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The Fearless Organization

Written by Lucy Dominguez, MBA, SPHR, CPLC

Principal | Lighthouse Resource Group

The Fearless Organization

It is a pleasure to share with you an overview of Amy Edmonds’ book and its application to each of us. The theme of my message today comes from this book - the idea of leaders creating fearless work teams to drive success in their organizations. Fear tactics may have temporary results, both good and bad, but long-term impact of organizational success comes from releasing the knowledge of the talented people you have chosen to work with you in your business.

“No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

Burke, 1756

Let me start our discussion by stating that, like it or not, Leaders ARE Experience Makers and experiences drive beliefs that turn into actions, and ultimately, into results - either personally or in our work life. So, what do all business leaders need to generate? RESULTS

The experiences we create for our teams results in a set of beliefs they have about us, where they work and sometimes even their value to the organization. The beliefs they form are reflected in the actions they take – how much they will speak up or the amount of effort they will give to their work and the quality of their work. Of course, it is obvious that our team/company results are the outcome of all of this.

So, consider the experiences you are creating within your team, organization, community or even your family. Do you make those around you feel safe? Safe enough to take risks? Safe enough to tell you when they make a mistake, or even better, safe enough to tell you if they think you are making a mistake?

Businesses are responding to the Coronavirus with innovation. That innovation comes from our people and the teams they lead. ALL the people on our teams! Did you realize that according to Pulse Surveys only 59% of employees believe their leaders value them?

OC Tanner Weekly Pulse Surveys (O.C. Tanner develops strategic recognition solutions and facilitates weekly pulse surveys on key engagement metrics)

  • 13x more likely to have engaged employees
  • 8x more likely to have great work happening

  • 6x more likely to have promoters on the Net Promoter Score

  • 2x more likely to have increased in revenue

  • 3x less likely to have employees feeling burnout

The book we gathered our discussion from today The Fearless Organization, Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson is based on research conducted at Harvard Business School.

The Power of Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety at Work

Creating a Fearless Organization

Our focus in this discussion is on psychological safety at work, but consider how children often exhibit full out psychological safety depending on their life experiences up to the current point in time.  Often, they will take greater risks – sometimes riskier than their parents might like!

Psychological Safety at work is not about a personality type or about lowering standards of performance.  Consider these questions as you think about psychological safety: Can your team safely admit that they made a mistake?  Can they safely ask for help?  What happens if they do?  An environment of mutual respect is like a two-way street. By valuing our employees, we create an environment of mutual respect, which, ultimately opens them up to conversations they might not otherwise have…it drives continuous learning at all levels of your organization.  Do people at your place of work show up with their minds and hearts? Yes or no… why?  Think about it for a minute.

So, how does one create a fearless organization?  An organization with Risk Takers!  What does it take to make this happen?  According to Amy Edmondson there are three interrelated practices that help create psychological safety:

  1. setting the stage
  2. inviting participation
  3. responding productively

These practices must be repeatedly used, in interactive, learning-oriented ways, to create and restore a climate of candor in an ongoing way.  Building and reinforcing psychological safety is the responsibility of leaders at all levels of the organization.

This takes us back to this principle from ‘Partners in Leadership:’ The Oz Principle. Experiences create beliefs, beliefs cause us to take certain actions, and our actions have results.  Leaders need to consider what experiences they are creating and, ultimately, the results they are getting.

Consider, if you have not already, replacing annual or even biannual reviews with more frequent (weekly or monthly) conversations with your direct report employees. I like to call these one-on-one meetings where you get updates on how each team member is progressing against goals or projects and what support they need from you… questions they may have … information they can share, etc.

Holding frequent one-on-one meeting in place of annual reviews is crucial and leads to a:

  • 54% increase in engagement
  • 31% increase in productivity
  • 47% decrease in fearfulness
  • 15% decrease in burnout
  • 16% decrease in depression
    Source: OC Tanner weekly pulse surveys

Let me close by saying that this is a constant process of - Learning and responding with appreciation!

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