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Ep15: The Secret To Building Great Teams with Stephan Wiedner

Creative, innovative, high-performing teams with positive well-being that are engaged and committed to your business – every leader’s dream, right?

How to engage and motivate teams can seem complicated, but research shows us there is one factor more important than any other: Psychological Safety.

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Join us as we explore how to build teams that contribute positively to your workplace culture and performance, every day, with our guest expert Stephan Wiedner.

Stephan is CEO of Zarango.com and Noomii.com, which are consultancy firms that train and coach business people on how to create and sustain a high-performance work environment through psychological safety. 

With a vision to help build a world in which everyone has the courage to speak up and be heard, Stephan explains how employee voice is the driving force of competitive advantage and sustainable success.

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The Transcript

โš ๏ธ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!

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Stefan  
The best teams had the highest degree of psychological safety and the worst had the lowest level of psychological safety.

Al Elliott  
Hello, and welcome to the truth lies and workplace culture podcast. My name is Alan, I’m a business owner. My name is Leanne. I’m a Business psychologist. And if you’re a regular listener, even if you’re not, then this whole podcast, you’ll start to learn is all about taking the complex idea of people and workplace culture which Leanne knows everything about, because she’s an amazing psychologist. And then we’re trying to translate it so that you, the business owner or the leader, have got implementable ideas that you can basically walk away today and start doing some really good stuff in your workplace. Now, I want to ask you about this, because I’ve seen quite a few posts recently. And it feels like there’s this uprising in employees demanding a better workplace culture. Now, it could be just the Google algorithm because I’m because I do read these things, then I see more of them. It could be that there’s more millennials in the in the workplace. So therefore, they’ve got different standards that they’re looking for. It could be that they’re perhaps a bit more vocal than me, which is Gen X. I think I am Gen Zed, aka ember. So it could be that I’m a bit more vocal, but I wanted to ask you, Leo, what’s your thoughts on this? Yeah, you’re Gen X, or Gen X. Yeah, I’m a millennial. Hi guys. were alarmed that started the trouble. The Gen Xers are now picking up the baton.

Leanne Elliott  
Yeah, no, there is definitely there is definitely a shift in expectations of employees at work, because there’s been massive shifts in the way we work, you know, in terms of technology, and obviously massively accelerated by the pandemic. Expectations are different now. And, you know, the world of work is is different as well, where there’s, you know, the the times of having a job that’s safe for life on isn’t there anymore. As we’ve talked about recently, with the Twitter layoffs, a safe pension isn’t really a thing anymore. So quite rightly, you know, employees now are saying, well, you know, I am I’m giving you my time, in return for good pay benefits and a work life balance. You don’t have to like it. But yeah, it’s it’s changed. It’s so interesting, because the power shift seems to be now that before it was like, You’re lucky to get a job. And now it’s almost like employees think you’re lucky to get me, which is probably quite a good, quite an interesting shift, and quite a good thing to be. Now you’ve you’ve done some research around what makes a great workplace culture. And you found seven foundations of well being that makes the makes a place a really good place to work. So will you talk us through those seven? Yeah. So I think just to give it a little bit of context, when we look at kind of psychological research within organisations, there’s lots of overlap between well being employee engagement and culture. So what we want to do here at oblong, was create a very comprehensive tool that can capture all of those things, that employees business leaders have influence and power over, they can make changes in their business. But then they can also see the measurable impacts on employee attitudes, behaviour and performance.

Leanne Elliott  
So yeah, there are seven foundations within a business that will promote wellbeing that will promote employee engagement and all the performance benefits that come with that. We’ve called it the RX seven. And that’s because our seven areas all begin with our and ours very excited when this turned out to be the case completely accidentally.

Al Elliott  
To be honest, I think one of the major change to begin with our but the rest of it, I mean, I put the owl and alliteration, I think, anyway, shall we crack on with those seven then?

Leanne Elliott  
Yeah. Should I should I list the seven first? Yes, yeah. So we have reason, recognition, resources, role, relationships, resilience, and remote.

Al Elliott  
Lovely. So let’s go through those, those seven. And just just to reiterate, these are what we found from our research, or Leanne’s research really have just written bits is that they’re the seven foundations to make an amazing workplace culture of employee engagement and performance

Leanne Elliott  
and well being well being. Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, reason the first one. So this is really providing and I like to start each of these kind of definitions with providing because as a leader, I can provide this within the organisation. It’s not intangible, it’s not, you know how to do this. I provide this as a leader. So reason I provide leading engagement with a clear mission, that not only I connect with, and I’m excited about as a leader, but that my employees connect with, both on a professional and a personal level. So the second is recognition that’s providing an environment that’s based on fairness, representation and appreciation. The third is resources. That’s providing manageable workloads, adequate training for people to do the job that they’re currently in, and ongoing development development opportunities as well. The fourth is role to this is role clarity in terms of the current role. So what are my responsibilities? is clarity over future roles do I have a clear path within the organisation, or indeed externally to the organisation, free doing work practices. So this isn’t having to do everything exactly the same way, all the time, I have some autonomy within my role. And and also just mutual respect between leaders and employees in terms of, I have a role within this, this organisation and therefore, I have some control over over what that looks like. The fifth is relationships. So this is providing information and support to employees through yourself as a leader through your managers and harnessing nurturing that support in peer relationships as well. Six is resilience. And this is really providing opportunities for employees to build their resilience, and critically to, you know, the time and space to emotionally and physically recover from work, particularly in frequently changing environments, which is basically just business today. And then finally, remote remote, it’s interesting. And pre pandemic, we were working with clients on employee engagement and wellbeing and looking at remote work is something that we believe was driving employee engagement. So it’s contributing to positive employee engagement, well being within the business, what we’ve kind of found in our research, post pandemic, and this is early post pandemic, so might change why we need to always keep an eye on these things. What we’re finding is that employee engagement and well being is affected by remote or hybrid work as a workplace arrangement, either negatively or positively, depending on the conditions within the organisation as they currently are. So what he’s basically saying is, it’s a moderating factor. So if you’re, if your other six eyes are doing really well, then more than likely remote work, or hybrid work, whatever that looks like for you, is going to work really well because you’ve created this environment to facilitate remote work. Equally, if there are some kind of hotspot risk areas in your organisation, then they’re probably going to be related to certain struggles with remote work. So currently, we’re finding that remote is a moderator of the previous six. But that is the those are the seven foundations, and that is the Arctic seven.

Al Elliott  
Definitely now you’ll be hearing I’m sure a lot more about that in the new year. I’m not going to give you any spoilers. But the whole point of this is I think that you’re going to get these things in place. And basically, as long as you do these seven things, we’ve got the seven things scoring highly, you’ve got yourself a decent workplace culture. Now, I think what you said before was that one of the most or you’re talking about one of the most important beliefs, and that’s why we’ve got our guest on today.

Unknown Speaker  
Yeah, so. So the important thing about looking at culture, employee engagement, wellbeing, is to look at it as a predictive model. And something that you can measure, so all of our sevens in RX seven, each of those can be measured, and linked to a specific positive belief or behaviour that employees might have about the organisation. And that in turn is going to translate into individual individual benefits, such as well being performance, fulfilment, but also business benefits. Like I said before, he always has to be commercially sustainable as well. And what we found is that these positive behaviours and beliefs translate into higher revenue, higher profitability, and faster growth to name a few. So in short, you need this one scale. If you want to baby’s exit, maybe you want to get investment you need this. Absolutely. And, you know, to kind of lead in and segue nicely into today’s guest. What are the most important beliefs that can be held by employees and engaging work environment, and that boosts wellbeing pretty much exponentially is something called psychological safety. We brought in a guest called Stefan who he will introduce himself in a second. And I’m not going to deliberately not going to ask the end to define psychological safety of all why we need it because these are all the questions we asked Stephen. So let’s meet Stephen. 

Unknown Speaker  
My name is Stephen wiener and I’m the CEO of the rango.com it is a training platform where we train folks in psychological safety. The original seed was there in business school, I really enjoyed organisational behaviour, industrial organisation like those courses, the kind of HR culture related courses and so I’ve been spending the last 15 years or plus in that area. So I started with coaching. We started my business partner and I we started up new meet.com That’s a network of 1000s of coaches all over the world, and more recently, started up as a ranko.com for all of our psychological safety basically

Unknown Speaker  
training. S o as I mentioned earlier, psychological safety is a belief held by employees and engaging and supportive workplace culture. But what is it exactly? And Stephens actually got a really good clinical definition, 

Stefan  
I’ll start with the clinical definition, if you call that the one provided by Amy, Amy Edmondson, she’s a Harvard professor. She’s really the thought leader in this space. Sure, I call myself an expert, but she’s the real expert. And I’m just learning from her and others in the field. Her definition is that psychological safety is a belief that within your team within your work environment, you can speak up, say what’s on your mind, admit mistakes. And you could do all of that without any fear of some form of negative consequence. To make that a little more tangible in our training, what we say is that the definition for psychological safety is that you’re trying to create a culture in which your people have the courage to speak up. And the confidence to know that when they do speak up, they’ll be heard now as a recording that did break up a little bit when he said a really important thing, which was Amy Edmondson, is that correctly? Yeah, Amy Edmondson is a Harvard professor and a real pioneer and thought leader in in psychological safety. And she didn’t say, you know, it’s she, there’s so much reading, we’re gonna leave a link in the show notes that if you want to dive into her TED talks into her papers, it really is fast, fascinating reading. But you know, it summarise it by the, you know, psychological safety as a belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking, or in other words, that they just people feel empowered to question the status quo without that fear of being judged or embarrassed or punished, in its simplest terms, is creating an adult to adult environment. And I think that’s what we’re kind of saying before, you know, it’s that, you know, you should want me to work for you as much as I want, you know, to work for you is that adults adult transaction.

Leanne Elliott  
Um, you know, as Stefan said, it’s not just about allowing people to speak up, it’s about doing something with that feedback. And it’s by making sure that that employee voice translates into organisational action, that you’re going to get the most impact out of psychological safety, as Stephen explains,

Stefan  
and what we knew looking back was that all of the leaders that we were coaching, wanting to improve their ability to lead their teams inspire their teams, etc. Gosh, they’re all really just trying to prove psychological safety. And we can measure that. And if we can measure it before, and after, then we can point to something that says, hey, this is good evidence that the behaviours of this leader are changing, and psychological safety is improving. And because we know psychological safety is linked to performance, and high high performance, then we can assert that this team is performing better. So as Stephen

Leanne Elliott  
says, again, we’re talking about a predictive model. This is how the RX seven works, it’s how any great employee engagement model or wellbeing model is going to work. In that, you know, if we understand the foundations or drivers of employee engagement, and the associated beliefs and behaviours, we’re not only going to know where to make changes, but we can measure the impact of these changes to, as I said, from from individual wellbeing to profitability, and even happier customers. Now, I’m always

Al Elliott  
asking, how does this make a difference is all sounds lovely? But how does it make a difference? Stephens got an amazing example of how it made a difference at Google, you

Stefan  
need to pay attention to it, because the main reason is that it’s linked to high performance. So I mentioned that earlier, Google did a big study, Google, of course, they’re about as data driven as you can get. And they asked the question, what makes an effective team because they had ranked 180, Google teams, they knew the best teams, and they knew the worst teams. And so they want to know what leads to teams being effective or not. And so they went around the halls of their, their campus. And they asked senior leaders, executives, managers, all sorts of folks what they think might matter when it comes to a team. And so they looked at team size, age, ethnicity, cultural diversity, you know, all of these different factors, and nothing correlated, nothing correlated with the best teams and the worst teams. And so they went back to the academic research came across the concept of psychological safety, apply that to their dataset, and lo and behold, it was the driving factor. So it was the number one correlating factor with high performance and low performance, meaning the best teams had the highest degree of psychological safety. And the worst teams had the lowest level of psychological safety. So that’s why it matters.

Leanne Elliott  
Yeah, such a really interesting bit of research from Google. It’s, if you want to find out more. It’s called Project Aristotle. Cool, yeah, based off of the, I guess, the idea of Aristotle that the sum is greater than its individual parts. But yeah, Google found that employees that felt psychologically safe, were more likely to admit mistakes, more likely to collaborate with others, and also to take on new responsibilities, and commercially, bring in more revenue. Watch, then add in the positive correlation of between psychological safety with a positive relationship between psychological safety, employee retention, satisfaction, resilience, and performance, creating psychologically safe environments. It’s kind of a no brainer, really. I think, what do you what do you think it sounds like common sense at this point?

Al Elliott  
Well, it does. But I think for someone who’s just coming to this term psychological safety, it can sound a little bit like, oh, what else am I going to have to do to make sure that everyone feels happy, and we aren’t going to go on to the whole fluff and snowflake stuff in a second. So if you’re still not convinced, don’t worry, that’s coming. But I think yeah, it just, it makes perfect sense. And the fact that Google is doing it, as you say, data driven tech company, very forward thinking used to be and possibly still are brilliant in the in the leadership area, it just goes to show that this is something which we all really should be listening to.

Leanne Elliott  
Absolutely, and if you’re still not clear on how it psychological safety can impact behaviour, and in turn organisational outcomes, Stephen has a great example.

Stefan  
I’m a nurse. And I see on the chart for this. In this case, it was in a neonatal intensive care unit. So there’s a child and infant a baby. And on the chart, it says, you know, administer this amount of drug, this type of drug and this amount, and you think that dose is wrong. So it’s two in the morning, you know, you’re the midnight shift. And you think I really got to call the doctor. So you call the doctor and says, you know, stay in your lane, just follow the orders on the chart. And that’s that. So the next time that comes around, what do you do? Do you do notice the error on the chart or the potential mistake? And do you call that doctor again? No, because you had you got reamed out last time. So that’s one case where psychological safety affected my ability to be able to pick up the phone and call you. And there’s a potential life or death situation. And why that matters is because how often are there mistakes happening in your work environment, where you want to know about those mistakes, because you can then do something about it. And another similar study looked at the number of errors that were being reported in hospitals. And what they found is that teams that had the highest level of psychological safety, reported more errors, not less. And that was counterintuitive, right. And that was a study conducted by Amy Edmondson again, and she was expecting that the teams with the highest degree of psychological safety would have the fewest number of errors. And it was exactly the opposite. And it’s because it’s a reporting issue. If you have a high degree of psychological safety, you report the errors, so you can fix them. And if you are in a low psychological safety environment, you hide them. So if you’re a business owner, if you’re a business leader, and you’re not hearing about the issues that are happening in your business, until it’s too late, that’s a problem. Right? Like if your salespeople are finding out that your biggest customer is upset with you, and they’re just trying to, you know, cover it up, and they don’t want to admit that we might lose our biggest client, that’s a problem, you need to find out about that right away. So that’s the case for psychological safety. It’s, it’s getting access to information to make better and better decisions. Ultimately, it’s how groups of people learn so they can innovate, adapt, change, make things better.

Al Elliott  
So I have a question later, this has just fired something off in my head. Do you think you know in house the the Hugh Laurie document not documentary,

Leanne Elliott  
documentary,

Al Elliott  
in housing the series, then I’m thinking based on that, that they had high psychological safety, but then the leader? Did they have high psychological because what I’m thinking is, on one hand, he basically sat down to do the differential diagnosis with everyone. So we’re like, right, we want your ideas yet. Almost every idea was thrown back and going, that’s stupid. So what was the situation there?

Leanne Elliott  
I think I mean, I think house is a really interesting case study to use for lots of different things. I think you’re right. I think there is an element of, of psychological safety there because the thing is that there was a You know, if we, if Mistakes were made House knew about it, how’s the first person’s know about or something wasn’t working, he was the first person to know about it. So I think there was psychological safety. And I think what’s probably quite interesting if you, if you kind of mapped that journey of those danios, to maintain your own house, there’s two main teams of doctors over the course of the series, I would imagine that you’d start to see more and more, those junior members and other junior doctors starting to question house and throw back a similar level of, of shade, and you’re wrong. And I think that’s what you is probably a good example of a weird example. But very good example of nurturing psychological safety in terms of it only works if we can all question each other, whether I’m the leader, or whether I am the most junior person of staff in the organisation. Everyone has an equal voice.

Al Elliott  
And it just so happens that houses a sarcastic bastard. So he will, he will shut you down. But you know that he wants you to question that really interesting. Okay, so we can’t just say, All right, we now have a culture of psychological safety. Let’s hear it, can you?

Leanne Elliott  
I mean, not really, I think it does kind of start with that very clearly intention and communicating that clear intention with your employees. But even you know, using that, that silly example of how psychological safety, some of its nurtured, and, and will build over time. So yeah, it’s I mean, it’s not just as we’ve said, it’s, again, house a good example, it’s not just about getting that feedback is also important how you respond to it and respond to it in the right way. As Stephen explains,

Stefan  
oh, well, if I share this, is that going to reflect poorly on me? My colleagues aren’t reporting these issues, maybe? Why would I? Why should I, then I’m going to seem like the whistleblower, right. These are all of the impacts that we might be perceiving to our reputations if we share certain pieces of information. And I think that’s often, you know, the fact that you just pointed that out is really critical to point out is that that’s what’s causing people to withhold information is like, how is this going to affect me, and, and so that’s why as a business owner business leader, you need to make sure that you are setting the tone for what information needs to be shared. And then you need to be responding in a productive way. So if what you’re asking is, okay, I need to know when there are mistakes, and then you remove someone out when they share a mistake, that’s not going to get you that behaviour again, in the future. So you have to respond productively. And also, another way that folks might share information is maybe there’s a chat or some sort of Slack channel where people can just kind of air their issues. And if you just ignore them, like, okay, so you’re giving the ability to share, but then you do nothing with that information, how you respond is as important as kind of the system you set up for gathering the information in the first place. So

Leanne Elliott  
there’s a couple of really great takeaways here from Stephen, those want to expand on a little bit, I think is he you know, he said that the first thing is to really, you know, thinking about how you respond to this, if you fly off the handle, if you send out an angry email and copy in every single member of the team, that’s not going to foster feelings of psychological safety. So you really do have to take your ego out of it, you need to decide ahead of time, how you’re going to respond to various levels of mistake, because the minute you lose your ship, psychological safety just isn’t going to work. I think secondly, you know, as Stefan said, if you’re not going to do anything with this feedback with these ideas, suggestions, you are better doing nothing at all do not open that can of worms, that is gonna you know, I mean, psychological safety then becomes irrelevant. But in terms of employee engagement, and wellbeing, you’re just going to have a more negative impact. So if you’re not in the position, to ask for this feedback, and act on it, and by act it I’m not saying implement every idea, but respond to every idea, then it’s just it’s not gonna it’s not gonna

Al Elliott  
work. I love this, taking your ego out of it. I think that is the key to almost anything in business there, whether it’s sales, marketing, ideation, leadership, HR, anything like that, taking your ego out of it is really, really smart. Okay, so hopefully, we’ve made a case for why it’s important and why you should be considering this, and why you should be implementing it in your in your organisation. So let’s get on to some practical stuff. So how do we actually do this?

Stefan  
Yeah, the first thing you want to do is thank people for contributing, and then seek understanding. So as a leader, you want to make sure that you have your curiosity hat on, if you will. Don’t assume you absolutely know what They’re trying to say. So sometimes it will be fairly clear. But then other times you might have additional questions. Or don’t assume you know exactly what the person is, is trying to aim for what we advocate is for managers and leaders to be really curious about what people are contributing, because that makes them really feel heard, right and understood and appreciated. And if you give people the time of day, they’re going to start to give you more and more information openly, right? Because it’s going to feel more comfortable, they’re going to feel more trust. And that trust is a currency within business, right? The more people trust you, because you’re willing to listen, the more they’re willing to share and give you insights or information that they’re possessing in there between their two years.

Leanne Elliott  
I think what I love best about what Stephen said, there is, you know, leaders putting on their, on their curious hat, you know, leading with curiosity. And why I like that, I think it’s a, it’s a born, it’s a really common trait within, you know, leaders pick their own and lead businesses, they’re usually very curious, they’ve usually built their business because of a curiosity of doing something differently, or, you know, changing how you know, the status quo. It’s that same mentality, you know, how could we do things better. And what I love is that by applying that same mindset, that you leverage to build your business, you’re gonna embrace this this concept of psychological safety, and really help your employees to contribute in the best possible way to continually, you know, push the envelope. So let’s bring this this idea this concept to life a little bit more. And let’s hear from Stephen again.

Stefan  
For sure, I think there’s many good examples of organisations that do psychological safety. Well, I can think of one organisation that’s made it a real top priority for them. And they’re in the finance industry. And so what’s a priority for them, especially among their investment team is getting really good information, because they make decisions about what companies to invest in, they want to make sure that even if there’s one dissenting voice in a room of a dozen, that that dissenting voice is heard. So they’re creating an environment where all of those folks are able to share their information. Now, that’s not a simple task. Like I think the idea of what they want to have, which is complete information for decision making, is really, really clear. What is hard about it is that these folks, by and large, are looking at investments and making decisions, and they’re basically being paid for their knowledge. And so they don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to look like they’re uninformed. They want to be making decisions on complete information. And so if there’s some sort of, like, I’m not so sure, and I’m not even sure how to fully articulate why. But I have an intuition. You know, my, my sense is, this industry operates this way. And this company is a little bit different than all the other companies in the industry. And here’s why. And, like, they can’t fully articulate why they’re thinking I’m not so sure, I’m a little bit hesitant about this as a buy, they might not say anything. So again, they’ve been able to put in place some systems and, and really group norms, by setting a certain agenda, like so okay, for these meetings, here’s how we’re going to run this meeting. We want to hear everybody’s you know, top three reasons for Top Three Reasons against, and we want you to think about it ahead of time, because this week, we’re going to be reviewing companies A, B, C, and D. Right? So they’re giving people their knowing their tendencies, and accommodating the agenda of the meeting, to allow people to have that time to want to invest the time and energy to be articulate with our responses.

Leanne Elliott  
I think that’s actually a really good approach to to give teams this agenda, this expectation, ahead of time, not only for different personalities and thinkers, but also as a way of, you know, saying, we’re so committed to this that we are giving you time to come up with why we’re wrong about this. We resent that too. And I think you know, another way to do it could be you know, again, you’re relying on individuals that that feel comfortable, create teams, or create working groups or set agenda you you for for this idea, you fought against this idea, it doesn’t matter how you individual fit individually feel, use the information to come up with the pros and cons as you can see them. Yeah, I think it’s a really, really cool technique. And just to pick up on something else that Stefan said there as well, you know, and he’s I think this sums it up brilliantly is all of this everything about gathering data within your organisation on employee engagement well being how people are thinking and feeling He is to give you the full information, the full picture, you need to make decisions within your business. If you’re not quite ready to kind of, you know, make this big changes in your business and put it all out there think about doing, you know, asking for some kind of anonymous feedback, or some kind of survey that we’ve talked about before on the on the podcast, sometimes that can be a good place to start to understand what the current climate is within your business, and then make border moves that Stephen is talking about.

Al Elliott  
So clearly, the biggest impact on psychological safety is the leader.

Stefan  
psychological safety is a team based construct. And so you’re going to have pockets where psychological safety is going to be high in pockets, where psychological safety is going to be low, and everything in between. And what we find really tends to influence psychological safety is the leadership starting at the top, but then also leaders within certain departments. So certain leaders and managers will cause psychological safety to go down or up depending on their skills, their abilities to manage their team and manage psychological safety. So are there organisations that uniformly have low psychological safety across the board? I think if you look at the top and you look at who’s leading those organisations, that’s probably going to be the best indication. So

Al Elliott  
here’s a question Leanne, and I’m sure a lot of listeners are saying this out loud. What happens if you start hearing things you don’t really want to hear, you

Leanne Elliott  
will hear things you don’t want to hear. You know, it’s just the way things are and nothing is 100%. Perfect. And also, if people aren’t, aren’t questioning things, then they’re not innovating. They’re not creating, and they’re not driving the change in performance and in your business that you need. So you aren’t gonna hear things you don’t want to hear. But yeah, as I said earlier, is like opening up a can of worms. This is what Stephen thinks,

Stefan  
I think what you’re pointing to is the anxiety we might have as business leaders, too. If I ask the question, and I get an answer, I now need to deal with it. Right? That I think that’s a question you want to ask yourself, are you willing and able to do that, and maybe there’s some areas that you’re willing to explore with your staff and others, where you’re not like, there’s some matters that you want to fully decide, like, you’re the business owner, you’re the business leader, maybe you’re the divisional leader, like you’re gonna make the call, like, at the end of the day, it is a business. And usually businesses require one person to make the call. And so we’re not saying you have to honour every piece of input, right? Because remember, gathering information from your staff is not about agreeing with them. It’s about giving them a voice, and making them feel like what they have to say, matters. And the more you can do that, the more engaged they’re going to be, the more likely they are to really lean into their work. And not just okay, well, boss told me to do this, I guess I’ll do it, even though I think it’s a terrible idea, right? So if you can think about engagement, psychological safety is a means for facilitating high levels of engagement. And lower levels of engagement are going to be facilitated when when there’s less psychological safety when folks are not there, their voice doesn’t matter. So that I think that’s a simple way of thinking about it. Do you want to get the best out of your people, then you want to foster psychological safety and their input and make their voice matter?

Leanne Elliott  
The client said to me once, when we were kind of new, and in our relationship and in the project and starting to explore kind of employee voice and psychological safety, and they said to me, you know, but Leanne, we’re running a business, not a democracy. I was like, yes, but you’re also running a business, not a dictatorship. My kids, you can have, you know, we’re not saying, as Stefan said that, that you’re giving over complete control to your employees, or you have to do everything they say, that’s not the point. You know, business leaders, you can set boundaries, you can, you know, to the kind of input that you want, what your expectations are, manage employees expectations, in terms of what you’re going to do with it. You don’t have an obligation to accept every piece of feedback. And then action, it is more about facilitating that discussion. And if someone gives you an idea, you know, it’s as simple as saying, I love that that’s such a great idea. I’m not sure it’s going to work for the business right now because of this specific reason. But let’s pick that up in three months time and see where we’re at. It’s facilitating that discussion is that adult adult conversation?

Al Elliott  
So let’s just play devil’s advocate for a moment then here. So what would you say to business owners who would tell think that this is just fluff. This is for the snowflakes out there who who need to feel safe?

Leanne Elliott  
I mean, I’d probably just tell them they’re wrong. But I think, yeah, Stephens got my back on this one.

Stefan  
Psychological fluff. Yeah. What makes it different is that it’s it’s not fluff. It’s science. There’s science backing this. There’s data, there’s evidence, and we know what matters. And so one of the things that we’re looking to do is we’re conducting a study right now, because we’re focusing a lot of our training on those interpersonal skills. It’s how to be curious how to ask an open ended question, how to reflect back to someone that you really understand them. Because so often, what we know is that big organisations are starting to look for leaders that have great listening skills. So how do you assess that? And how do you teach that? Because most people, I’m guessing 90% of people think they’re in the top 10% of listeners, right? We all think we’re good listeners, but are we. And so we focus on on those interpersonal skills. And we often focus on what are called soft skills. And we think that’s a misnomer. They’re not soft skills, they’re hard skills, you can measure them, we can assess them through a performance test. And we get folks to respond to those stimulus videos by recording their response, what would they say in the room? So it’s not a hypothetical, they actually record what they would say. And we can assess those we have behaviour specialists, interpersonal skills, experts, who can code the responses to say, to look for a skills that we know are correlating with good positive outcomes. And so it’s these are not soft skills. These are hard skills, and they can be learned

Leanne Elliott  
here, here. This isn’t fluff. This is the science of human behaviour. Do you know what is fluffer? No, Myers Briggs. No one else is for recruiting for culture fit. And one more, do you want a third one? Yes, go ahead. Sushi feckin. Friday is fluff. We have empirical evidence, backing up psychological safety. And when it’s done, right, businesses will measure the impact for themselves. If you’re doing me a favour, if you’re embarking on any people and culture intervention, whatever it is, take a snapshot of your performance before that intervention starts. I’m talking revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, employee engagement, well being productivity, any data points, you have any metrics on performance you have within your business, take a snapshot before that intervention, then once that intervention is finished six months later, take that snapshot. Again. If your performance hasn’t increased in the areas, you expect it to that intervention hasn’t worked. Maybe that intervention was fluff. Maybe it was executed badly. If you’re doing this, right. If you’re using the science of people within your business, right, you will see tangible measurable impact on your performance.

Al Elliott  
Brilliant. Okay, well said. So, let’s assume that someone does do all that. So one that someone listening says yeah, I’m gonna do this. They implement everything that you that that Stephen and you have talked about, we fast forward six months how how do they know that it’s working what

Stefan  
characterises an environment with high degree of psychological safety? Its people speaking up, right. And so what’s the opposite of that? It’s quietness, or what I might call politeness. So if everyone’s just really polite, and, and no one’s willing to say the uncomfortable thing, then that’s a sign that you have a lower level of psychological safety. I think the misconception is that if I’m a leader, if people are kind of agreeing with me, and everything seems okay, that everyone’s happy, and everyone, you know, all is good. And that is a true sign of a low workplace environment is one where people are fighting with each other, you know, openly calling each other names kind of thing. And that’s not the case. So instead, we see that low levels of psychological safety are environments where just people are not speaking up, or they’re just being polite. They’re agreeing with you all the time. And you’re never, you know, a classic example is in a meeting, if you’re sitting there and you say, Okay, I think we should do this, folks. What do you think about this idea? And everyone just goes, Yeah, sure. Let’s do that. You want to you want to empower your people to be able to speak up and say, That’s good. It’s a seven out of 10. What would make it a 10 out of 10 is this and for

Al Elliott  
most people who have started a business because they see the comer A short opportunity and entrepreneur, then they’re not necessarily schooled in leading. And I think that a lot of people and I fall in this trap myself is that you sit there and you think, because nobody’s saying anything is a good idea. And you think I keep coming up with these great ideas, don’t I? And then, you know, six weeks down the line when it hasn’t worked, you’re like, Well, why didn’t that work, and then someone pipes up and goes well, because the software doesn’t really support that kind of thing, or, you know, that sort of idea. So I think this is such an important thing to remember is that you might feel that everything’s okay, because people aren’t disagreeing with you, that could actually be the worst thing. 100%

Leanne Elliott  
And I think, you know, there’s, there’s some, some little things that you can look out for maybe just sit and reflect now on on your business that I’ve I’ve experienced as a leader, and it has been a red flag, and I’ve run towards it and, and try to understand it better things as you know, as our said, presenting ideas and getting no pushback, red flag, presenting an idea and getting venomous pushback, but from the same person that always gives you pushback, red flag literature, well, I need to sit down, have coffee with that person, because clearly, they’ve got some ideas or any idea. And I think, finally, just that. I mean, there’s a balance between always feeling like you’re fighting fires. But if you’re, if you’re in a position where you’re not fighting any fires, everything is going smoothly and brilliantly red flag, there’s a fire. It’s just no one’s called nein, nein Nein.

Al Elliott  
This is so interesting, because I think the the classic, as I just mentioned before that the the natural feeling is Oh, everything’s okay. So can we go into some some tangible you know, how I like a list of things? And ideally, they’ve got three on them? Can we maybe go into like three or four steps of what someone does after they finished listening to this what what they can do to implement this in their workplace?

Leanne Elliott  
Yes, I think step one, understand that people want to be heard.

Stefan  
Yeah, there’s facilitating discussion, for sure. And also, you know, people just want to be understood and heard. So it’s like, yeah, okay, get it. I want one thing you want the other? How are we going to meet in the middle? Or or, you know, it certainly does facilitate a discussion. And I think so often, people want to just be feel heard. And as long as they feel heard and appreciated, they’re more likely to acquiesce if you will, or more likely to. Yeah, acquiesce. Because if you look at research around conflict resolution, often, it starts with demonstrating understanding why because if you understand what the other person really wants, then they’re more likely to want to understand what you want. That’s a good way to make negotiations happen, right? You’re more likely to get to a yes. When you demonstrate you lead by showing understanding. Okay, I get what you really want. You really want this, this the snap? Okay. Well, let me tell you what I really want. I want this and they’re more likely to hear now because I heard them first,

Leanne Elliott  
again, adults adult conversation. I hear so many business leaders say they’re craving this within their organisation, but this adult to adult conversation does mean relinquishing a little bit of control, which can be hard when you’ve built a business from the ground up. So yeah, step one, understand that people want to be heard, and that they do have valuable contributions to make with our minds. Step two, be curious when someone does speak up.

Stefan  
Yeah, the first thing you want to do is thank people for contributing, and then seek understanding. So as a leader, you want to make sure that you have your curiosity hat on, if you will, don’t assume you absolutely know what they’re trying to say.

Leanne Elliott  
And then of course, step three, measure it. This is not fluff. This is not intangible. This is the science of people measure it.

Stefan  
You know, we offer folks a free team assessment. It’s super quick and easy. Amy Edmondson survey that she developed the seven questions, so it’s been robustly tested. And it works to measure psychological safety in a team based environment. And it takes three minutes for everybody to answer the question so we could administer the assessment. And then what it produces for us is a report we get a report. And we use that as a conversation starter with teams. This is a starting point. Okay. Here’s the psychological safety on his team. Let’s talk about it. How do we get the score? Why is it seven out of 10 instead of nine out of 10? And then we can ask the question of okay, well what can we do about it? So that’s the first thing is let’s just measure it let’s get a baseline measure so that we can influence it that what you can measure you can change

Leanne Elliott  
and finally have a think about what might be stuck. Can people from speaking up? I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll continue to bang on about it. One of the most important things you can do as a leader is engage in reflective practice. What is going well, what is it? What could be stopping people from feeling comfortable to speak up?

Stefan  
The second thing is, as a leader, what you want to be thinking about is what might be causing people to withhold information. And when I say withhold, I don’t mean in like a, like an intentional way, like what’s causing them to not want to speak up, I guess, and just be attuned to it and be attuned to it for yourself, like, Are there uncomfortable bits of feedback that you feel like you want to say to some of your staff members or team members? And you’re just not saying it? Like, what if someone’s quality of work is not there? Are you willing and able to go up to them and say, This is not good enough? This needs to be better. And here’s how are you maybe a little bit too agreeable? And you’re saying, Yeah, this is pretty good. Okay. Thanks. You know, so you want to make sure that you yourself, are speaking up, and you’re noticing when you’re not, and what’s causing that. So notice it in yourself, and then notice it in your team notice. Oh, man, she’s not saying anything right now. I wonder if it’s because so and so just made a kind of a judgy? Comment. Hmm, interesting. So just start noticing.

Al Elliott  
Okay, so these four steps step one, understand that people want to be heard. Step number two, be curious. When someone speaks up, seek clarification, don’t assume you know, step three, measure it. And we talked about Stephens measuring tool, which we’ll link to. And step four is think about what’s stopping people from speaking up in the first place. So what are we saying this is all coming from the leader layer.

Leanne Elliott  
Everything comes from the leader. Obviously, as a business leader, the responsibility on your shoulders is great. But realising that does kind of make it a bit lighter. You know, everything you do, every move you make has an impact on your team on their engagement on their well being on their performance. There is no room in this world for lazy leadership. There’s a great book, called the promises of giants by John Manchin, he explains this really beautifully. In terms of Canada, the impact and moves you make. So yeah, if you are a new leader, a new manager, if you are starting a business, if you’re 10 years in and want some inspiration, I will link that in the show notes. Because it is it brilliantly explains how everything comes back to the leader. But that’s okay, we’ve got this. So I asked Stephen, our expert on psychological safety. Does he agree? Does the latest set the term?

Stefan  
Absolutely, absolutely. 100%. I think the leader sets the tone, the belief that one has or the perception that one has about the degree to which their psychological safety in their team is almost like a sum total of all of the interactions that have happened up until today. Up until this moment, so all the slack messages, emails, you know, one on one, conversations, team conversations, all of that is going to inform me on how safe it is to speak up in this environment, what comes out of all of those emails and communications, our norms. Norms are really powerful. And we as humans, maybe we on you have that experience of going to a new job. And what do you do when you get into a new job quickly? You’re like, Okay, if I have an issue, who do I ask, How do I ask them? Do I just send them an email? Can I? Yeah, like, there’s all these social norms that exist, that aren’t necessarily explicitly written down, but they’re driving our behaviour. And we want to fit into those norms. That’s like, culturally, that’s generally how we want to operate. And it usually starts with the core values of business. Like, for example, if you want to, if you’re all about diversity, or you’re all about transparency, you know, that’s one of your core values, transparency, and then you as a leader, you’re kind of withholding information. What are the people gonna say, they’re gonna say, Oh, we’re not all about transparency. We’re actually about transparency with an asterix beside it. We’re transparent to a degree, and then not, but not more, right? Or if it’s all about diversity, and then when new ideas are offered, you shut them down and you don’t quite honour them or or maybe you’re not making any action to really bring in, you know, try to represent more a broader, diverse set of people within your culture. People, you know, we’re not really about diversity. So you want to state your values, and then really honour them, and make sure that all of your actions are congruent with them. So that you’re reinforcing those values again and again, and people within your organisation are gonna say, okay, yeah, we are all about transparency. And I can tell it’s not just lip service, it’s through our actions and our words every day.

Leanne Elliott  
Oh, this is so important. What Stephen is saying here, having values does not make an authentic leader, living those values role modelling those values, and consistently, employees will put up with a bad manager, bad leader for much, much longer than they will in inconsistent leader that incongruence just causes so much stress. We’ve talked about neuroscience before. It’s just that that threat stays is induced. So yeah, if you don’t worry about being a good leader, or a bad leader worry about being a consistent leader.

Al Elliott  
This is gold, I love that people put up with a bad leader longer than they’ll put up with inconsistent leader. That is a fantastic way to finish it. So let’s just talk quickly about some resources. So if you got this far, then I’m hoping you’ve enjoyed it. So we have a couple of a couple of ideas if you want to learn a bit more. Where does Stephen suggest to start, Leanne?

Leanne Elliott  
Let’s hear from Stephen. So

Stefan  
Google project, Aristotle. And that is a that’s the research project that Google conducted to answer the question, what makes an effective team and they have some really useful resources on there that describes what they did in their research study. But they also have some worksheets that as a team lead, you can use to facilitate discussions in your team.

Leanne Elliott  
Stephen is also very kindly offered a free consultation to anyone listening to the truth lies and workplace culture podcast. Yeah, which is an incredibly generous offer. And while we’re taking up, so let’s hear a bit more about what Stefan is offering our lovely listeners,

Stefan  
we generally spend an hour or two, maybe even two hours debriefing the results with the team to help establish what that baseline is, and then create a bit of an action plan for you moving forward. And, and so I’d love to do that with any team. It’s great tea, you know, it’s on me. And I’m unattached to the results are obviously I want to work with organisations and teams. And if there’s a good fit, they’re great. But I’m really honestly happy to work with a team, help them take that very first step of instilling psychological safety within their organisation. And then and then we’ll part ways I’m totally okay with that. So I mean, what

Al Elliott  
he’s talking about here is he will do this for free for you. You’ve obviously got this far, and you realise that he knows what he’s talking about. So definitely take him up on this, I think,

Leanne Elliott  
yeah, I think it really shows a you know a lot about a practitioner who is so passionate about what they do, and also so confident that it’s going to work that they’ll offer that first step for free. So yeah, I would jump on this, and I should say, is now as well, there’s no kickback for us, but not being paid by Stephen or here to promote his stuff. It’s just mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work. So definitely take him up on that offer. You can head over, we’ll put it all in the show notes. But you can head over to durango.com. And that’s Zed a r a n g o.com. And that will take you through to the website, it’s definitely website. And there’s a link on that page that you can book a consultation. So other great resources while there that Stefan mentioned, we will leave links to Amy Edmondson book and her TEDx talks. And for all my fellow academics and psychologists out there, or people that just like to read a good scientific journal have an evening over a glass of wine. That’s Google Scholar link for Amy Edmondson as well. Yeah, I think so many great resources. I love that Stephen is standing behind his work in his belief. And yes, psychological safety. You know, it is is one of those another people and culture term, but one that I think is really worth paying attention to. So I think we should end on Stefan and that passion for psychological safety and some final words of wisdom as to why it matters, and the impact it can have, not only on you as a leader, but on your employees and the performance of your business.

Stefan  
You know, you don’t want to just make a profitable business, but a business that gives the folks that are in side your walls of voice, and that’s what I’m really about, you know, I know that 70% Or maybe more of people are simply punching the clock. They don’t feel like their voice matters at work. And I want to change that I want people to be able to go to work and feel like what they have to contribute matters. And they’re actively moving the world forward because ultimately if that others 70% of people who are showing up to work every day can feel more like they’re contributing. We’re going to solve the world’s biggest problems. We’re just going to do that.

Leanne Elliott  
I love that. And if you’d like to hear more about Stephen and his work, we will also leave a link to his LinkedIn profile in the show notes.

Al Elliott  
Fabulous. So thank you Stefan for joining us this week. We if you’ve enjoyed this then please well it might be really really useful is if you were to leave a review for us on your favourite I mean, iTunes is probably the best one but anything you use leave a review for us. Hopefully it’d be five stars because that’s really going to help us share the episode and just tell 1000 of your closest friends really because we’re fairly we’re fairly early on in the in our podcast journey with this particular podcast and we we quite we’re kind of proud of it we want more people to hear it and we

Leanne Elliott  
we are it really helps other people find the podcast if you Yeah, right to review fancy subscribing, then it will will pop into your downloads every week. But But yeah, thank you to everyone who has listened so far. And we look forward to bringing you another episode next week.

Al Elliott  
Definitely. We’ll see you soon. Bye bye.

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