Candid Conversations

I worked with a leadership team recently and the topic that we spent the day talking about was developing high performing leadership teams. That was on our agenda.  I did a couple of quick exercises at the start of the session to get people into the room. In the first 45 minutes, I said to the group, ‘Look, we have an agenda, but my sense is we need to change the agenda. So I’m going to change what we were planning to do today, because I feel there are certain things that we need to talk about before we can even become a high performing team.’ There were things that needed to be raised, and conversations to be had, before trust could be restored.

We talk a lot about physical safety. We talk a lot about people being able to go to work and come back safely. But what about psychological safety? What about the ability to raise things, challenge things without having a fear of repercussion that could occur in the work place.

My clients said to me, ‘Tom, we trust you. We are in your hands. We are willing to go with you.’  I was touched by that.  I said, ‘Okay.’  A key thing I had to keep saying to myself was to be in the moment, to be present, and to be in the moment.

It was a truly successful day. People raised things and shared things that they hadn’t talked about for a number of years. They were able to shift and have conversations, that were really necessary, to creating a certain space before we could actually move forward. We finished the day by setting a number of ground rules on how this leadership team could actually behave.

As a global leader, one of the things that we need to provide for our teams is psychological safety. You want your teams be able to raise things that they are observing, things that they are seeing that may be useful for you to know. As a global leader, you need to realise that you are not on the ground but you need feedback from people on the ground. They need to know that, ‘I can say things, and I can raise things without repercussions and without getting into trouble.’

So therefore, a question I’d ask you to reflect on is: How do I create an environment where there is psychological safety? How do I create an environment where people can raise things and challenge each other with respect? It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, but how do I create that environment where there is a level of candour. More specifically with the leadership team, how do I create that level of honesty that can help us be a high performing team?

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