Psychological safety : the individual’s perspective

Last week I wrote about Psychological Safety from the perspective of a leader trying to create that environment for their team or business. But what about the individual? Do they have to just wait for someone else to come and create that for them? You can probably guess that’s a no — but read on to explore more…


Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

I can’t work with that person they’re so intimidating.

This team just seems incapable of a decision and drive me crazy going round in circles.

I’m too introverted to get my point across, the extroverts just take over.

Nobody ever listens to each other. It’s pointless.

All possible scenarios where we can drop into the role of victim, believing that we need a rescuer to come and change things for us. The leader in his coat of shining armour who will take responsibility for the dynamic and make it all better. read more

Psychological safety : we have a choice

Psychological safety was researched for many years before it hit the headlines with Google’s Project Aristotle. In asking “what makes an effective team?” the key enabling factor was psychological safety. But we have a choice — we can create psychologically safe environments with or without effort. What do you choose?


HT for the image : https://coetichr.com/psychological-safety-people-science/

Definition : Psychological safety is “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

I’m sure you’ll have been in a conversation or a meeting at some point in your life where you wondered whether to speak up, whether to ask the question, whether to offer the idea you had, whether to say I don’t know, or whether to say it didn’t work. read more

Diversity & Inclusion : how we’re making it worse

What’s it like to consider that our efforts to make ‘different’ people feel included are taking us away from what we’re trying to achieve?


Image Credit: Perry Grone : Unsplash

It’s time to pause. Just notice for a second, and see if what I suggest here has an inkling of truth to it.

We are creating more exclusion in our efforts to include.

What I see in my sphere of the world is people calling out causes that need to be fought for.

I see people defiant and definitive about the change that needs to happen to include those excluded. read more

Heart-led leadership : what does this mean?

In business — and in life — we have increasingly lived in our heads, operated from our conceptual intellectual mind. This can of course be incredibly useful to turn ideas into things and practical application but it’s not the full picture and over-use of it has led to us being off-balance. Now there is a groundswell towards heart-led leadership. But what does this mean?


Anhata — Heart Chakra —this chakra signifies the state of freshness that appears when we are able to become detached and to look at the different and apparently contradictory experiences of life with a state of openness. Photo credit https://theyogahub.ie/open-your-heart-chakra/

I was working with a client the other day and a theme came out of the session. We’d talked about organisational purpose, culture development, HR policies and leadership of self. The theme that emerged through all of it was that — unless underpinned by heart — none of them would get traction.

An organisation without a heart-led purpose will be blown by the wind, attracted by bright and shiny deals that may or may not be successful. They might strike lucky but, if there’s no heart behind it, success won’t last as the cracks start to show in relationships founded only on profit. A race to the bottom. Soulless. Unfulfilling. read more

Loss : how it’s essential

Loss is essential. Only through loss can something new flow in.

A thought. Dropped in a moment. New insight coming in.

A definite idea of a plan. Loosened and let go of, even the slightest gap. Innovation of something better appears….Keep reading over on Medium, and give it a few claps if you like it! Thanks

If you’re interested in talking more about the work I do, just get in touch here and we can set up a call. read more

Mapping the Employee Experience : #EX at #LearnConnectDo

I’m delighted to host this post from Lara Plaxton who’s co-facilitating the next Learn > Connect > Do on 14th June with Garry Turner.

Employee Experience is a new concept in the world of work so if you want to be ahead of the game and learn more: read on and book on!

Over to Lara…

In preparation for this month’s Learn > Connect > Do session, it came to light that whilst there’s lots of information out there on Employee Experience, it’s often quite theoretical and not practical. In our session, we will run an interactive workshop where we’ll consider the employee experience, map out journeys, create personas and run a design-thinking exercise to find solutions to some of the pain points in your workplaces. So ahead of this, we thought we’d share some thoughts on how to understand employee experience better through mapping journeys.

Firstly, before we approach employee experience its important to point out that this should not be viewed in isolation. Systems thinking is an approach to ‘seeing’ things in a holistic way to understand how everything is connected and interdependent on each other within a system. If we view an organisation as a system, then we start to become interested in the various components that make up that system – the stakeholders, processes, technology etc. It makes us think differently. A useful model in this respect is the Service Profit Chain Model:


https://hbr.org/2008/07/putting-the-service-profit-chain-to-work

This annotated version of the chain highlights both employee and customer satisfaction as the focus areas of both Employee and Customer Experience because these are the points where an emotional response is experienced and so these are critical components in the chain.  Their connection and interdependency with each other means they mustn’t be designed in isolation or without consideration of how they impact each other.

If you fundamentally believe in this chain as a route to success then you’re off to a strong start when it comes to Employee Experience.

Employee Experience is often confused with employee engagement or as an extension of the employee lifecycle but Employee Experience has User Experience at its core and, with the influence of Customer Experience which established itself first, we can define Employee Experience as the emotional connection between employees and the organisation from the first touchpoint with an organisation – before even thinking of applying for a role – through to the post-employment relationship. Employee Engagement on the other hand is a symptom of what your Employee Experience is like.

So, how do you go about understanding the Employee Experience in your organisation? There are various methods ranging from mapping journeys to developing personas through to analysing the emotional connection at every interaction. This includes human, digital, environmental, cultural and structural interactions where ‘moments of truth’ may occur or ‘pain points’ are highlighted that allow for deeper understanding of how someone feels at that point given their critical nature.

Here is an example of a Customer Experience journey which represents a useful way of documenting the various touchpoints, how the user thinks and feels at that point through to ideas for improvement.


https://www.visual-paradigm.com/guide/customer-experience/what-is-customer-journey-mapping/

This example is useful because it doesn’t just map out the touchpoints, it also includes how people think and feel which can be understood  through feedback surveys but also through behavioural analytics.  This insight then then forms the basis for idea generation – best done through collaboration from various departments and stakeholders to create potential solutions.

It can be helpful to map out the full employee journey at a high-level and it is also important to break this down into specific activities / transactions such as recruitment, onboarding, training etc so you can analyse the emotional responses of users as they go through these experiences. That specific activity must then be viewed within the context of the whole experience – and then within the wider system so you can consider how it might impact the Customer Experience. Constantly diving down into the detail and coming back up to the macro view to test the interdependencies and connections.

Developing personas (creating a fictional character of a ‘type’ of user) is a valuable tool in appreciating the various perspectives of an experience and to differentiate or personalise the experience for different users.

With the theory and context from this post as a backdrop, we’re looking forward to getting into the practical realities of the Employee Experiences of the Learn > Connect > Do delegates’ workplaces, using these mapping exercises and running a mini-hack to create innovative solutions.  we can’t wait!

If you’ve not already, book here!  And we look forward to seeing you there!!.

 

The Rebel Playbook : A Book Review

I’ve just finished reading my pre-release copy of the Rebel Playbook and wanted to pen a few words to share my thoughts so that you can choose if you’d like to read it when it’s released on 23rd Feb this year.  You can pre-order it now though – here or (currently at a reduced price) here.  First up, I want to say that I have no association to Debra or Glenn so this review isn’t a “helping mates out” thing.  I bought a pre-order copy, as anyone could do if they spotted the tweets promoting it.  Full disclosure though – they did send me some Haribo!  Which swiftly went to the kids 🙂  And a second book by way of apology because my copy was delayed.

So, my thoughts….

My summary view : a fantastic, practical and accessible handbook to shift attitudes to how we work with those we employ and therefore how we can make work more engaging.

The book’s based on Debra and Glenn’s Engagement Bridge model and so it’s structured around the ten elements of that model.  These elements are essentially the elements you’d see in any decent people strategy but with the nice Bridge metaphor – the foundational rocks for the bridge are Workspace, Wellbeing and Pay & Benefits.  Above that, the more “planks of wood” you lay, the stronger your bridge and the more people you can safely get across the river.

The ten elements provide the chapters for the book – but in a flexible way.  There isn’t a prescriptive “work on this, then this, then this”.  They invite readers to jump in where it feels right for them.  So you could read the whole book and then decide your priorities, but equally, if you know where your opportunities are you could go straight to those sections.  I also like that at the end there’s an acknowledgement that there can be huge overlap and interconnection between these ten elements.  So many books try to keep the boxes of a model (falsely) separate so I like the honesty about the fact these elements are operating as a whole system.

Each chapter begins with insights or knowledge-sharing about the topic, then how Rebels do these things differently – the outcomes they’re striving for and the behaviours they deploy, before sharing case studies or “plays” from a huge variety of organisations – varied both in terms of type and size of business but all consistent in being led by people who have a passion and the courage to do things differently to make work better.

In terms of the Plays, I don’t believe for a second that all these organisations have engagement perfectly nailed in every way, but the examples of what they’ve done give great ideas to get thoughts stimulated and minds broadened to possibilities.  Again Debra and Glenn are honest about this work of improving engagement being an ongoing journey.  There is no quick fix, no silver bullet.  It takes commitment for the long term and continued effort to keep practices fresh and still engaging.  And also (yay!!) they discredit the idea of best practice – read the examples, consider them in your context, and do what’s right for your organisation, your values and your uniqueness.

I found some chapters more interesting, sparky and hope-inducing than others – even though some of principles and Plays are ones I’m aware of.  The one I found least engaging was the Learning & Development one, but maybe that’s because it’s the area I know best.  The Plays in it just seemed to be things we were doing in Boots a number of years back and not especially innovative.  Or does it mean that L&D are ahead of the curve in doing things differently?  That would make a nice change to the usual narrative around L&D holding things back!

Counter to that, HR and Legal teams get the raw deal in here.  Held responsible for the dreadful employee handbooks, rules and policies which punish the many for the misdemeanours of the few.  However, that approach has grown up from the management practices of the 19th Century and the belief of the need to control the lazy workforce so I don’t think HR and Legal can be held solely accountable here.  A key message is about starting from a place of trust and believing that people are at work to do a good job – and that if you treat people that way that’s likely what you’ll get.  And if you don’t, you deal with that on an individual basis, treating it as the exception to the rule that it really is rather than writing a while new policy paragraph.  @HRGem would be proud!

Of course with one book and ten topics to cover, these are relatively topline insights into each, but definitely giving enough information and ideas of “what” you can do.  There’s a gap in terms of the “how to” but maybe that will be for future books – or at the very least for you to research more and/or seek support from relevant experts.

One thing I struggled with, and am still grappling with now, is one part of the definition of engagement where Debra and Glenn say that engaged employees “genuinely want the organisation to succeed” which means “They will often put the organisation’s needs ahead of their own.”.  I just don’t agree with this.  I believe we have enough people who attach their self-worth to how well they do in a job (which can lead to burnout and mental illness) and I don’t think a human and responsible employer should use how much people put the org before themselves as a measure of success – further increasing the pressure to be “good enough” by going the extra mile.  In fact that to me this is counter-intuitive to the arguments later in the book about wellbeing.  If we’re truly going to help people be well we need to be OK with employees putting their own, their friends and their families needs ahead of the org.  Not only that, if we believe that putting the org first is a measure of good engagement then you automatically exclude a large and diverse proportion of the workforce from being on the “engaged” list because they may just not physically be able to make that kind of commitment – whether due to caring responsibilities, for their own health or because of a disability which limits how much they can work.

Overall I think this book is fantastic, easy to read and containing loads of top tips and ideas.  I’ve already recommended it to a number of my clients to help them and their leadership teams with their own cultural shifts.

Strangely I’m going to finish on a worry I have.  Not one that I think Debra and Glenn should have covered, nor are responsible for but…..

I have a more fundamental grapple about engagement and the purpose of the org towards which people are being engaged.  If these practices are intended to improve productivity towards a positive purpose then that’s all good.  But I fear that too many orgs continue to operate with profit as the primary pursuit, and engage in work which damages the local community / the environment / people further down the supply chain.  I appreciate this isn’t the concern of this book but it is something that concerns me about the world of work; that orgs will do the engagement thing like they might do the CSR thing – make themselves look good on the surface to hide the unspeakables that are under the rug.  My hope is that nobody can be that good at hiding….

And in the meantime I’m going to be focusing on the ones who have a positive purpose to do good in the world and who really mean it!

Diversity and Inclusion comes to Learn > Connect > Do

It’s going to be big!! On 30th November Learn > Connect > Do is back with something a bit different. It’s our Christmas event – nice and early to avoid bumping into the partying and quality time with friends and family – and we’re bringing you four – yes four!! – experts to join our learning conversation about Diversity and Inclusion.  If you already know you need this learning jump straight to the booking page on Eventbrite!

(Thanks to Gabriella Driver for sharing this great image from the recent CRF Conference.)

On the back of National Inclusion Week (#NIW2017) last week, and research conducted by PM Insight, this is an essential topic for organisations to engage with. Whether you believe we live in a VUCA world or not, creativity and innovation are essential in work and those qualities will only come through bringing and genuinely including different perspectives and approaches into the workplace’s thinking.

LEARN

So in November we’re inviting four experts to come and share their knowledge and experience on some of the hot topics in the world of Diversity:

> Disadvantaged young people

> LGBT

> Menopause

> Mental Health

Make sure you read about Joanna, Sean, Deborah and Karen at the end of the post.

At Learn > Connect > Do we believe in an adult approach to learning and we like to do things informally so, for this event, the experts will be available around the room much like a conference exhibition hall – but without any hard sell! So you’ll get to choose which experts you spend your time with – whether that’s 1, 2, 3 or all 4 of them. It’ll be about relaxed conversations – learning, asking and exchanging ideas.

CONNECT

But this event isn’t just about gaining knowledge. We’re also going to explore the barriers to diversity – what stops us when it comes to Inclusion. As a species, we’ve been scared of difference in others for many years – just check out this video if you need evidence for that (thanks to Janice Keyes for the vid). And recent events prove this fear is still prevalent all around us. So we’ll be talking about this barrier and any others you encounter, understanding them and sharing ideas together for how to overcome them.

DO

If we keep doing the same things we’ll keep getting the same results. This is a chance for you to choose to do things differently, to make work better.

It’s going to be a bumper event with mince pies and, of course, chocoloate included! And as usual, all profits will be going to TwentyTwenty so they can continue to do their great work. All this for less than £27!

We’d love to see you there!

 

Book here now!

Email me to go on the mailing list for this and future events.

For now, here’s an introduction to our experts…..

Disadvantaged Young People – Joanna Burrows from TwentyTwenty

To represent the perspective of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Joanna Burrows from TwentyTwenty (Learn > Connect > Do’s charity partner) will be joining us. TwentyTwenty is an award-winning employment support charity specialising in supporting and empowering disadvantaged 11-24 year olds who are disengaged from education or not in education, employment or training (NEET). We break cycles of hopelessness, worklessness and dependency in the most deprived areas of the East Midlands, operating through Lifeskills Centres in Loughborough, Leicester and Derby.

We aim to consistently put the right people, places and opportunities around each young person, to counterbalance some of their persistently difficult home, educational and social experiences. We support young people to develop self-belief and motivation, achieve in education, learn work-ready skills and attitudes and find and keep a good job.

 

LGBT – Sean Russell from Get Out Stay Out

Sean Russell is passionate about LGBT and enabling employment. He’s the founder of the website:

www.getoutstayout.org.uk read more

When teams really thrive

I read this article tonight.

Possibly the most common situation at any level of leadership : Overloaded leaders because half their time is spent solving problems that aren’t theirs to solve. Resulting in teams who don’t believe they’re capable because every time the leader solves for them it tells the team they can’t.

And with the best of intentions : to be helpful to the person in need, to get the thing resolved quickly to help the business be successful.

But instead it helps the business be unsuccessful.

As the leader your time is spent on issues which don’t belong to you. Your time is sucked into being the parent in the childrens’ squabbles. You aren’t adding the value you should be with the role you’re employed to do. And neither you nor your team are working as effectively as you could be. Which leads to everyone feeling deflated; lacking motivation through lack of achievement; energy-sapped from feeling stuck in the weeds, underdeveloped because all the challenging stuff is whisked away instead of being trained or coached through.

And it stems from a need for control.

We all have a need for control – some have it more than others but we all have it. Your ability to control (plan, manage, organise) is likely what got you success and into a leadership position in the first place. But what got you to here isn’t what you need now. It’s not what’s going to move you or your team forward.

But this is REALLY hard to let go of. Shifting to deliver through others rather than through your own fair hands takes you a step away from the action. And if you’re not in control of the action does that mean you won’t be seen to be doing a good job – because you’ve learnt in previous roles that being in control is what’s had you do a good job and led to your promotions. And it’s all around you.  It seems to be the thing that people get paid, promoted and recognised for.  You don’t hear leaders being praised for creating an amazing team to deliver a project – you hear of leaders who delivered the project.

You’ve not tested this “deliver through others” way before and you likely don’t have many role models around you.  What if you don’t do a good job and the work fails.  What does that mean for how your performance will be seen?  What does that mean for your performance review and pay rise and bonus and ultimately your ongoing career? These are the kind of fear-based thoughts which keep people stuck in the control loop.  

Or you might have ego-fuelled thoughts because you’ve done this job for years, you know all there is to know, you can show these newbies how it’s done. Look at me showing how I know it all and can do it all!  And by showing this knowledge and expertise I get recognised by those above me because that’s what gets valued.

Either way, this is the story that plays in your head:

I keep control – I perform – I’m safe

But in the meantime, what’s actually happening:

I keep control – my team don’t learn – their confidence drops – they feel disempowered and like they add little value – they disengage and turn off their brains – the work standard and ideas generated drop – so you take more control to counter this – which feeds the ever-decreasing spiral….

So instead focus your control on controlling the development and progress of your team. Become obsessed by the satisfaction of seeing them take another step towards being empowered, confident and capable individuals. Be the leader who coaches, facilitates and mentors.  Be the leader of the team that everyone wants to work in because they know they’ll be given clarity of purpose, and space, and care for their development.

All the while holding the image of the place you’re heading to – because this way of leading is playing the long game. Anyone can take control and get short-term wins. It’s the truly successful who see how things could be and who behave consistently in a way that they know is going to get them there.

In the words of David Marquet – drop the authority to the level of information. If you never do, there’ll always be something to solve for someone somewhere and you’ll never be able to go home and eat dinner.

And if the thought of working like this doesn’t light your fire you have two choices –

  1. don’t be a leader, or
  2. be a leader who accepts mediocre as the best performance you’ll get from your team.

 

If your organisation is struggling to make this shift I work with CEOs, MD and Directors in 1:1 coaching and team coaching.

Is Your Team a Team? : The key to keeping your team on the same track

Jon was a confident leader. Passionate about his business and his products and had a clear vision of the kind of culture he wanted to create: famous in the market for creating a workplace that people look forward to getting to every day and which got talked about as the place to be, all of which meant his teams consistently exceeded what customers expected.

As the business grew, so did his leadership team, including investors with different priorities to Jon. Tensions started to appear and he could feel divisions where there used to be none, which also began filtering into the wider business. The vision was fading and he needed to bring it back on track.

———————————————————–

Jon’s experience is not unique. Especially in fast-growth businesses where investment is needed to scale up. Investors bring a whole new dynamic as team members, with apparently competing interests, need to find a way through together.

Research* shows this reality for top UK teams:

47% believe there are important issues to discuss which are hidden due to high inhibition and lack of trust.

30% recognise fundamental divisions exist in the team over their view of the future.

By not discussing the important issues, divisions will occur because the ability to understand each others’ perspectives widens until there can come a point where the relationships are irretrievable.

The issues might be about expectations of the role each person should play, expectations about the skills or attributes each person should bring which don’t match the reality, different views about the direction they think business should be going, breakdowns in communication, frustrations about the way the work is being done, and meetings which sap time and life out of the day….

Fear of some kind or other is usually at the root of not speaking up about the issues. Even for the MD or CEO who might be worried what will happen if they open the can of worms, concerned about whether they’ll be able to handle what comes out, and what impact it will have on their reputation if they’re not able to handle it. This stuff takes skill and courage.

There is another way.

When a team becomes courageous and have these hidden conversations they grow and develop in transformative ways. When we feel safe to take risks we can share our perspective and feel valued for what we bring. This then enables the team to generate ideas, learn, helpfully disagree, create possibilities, which then sets the team up to be innovative and meet challenges head on – aligned in what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

Using the Aligning Teams Approach with Jon and his team enabled them to have these courageous conversations and appreciate each other’s perspectives and strengths. They aligned behind a common vision and set off as a powerful collective to make it a reality.

A key part of Jon’s team’s success now is credited to him having the courage to stand up and say they needed help from outside the team.

Zoe and Helen work with top teams enabling them to harness their collective power. Get in touch to find out how we can help your team stay on the same track.

 

@aligningteams

helen@aligningteams.co.uk

Read more about what we do here.

*Source – Andrew Kakabadse, Henley Business School, January 2016

Client’s name changed at their request.