1. Have you ever been in a work situation where you wanted to speak up but held back?  Perhaps you were in a meeting where you kept your great idea to yourself.  Perhaps it was when your boss announced a decision you felt would be a mistake.  Perhaps you discovered an unsafe or unethical practice frequently performed by colleagues with more years on the job than you.  Most of us have experienced these types of situations, and the reason for our silence is fear.

Why Psychological Safety is Important

In her TEDx Talk, Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor, and author discusses psychological safety and how its absence can cause a lack of voice among employees or “workplace silence”.  Her research has shown that if we don’t feel psychologically safe, we might not speak up — and that can be very bad for business.

So, what is psychological safety?  As Prof. Edmondson explains, even though we may not go to work each day in a state of fear, we may find ourselves in situations that threaten us.  The good news is that since childhood, we have been practicing how to protect ourselves in risky situations.  We have learned that if we don’t want to look ignorant, we shouldn’t ask questions.  If we don’t want to look incompetent, we shouldn’t admit a weakness or a mistake.  If we don’t want to appear intrusive, we shouldn’t offer ideas.  If we don’t want to look negative, we shouldn’t criticize the status quo.  However,  silence has a steep price; it costs the organization new ideas, innovation, learning, growth, a healthy and supportive culture,  and it can even impact physical safety.

How to Create Psychological Safety

We can all contribute towards creating a culture of psychological safety, but leaders must be the example.  Prof. Edmondson  sets out three simple ways this can be done:

  1. Frame the work being done as a learning exercise. As we cannot know the future, solving a problem through some degree of trial and error is to be expected. Positioning it this way helps create psychological safety because it tells employees they won’t be punished for failure because failure is simply part of the process.
  2. Acknowledge your fallibility, not just to your peers, but to your subordinates, too. This communicates that you and the organization accept that each employee, including their superiors, are all just human, and that humans don’t always get everything right.
  3. Model curiosity. Ask questions and encourage others to do the same; not just for clarification, but to elicit constructive criticism, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. Question-asking should be the norm and no-one should be afraid to ask one.

A workplace with psychological safety can free employees to be their full selves and contribute to the best of their ability. This can be hugely beneficial for the organization and even give it a competitive edge. In personal relationships, feeling psychologically safe can help foster honesty, trust, better communication,  and a closer, more satisfying relationship.

For more about psychological safety read  Amy C. Edmondson’s book The Fearless Organization  — Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth.  To arrange an appointment to discuss how you can create a more psychologically safe place for your team, or if you are feeling psychologically unsafe at work and need coaching, connect with us at (905) 703-0003.

Most of us have some degree of prejudice or negative notions about individuals or groups we consider a certain “type”. It’s not something we like to admit, but it is an aspect of being human.  We are wired to mistrust or even fear what we don’t know or understand. Yet, being the subject of a stereotype or discriminated against can be very harmful to the impacted individual and society as a whole. So, it’s up to each of us to make an effort to get better informed of the facts.

What if there were a way to make the world a kinder, better place just by listening? What if we could have a sit-down with someone we’ve never met before but who represents a “type” we hold poor assumptions about?  What if we could hear their story; their lived experience?  Would we be surprised?  Would we feel compassion? Would we feel they are more like us than we thought? Would our fear and judgment give way to understanding and acceptance?

In Denmark in 2000, The Human Library Organization (HLO) was conceived by a group of two brothers and their colleagues to put these questions to the test. It set out to see if opinions would change if taboo topics were openly discussed, without condemnation, by those directly experienced in the matter. Created as a project for the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen, the HLO was a raging success, and the potential for it to benefit other communities could not be ignored.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Since then, HLO, a non-profit organization, has enabled members of the public to borrow a person — or “human book” —  for 30 minutes to hear their life story.  Just like a book, each story-teller has a title, for example, “Unemployed”, “Refugee”,  “Bipolar”,  “Muslim”, “Recovering Alcoholic” and “Homeless”.  All of the HLO’s “human books” are volunteers. They give their time freely to foster a greater understanding of their lifestyle, circumstances, religion, illness,  or some other aspect of themselves that they are an expert on and which may be negatively viewed by others. This is a dialogue, not a presentation. Difficult questions are expected, appreciated, and answered.

Today, the HLO is active in more than 80 countries on six continents. Not only does it conduct “human book” borrowing sessions, but it has also formed partnerships with several of the world’s major brands to help them with their inclusion and diversity efforts.

To find out more about the HLO visit https://humanlibrary.org and learn how to become a “human book” and how to borrow a “human book” for a potentially life-changing chat through your nearest Human Library.

At Forge Coaching & Consulting, we help individuals and organizations increase their cultural emotional intelligence (EQ).  We offer workshops that help to improve cultural sensitivity and empathy in the workplace. For more information call us at 905 873 8393.

Stepping into the role of manager for the first time can be a little daunting. It’s natural to feel a bit anxious but, remember, you were promoted because others have faith in you. You earned this job! Here are a few tips to help you make a successful transition into this next phase of your career.

Meet with your direct reports individually as soon as possible

It’s important to sit down privately with each individual as soon as you can. This is a discovery meeting for both of you, but also a chance to start forming a connection. What are their skills and interests and how well do they align with the company’s vision and goals? What is their communication style? What are their aspirations? Are there any issues you should be aware of? Use this initial conversation to convey your general expectations and how you will support them in their role and development.

Foster effective communication

Effective communication starts with sharing your vision, plan and timelines. For individuals to be fully engaged they must understand the company’s objectives and how they contribute to them. Lead by example with respectful and clear communication. Invite debate to explore different perspectives. Once a decision is reached, which does not always mean consensus, ensure that every team member is clear on their deliverables. Leave no room for ambiguity in your instructions and respectfully hold people accountable for their contributions.

Nurture your emotional intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is often referred to as a soft skill and its impact is underestimated. Experience has proven that EQ is more important than hard skills. Good managers with high EQ are self-aware, able to empathize, and can control their emotions and composure even under pressure. Increasingly, organizations are realizing the value and competitive advantage of hiring and advancing emotionally intelligent leaders. To develop this skill, keep a close eye on your emotions. Become mindful of how you express them, both verbally and non-verbally. Practice delaying your reaction for a few seconds. Commit to being a respectful leader at all times as this will help you remain accountable to others.

Prepare yourself for tough decisions about hiring and letting go

Leadership takes courage and sometimes difficult changes must be made. Start with ensuring you have the right person in the right seat. Once the team has identified its knowledge gap, they will likely understand why people are let go or redeployed, or why new recruits join the team. Often, people select to opt-out of a role when they see it change in a direction that does not work for them. Empathizing with your team members and supporting them during that transition is crucial. You can be a courageous and kind leader.

Manage Your Time

As a new manager, your mind may be spinning with the volume of work and competing priorities. Good time management skills are linked to clear priorities and effective delegation. Start discerning where you are truly needed and can add the most value and make that your focus. Create strategies for keeping on track. For example, set aside blocks of time each day to check email and have a meeting-free day each week for heads-down work on key deliverables.

Ask for Feedback

Learn to ask for feedback. Encouraging your team to give you feedback will set a tone for direct, candid, and respectful conversations. Be prepared to really listen to their thoughts. The same goes for your superiors. No matter how self-aware we are, we cannot experience ourselves as others do, so feedback is essential to fully understand how we are perceived. Accept the feedback graciously and design a specific development plan so that you continuously hone your leadership abilities.

Ask for Help When Needed

There’s no shame in asking for help, whether it’s approaching your boss, a colleague, or HR. We all need help occasionally, and it’s far better to seek help than allow an issue to deteriorate or an opportunity to be missed.

Importantly, when you embark on your new role, don’t let moments of self-doubt inhibit your performance. Take the steps needed to start out right with your team and set a positive tone. Learn all you can about how to manage well, and consider seeking the input of a professional coach to help you really shine. Remember, like you, every great leader of the business world, was a first-time manager once!

Business leaders know that access to reliable data is vital to sound decision making. Over the years, gathering and making sense of data has become an increasingly important aspect of business operations.  Terms like “big data” have emerged, as have new jobs in areas such as data management and data analytics.  While data is key at any time, it is never more critical than in a time of difficulty or crisis — whether that relates to the organization itself or society at large. That’s why, as we enter 2021, still caught up in a global pandemic, a keen focus on data will be especially important.

Using Data to Adapt to Customer Needs

In March, when COVID-19 hit the majority of us to a greater or lesser extent, businesses had to turn on a dime to recalibrate and survive. Decision-makers were faced with an unprecedented situation in which they had to quickly resolve how to continue to provide products and services to their customers when many, if not all of their employees and supply chain partners were in a total lockdown. During the last nine months, executives have had to pivot time and again as fresh data revealed the latest insight about what customers and prospects want, expect, and are prepared to do differently during a time of crisis.

It didn’t take long for organizations to realize that when the pandemic is over, a return to normal is not to be had.  We are approaching a “new normal” now, in which businesses will continue to capitalize on the key learnings from COVID-19.  For example, many have discovered that not all their employees need to be based at the worksite to be effective. The cost savings from reducing office space by enabling employees to work from home can be significant. Others are ramping up their digital transformation strategy to ensure that should there be another pandemic, they’ll be ready.  Another positive arising from this awful situation is that many businesses who were forced to do things differently just to stay afloat found more efficient or cost-effective ways to do things which they’ll be sticking with long after the pandemic has passed.

In the coming months, as vaccines are made available and the outbreak of COVID-19, hopefully, subsides, we will be entering another unprecedented period of uncertainty — recovery.  We must keep a keen eye on data as it relates to the wants and expectations of our customers, the activities of competitors, and the larger economy, as this new situation unfolds.

Using Data to Understand Employee Engagement

While customer and competitive data are important, so is data that relates to employees.  How are they coping with the new way of working?  Are they happy to be working from home, or struggling with feelings of isolation? Have their working relationships suffered because they are physically distanced from their teammates? Relationship challenges in the workplace impact productivity and employee morale and must be addressed quickly.  Gathering information from employees and taking steps to resolve any issues will be essential to your businesses’ full recovery.  Ensure employees know who to go to for help, including how to access your Employee Assistance Program, if available.  As well, ensure they have the opportunity to provide candid feedback on work-related issues, ideally anonymously, so you get an accurate view of the pulse of the organization and employee engagement.

As IT advances, data gathering and interpreting tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and most large organizations have enormous amounts of stored data. It’s incumbent on business leaders to know what information is available to them to utilize and to make a case for new types of data being sourced if they feel it will benefit the company.

Forge Coaching & Consulting helps business leaders, teams, and individuals resolve problems and achieve their full potential through workshops and one-on-one coaching.  Our workshop, Building Communication Bridges with Style, gets to the root cause of most workplace relationship issues; misunderstandings and poor communication.  Connect with us at (1) 905 873 9393.

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