When people don't speak up, the organization's ability to innovate and grow is at great risk. A culture of silence is a dangerous culture.
On the other hand, a culture of openness and candor offers immense benefits for creativity, learning, and innovation.
Leaders who are willing to say “I don't know” engage the hearts and minds of employees in a way that authoritative styles never can. Today we need engagement, problem-solving, and high performance more than ever and this makes the work of our guest, Amy C. Edmondson so important.
Amy C. Edmondson has long been one of my personal heroes. She’s the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and she really rocked my world when I came across her work on teaming and psychological safety.
Amy studies teaming, psychological safety, and leadership, and her articles have been published numerous academic and management outlets.
Amy had been recognized by the biannual Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 and was honored with the Talent Award in 2017 and a Breakthrough Idea Award in 2019.
In fact, I had a chance to witness her being honored with the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award in November 2019. I think that her acceptance speech was pure perfection. I’m so glad that I recorded it on my iPhone. Here it is:
Here are some of the themes that we explored:
- How Amy stumbled upon the idea of psychological safety during her research on effective teams
- The true meaning of the term “a fearless organization”
- Why psychological safety is not a perk but an essential element to produce high performance in a VUCA world
- The importance of cultivating a genuine spirit of curiosity as a leader
- The dangers of viewing “this can’t be done” as an effort problem
- What people can do to create a culture of psychological safety, even when they are not in a formal position of power
- Implicit theories that hold us back at work
- The difference between shareable and interpersonal fears
- Ways to cultivate curiosity as an individual and as a team
- The dangers of the belief that we know
- Two types of questions to use daily with your team
Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.
Assessing psychological safety in your team
Ask your team members to say how true these statements are on a scale from 1-10:
- If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you.
- Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
- People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
- It is safe to take a risk on this team.
- It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
- No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
- Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.
More about Amy Edmondson
Before her academic career, Amy Edmondson was Director of Research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she worked on transformational change in large companies. In the early 1980s, she worked as Chief Engineer for architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller, and her book A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller (Birkauser Boston, 1987) clarifies Fuller's mathematical contributions for a non-technical audience. Edmondson received her PhD in organizational behavior, AM in psychology, and AB in engineering and design from Harvard University.
Books Mentioned in this Episode