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Unleash the Full Human Potential in Your Organization

My friend and colleague, Vivian Acquah, has regular live LinkedIn webcasts entitled ‘Let’s Humanize the Workplace’.

So I was happy to read in a recent McKinsey article that: “Unleashing the full human potential in an organization is why forward-looking companies work so hard to create environments of belonging and psychological safety.”

This article states that one of the critical shifts in leadership, for a company to thrive, is to show up as an authentic human being and not only as a professional.

What this entails are three critical factors:
* increasing (self)awareness
* emotional regulation (or emotional agility, as I like to call it) and
* total or integrated wellbeing, embracing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pillars

I was extremely pleased, since ALL of these factors comprise what I and the network of partners I work with, share in knowledge and experience, from when my company started in 2011.

Why are these factors critical for a sustainable future? Without these being part of your DNA, you are unable to let go of instinctive, fear-based reactions; exactly the opposite of what’s needed in this changing and disruptive world.

Diving into your most creative, innovative, and logically reasoning mind is imperative. These can only be tapped into when you are calm (in control of your emotions), energetic, and collaborative. And you will achieve the inclusive cooperation from your teams by becoming so.

As any caring, professional facilitator will tell you, these qualities aren’t developed in a one-off workshop or one-day training. You would be well-served to take a very close look at your leadership team and make a commitment to provide them with the knowledge (training over extended time) and coaching (long-term) most of them will need to become leaders of the future.

Much of the training and coaching on these kinds of topics can be done regularly, at an interpersonal level among team members. However, periodically, these in-context sessions need to be augmented with a professional facilitator and/or coach who are experts in these topics. They can evaluate the progress being made and whether there are interventions needed to accelerate the learning and implementation.

The benefits more than outweigh the costs, when implemented correctly. When respect, appreciation and trust are core values expressed by leaders to their team members, mountains can be moved. Mindsets will be open and limiting beliefs will be challenged to find new solutions to existing challenges.

Trust IS the Glue (part 4)

What Comes First: Psychological Safety or Trust?

In my last LinkedIn post on this topic, a colleague, Bogdan Manta responded with the 5 drivers his company focuses on when it comes to employee engagement:

Choice / Autonomy | Fairness / Equity | Psychological Safety | Learn / Challenge | Voice / Recognition

I, in turn, responded to his comment with the following: “Bogdan, in looking at this list, I feel that Psychological Safety (PS) is the foundation for the other drivers.” I promised to explore this further in my next article and told him I’d love to have his feedback on this. He has promised to do so and I look forward to hearing his thoughts and yours as well.

To begin, I thought that trust and psychological safety are the same. In doing a deeper dive, I’ve come to the conclusion there are some differences but they are definitely interdependent.

In relation to the team or group experience, psychological safety is best defined as: “… a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and the team is safe for inter-personal risk taking.” Amy Edmondson Or, in other words attributed to her: “the sense that we can share our feelings, beliefs, and experiences openly at work without fear of retribution, loss of status, or punishment”.

Trust is in relation to each other, how we view another. Psychological safety is the belief regarding the norms within the group. In other words: “Trust is personal; psychological safety is a group phenomenon.” I may trust you to get the job done or to be honest about a situation. But do I feel safe to admit when I’m wrong or have doubts about a project, that these will not be thrown back in my face.

With this deeper dive into trust, I discovered there are two elements to trust, which if both are present, builds the psychological safety of the group. Cognitive Trust, is the confidence one has in the abilities and reliability of the other to get the job done. It’s more ‘head based’ or rational. Affective Trust is more heart based and is described as “mutual interpersonal care and concern or emotional bonds”. Our behavior then, towards another, is fundamental in building trust. Both aspects of trust are needed to create a psychologically safe work environment with each other and within the group.

Recently, I facilitated a team session on building personal resilience. Someone expressed their desire to be able to speak freely when something is bothering them, when they’re feeling stressed. To be able to express feelings of overwhelm, when things aren’t going the way they were expected to, is of paramount importance in building a feeling of safety.

With this deeper dive, in looking at Bogdan’s list of drivers to promote Employee Engagement, then I have to say this can’t be achieved without psychological safety as the foundation. Or is it the chicken and egg metaphor? When all the other drivers are in place, then you’ve created a psychologically safe work environment in which employees thrive?

Starting the conversations, listening with and expressing empathy, having an open mind and leaving judgments out of the conversation are just a few essential ways to build this safety. Be curious, be open, be courageous, be non-judgmental. Who then is going to start the conversation? In the words of a Ready for Female Leadership co-author, Archana Wuntakal, ‘if not you, then who?’.

It’s Time to Wake-Up, Organizations!

Organizations need to wake-up. Employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. Job security is a thing of the past. The ‘war for talent’ is an oft-used expression, for good reasons. Nothing is, as it was before. It doesn’t make sense to pretend otherwise.

The Past
My father, if he were still alive, would be 106 years old now. He passed away at the age of 82. He was secure that the company he worked for, and was extremely loyal to, for 30 years up to his retirement and afterwards, would be there for him, year after year. And it was. My mother continued to receive a portion of his pension until her death at the age of 99, another 20 years later. Molson’s Brewery, started in 1786 in Montreal, Canada, is still there today. An M&A in 2005 with the US based Coors company, and the Molson Coors Brewing Company was formed. Beer is a staple. A good tasting beer, will stay its course (under the right direction, of course).

Even if Dad didn’t agree with decisions made, he would never have spoken out against the company that employed him. He lived in a different era, had 5 children and his wife to support. He was grateful for what his company offered him. As children, we learned this gratefulness also.

The Present
Young people today don’t have, and many don’t want, the kind of job security my father desired. They also don’t ‘buy’ into the work ethics of those who have been around for 20+ years, toeing the company line. Working against your personal values, causes stress. If an ‘anything goes’ attitude thrives in a corporate culture in order to achieve results, then they begin to doubt what role they want to ‘play’ in that business. Since there are currently a plethora of jobs, they can choose the kind of company they want to be employed by. In his Forbes article, The Power of Putting People First, Rasmus Hougaard states “shareholder wealth has steadily become more important than employee health”. If you don’t want to lose valuable talent, either to sick-leave or to the competitor, then you need to change some things.

The Solution
It starts with a culture of care. Putting people first, not profits. That’s not saying profits aren’t important. Only a fool would say that. What it does say, is that by putting people first, the profits are going to come.
Organizations can take a page out out of the mission of Marriott International’s, a Fortune 200 business: “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers, and the customers will come back.” Or another page from Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc, who states: “Our company exists for its employees”.

There are many aspects to consider when taking care of your people: values which live in the halls and not on the walls; a growth mindset at all levels; finding meaning and purpose; great communication skills; developing resiliency in stressful situations; and creating healthy life-style habits; just to name a few.

Together with the partners I collaborate with, we provide the best solutions for organizations to ensure employees are engaged and thriving!