strengths through coordinated effort to move the needle on your company goals.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves.'”  — Lao Tzu

4. Make Performance Discussions the Norm

Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot. It’s important to continually channel people’s focus and efforts on the right activities and to the standards required. Focus these discussions on key performance indicators and high-value activities for employees. Meeting regularly keeps you abreast of how they are doing. It also allows you to assist with removing obstacles and gives you an idea of training employees need. Additionally, you can more timely celebrate “wins” with each employee.

[bctt tweet=”Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot.” username=”@FirebrandCoach”]

5. Access the Wisdom of the Team

Leadership is about bringing employees together to access all available wisdom and using it to the company’s advantage. In small and large companies alike, employees depend on each other to get their work done. The beauty is that each has a different perspective and can see things the others can’t. Create regular opportunities for work groups or teams to come together to share what’s working and what’s not working. This will also allow them to provide advice and support to keep things moving forward in the right direction.

Your employees need your attention and guidance. Your leadership will shift into high gear when you learn that it’s less about you “doing” and more about you “allowing” others to do.

 

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.

 

This post was inspired by a conversation with colleague, Clay Neves.

Clay Neves Personal Sales Dynamics - Sales Leadership

Clay Neves brings 35 years of sales management experience to solve your specific sales challenges, with several Inc.500/5000 awards for sales growth. He designed, implemented and managed successful campaigns for Fortune 500 companies like Pacific Bell, Sprint, AT&T, Citibank, Showtime, and others. He has worked with thousands of business owners throughout the United States and Canada to grow their businesses, through seminars, workshops, and one on one coaching. He served as Executive Director of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce and was awarded the Book of Good Deeds Award from the Murray Exchange Club for his community service.

Clay lives in West Jordan with his wife JaNae. They have two children, Janessa and Jordan. He enjoys playing his guitar, singing, writing poetry, solving puzzles, history, reading, and hiking the many canyon trails along the Wasatch front. He’s an award winning competitive speaker.

Contact Clay at clay@personalsalesdynamics.com or at 801-792-7929 for a STAR (Standards/Training & Tools/Accountability/Rewards) worksheet.

6 Leadership Fails That Make Incentive Plans More “Incite-ful” Than “Insightful”

compensation-incentives

Struggling to figure out how to increase customer satisfaction? Tired of the lackluster employee performance that can come with simply paying employees to show up and breathe? There might be some benefit in creating a formal incentive plan for employees in hopes of producing more and better products or customer service.

An incentive is the reward given to an employee in exchange for a behavior or performance of a task. “If you do ‘x’, then you’ll get ‘y’.” However, with the complexities of employee incentive plans, proceed thoughtfully and with care. Without thoughtful advanced planning and insight into the correct way to align the incentives with business needs, you will most assuredly end up “inciting” employees to exhibit unproductive behaviors. In that case, your company ends up with unwelcomed and unintended consequences.
Here are 6 leadership failures that could cause incentive plan to be more “incite-ful” than “insightful”:

1. You failed to align the incentives with business needs.

With poor alignment, there is little or no
correlation with your business processes, products or services, or customers’ needs. To avoid misalignment, think about what you are trying to achieve by using an incentive, including what you want to achieve with your customers.

2. You forgot about fairness.

An unfair incentive fails to account for the amount and extent of control participating employees have over the end result, whether they work individually or with a team. This means employees don’t have a good opportunity to affect the desired result. To create a fair incentive, the design must account for the employee’s abilities to have an impact on the desired outcome and to control what they do to affect the outcome.

3. You weren’t transparent about how it works.

Employees don’t have a clear understanding of what’s important to do for the sale and for the business need. Spelling out the reasons and working of the incentive program to employees is key.

4. You don’t understand the “M.O.” of the participating employees.

Incentives work best with functions that are very production-based versus with those functions that require more creativity and discernment. Additionally, the incentives used should be correlated to the intrinsic motivation(s) of the type of employee who typically works in those positions.

5. You’re missing out on other types of rewards you could use, such as recognition.

An incentive program isn’t just about the “if-then” rewards available. Its effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by using acknowledgement, recognition, and even bonuses.

6. You fail to pilot the program and to monitor it throughout implementation.

Before rolling out the plan, it helps to have participating employees weigh in on just what the proposed incentive will encourage them to do – good and bad. Then during implementation, watch for unintended behaviors and results, so you can tweak as needed as soon as an unintended result is noted.

People are not machines. Before implementing an incentive plan, call on experts to assist in the design and carefully consider what outcome you are really trying to accomplish.

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: leadlikenobodysbusiness.com.

 

russell-lookadooThis blog post was inspired by a conversation with Russell Lookadoo of HRchitecture. Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank.

Since 2005, Russell has enjoyed focusing on small businesses and has honed his skills in family business matters, partnership disputes and other challenges unique to small privately-owned companies.

He is the only consultant in the area to combine his broad corporate Human Resources background with a decade of practical business advising with small businesses. This unique combination allows Russell to work closely with business owners and key leaders to find solutions to their business challenges and align the personal vision of the owner with that of the companies.

Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at http://www.theHRGuy.biz.

Be the Bigger Person When Receiving Feedback

feedbackGiving quality feedback in a respectful way can be hard. Receiving feedback in a respectful way is even harder. (Even receiving positive feedback for some is difficult.) After receiving negative feedback in particular do you notice you have heightened negative emotions or niggling thoughts that linger long afterwards? That just shows you care.

When I refer to feedback, I mean any information that is given to you about your own behavior, communication, or performance that is intended to make you aware of how you impacted someone else – whether good or bad. However, I’ll focus on receiving negative feedback, which feels harder to swallow.

 

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Bill Gates

As a business leader, you probably find yourself being the formal giver of feedback more often than a formal receiver of it. Still, there are many opportunities to receive feedback. You can solicit feedback from individuals, via employee surveys, or through a 360-degree feedback process. You may also receive unsolicited feedback from anyone you work with.

Positioning yourself as a good receiver of feedback can be very powerful for you personally and as a role model for your company. It really boils down to being the “bigger” person when receiving feedback.

If possible, you can practice receiving feedback on your terms by creating the best conditions possible to get feedback. These are situations where you have a lot of control by choosing the following: (1) the specific feedback you want (2) a non-threatening setting in which to receive the feedback, (3) and people who respect and trust to provide the feedback. Even under these conditions, it can still be hard to receive negative feedback, but these might be the best conditions for practicing the following tips for receiving unsolicited, negative feedback:

1. Keep your ego in check.

Even if you are high up the food chain, you aren’t perfect and are not above making improvements. To avoid getting your ego too involved, frame the intentions of the feedback giver in the best possible light. What are their good intentions for giving you feedback?

2. Keep your power in check.

Be aware of any power differential in your relationship with the feedback giver, especially if you have more positional power. It’s important to keep emotions down, or you risk having a chilling effect on getting future feedback. If you feel yourself getting angry, defensive, snarky, or deflecting blame back on the other person, this can be magnified by your power. Or heightened emotions may d really be signaling your insecurity around the feedback topic.

3. Gauge your intention vs. impact.

Based on the feedback, how big is the gap between how you thought you were coming across and the impact you had on others? For most feedback, this the heart of the matter, or the point of the feedback. Take stock. It is, however, harder to gauge if you don’t respect the person’s opinion.

4. Accept the feedback graciously.

To do this, be quiet and listen without arguing. Avoid minimizing the person’s opinion, turning the tables on them to give THEM feedback, or disputing the feedback. Maintain neutral facial expressions and body language, and at the end, simply thank the person for their input. You may ask clarifying questions if necessary to understand the circumstances, or you may ask for specific tips you could employ to do better next time.

5. Consider the feedback.

You don’t have to accept all feedback as true of helpful. Take time in the subsequent days or weeks to decide what feedback to accept or reject. You may want to test the feedback with others you trust or validate the feedback by noticing your behaviors in similar situations going forward.

6. Circle back to the person.

When you circle back, you do so in the spirit of letting them know you’ve been considering the feedback and to thank them again for their candor. You are not obligated to report on what you’re doing about it. Just touching base with them again lets them know there are no hard feelings and serves as a good model for receiving feedback without letting it adversely affect work relationship.

Finding out you’ve fallen short of someone’s expectations can be hard. It’s just an indication of the degree to which you do care about being the best you can be. However, you show your colleagues and employees how to be a great leader when you can practice what you preach and give feedback as good as you get it.

 

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.

Stop Walking on Eggshells Around a Bad Employee

walking on eggshells

You know that you ought to address various issues with a badly behaved or poorly performing employee, but you haven’t. Because he is still around, you know customers aren’t getting served the way you expect, and you get complaints from other employees about this co-worker frequently. You’re embarrassed and frustrated because you feel uncertain how to approach the situation, and you secretly wish this employee would just leave. It would make things so much easier.

If he were gone, a weight would be lifted from your shoulders. The other employees would be able to work so much more effectively together and would probably be in a better mood. And of course, customers would be better served and more likely to buy from you more often. What has to happen for you to address this bad employee and stop walking on eggshells around him.

How did you get to where you are now? Many things could have happened. You could have made a bad decision when you hired him then didn’t let him go early on because you’re too nice or don’t know how many chances are reasonable. Maybe you’re afraid of this employee because you don’t know the right words to say to him and believe he’ll get angry if you try to address things with him, or you believe he will sue you for discrimination. Maybe he’s a personal friend or family member. Or you might just be conflict avoidant.

No matter how you ended up walking on eggshells around this employee, here’s how to rectify the situation:

  1. Avoid hiring poor employees in the first place. Maybe he wasn’t a keeper from the get-go. Learn how to hire better.
  2. Train your front line supervisors and other management staff on topics that make them better people supervisors, so they have the skills to set expectations, communicate effectively, and follow up when an employee isn’t meeting expectations.
  3. Make it part of your supervisors’ performance reviews to appreciate, reward, and recognize employees, as well as looking at whether they address poor employee behavior and performance timely and effectively.
  4. Walk the talk of your company values. All employees are watching you and learning about the way you and your management team address those who are routinely out of line or not producing to expectations.
  5. Stay the course and keep an even keel with tough employee situations. You might have to start from square one, even if the situation has been going on a long time, but you must address it.
  6. Get advice from an expert, whether that’s your HR person or your company’s attorney.

It’s disheartening when an employee isn’t doing what’s expected, but walking around on eggshells isn’t going to solve the problem. Get the support you need to address it, then see it through. Who knows? Maybe the employee will improve! Everyone else knows what’s going on. Allowing a “bad” employee to remain without improving is degrading your company’s credibility and thereby degrading other employees’ faith and trust in you and your company.

 

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.

A Simple 2-Step Assessment to Manage Your Team

team performanceIt’s easy to simply react to the day-to-day grind.  Before most managers know it, they can find themselves in a situation where key talent has left their teams.  Additionally, managers may realize they have the wrong people in the wrong positions for the wrong reasons.

Managers Need “Monovision”


The concept of Lasik surgery for eyes is familiar to many.  With Lasik, there is an option called “monovision”, which allows the patient to have one eye adjusted for seeing things close up and the other eye adjusted for seeing things far away.  The same concept applies to managers as they keep an eye on their teams:  the manager must focus both on individuals and on the team as a whole. 

Flexing Focus Between Individual and Team is Critical

Getting to know employees as individuals is important and assists managers in setting specific expectations for each individual regarding personal performance, compensation, and career path.  However, many managers do not spend time taking stock of the team as a whole to ensure that the mix of current talent and future potential is working well to position the organization for success in the future. 

A Simple Assessment Can Make All the Difference

This simple exercise can give managers clarity about the current team configuration and provide insight about what the manager must do to create and maintain key team talent into the future.

Managers can take these 2 steps to get a good picture regarding overall team status:


Step 1: Reflect on the relative rank of the employee’s performance with the rest of the employees as a whole.  Is the employee in the top 10%?  Top 25%?  In the middle? Or in bottom 10%, etc.?

Step 2: Record each employee’s potential, using terms to reflect what the future might hold for him.   Is he “Struggling”? “In the right place”? “Needs challenge”? “Ready to Advance”? “Future executive”?, etc.  Use whatever phrases are relevant to your organization.

Based on this simple 2-step assessment, a manager can discern support required for individuals’ career development while gauging the overall strength and career trajectory of the team.  From here, the manager can create a plan for addressing individual as well as overall team needs.

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 advisor for senior leaders who want to get clear and focused to create increased productivity and profitability in their organizations. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: bethstrathman.com.