In the beginning, let us remember the following:
- business is personal.
- people commit to people first, not just plans, goals or objectives.
- on-line communication and collaboration works better once there has been extensive face-to-face communications.
- small leadership actions send big signals, especially when they relate to core principles and values.
One problem I see routinely now is that too many people are forgetting the above fundamentals when it comes to helping people achieve their goals. We must remember that successful managers recognize that real achievements require real effort. They also understand where this effort comes from.
First, we all know we can not change people. Instead, we can only change the environment around people, and then they change themselves. The key from my vantage point is that the best and most successful managers help people achieve their goals by creating psychological safety. Then real effort follows.
Psychological safety begins when managers ensure “that no one is penalized if they ask for help or admit a mistake,” notes Amy C. Edmondson in her article called “The Competitive Imperative of Learning,”July-August 2008, Harvard Business Review. As she continues, “Psychological safety is crucial, especially in organizations where knowledge constantly changes, where workers need to collaborate, and where those workers must make wise decisions without management intervention.... It is built on the premise that no one can perform perfectly in every situation when knowledge and best practice are moving targets.”
She further explains that “Psychological safety is not about being nice - or about lowering performance standards. Quite the opposite: It’s about recognizing that high performance requires the openness, flexibility, and interdependence that can only develop in a psychologically safe environment, especially when the situation is changing or complex.... Psychological safety makes it possible to give tough feedback and have difficult conversations - which demand trust and respect - without the need to tiptoe around the truth.”
Yet many managers wonder how to actually create this level of safety. As Edmondson explains successful managers do two specific things. First, they “explicitly acknowledge the lack of answers to the tough problems groups face.” Second, they “ask questions - real questions, not leading or rhetorical ones.”
Remember: be more aware of the importance of psychological safety and create work environments where safety and trust are the foundation for all we do.