Leaders are confused.
There are so many theories on the best type of leadership and the best type of measures – which one do I pick?
I have worked with over 10,000 leaders in the last 14 years – and one thing I know for sure – the EXPECTATIONS ON LEADERS ARE BIG.
Typically, I see leaders being sent to attend sessions and briefings or sent decks with detailed explanations on what they have to do on all the things we EXPECT of them: increase engagement, performance management, embed the values, the behaviours, diversity and inclusion, safety leadership …and let’s get agile as well while we are in the process.
AND … by the way, you also need to run your business and make that a success.
I feel that leaders are overwhelmed with the information around what they are supposed to be doing. In my experience, the vast majority WANT to do all of the things expected and are in raving agreement on the importance – but the frantic life of business gets in the way.
My quest has been to simplify this for leaders. The truth is that ALL the things we are trying to achieve are in fact connected – but we need to help leaders understand the GLUE… and then we need to simplify the ACTION – part for them so that its easy for them to succeed.
You are probably nodding your head in agreement … but you are also probably very aware of the complexity of what I have just said. It makes sense … but it’s not that easy to achieve. Or is it?
As an INCLUSION nut … I usually use this as the backbone of any such strategy. INCLUSION in its broadest sense means every individual feels like they BELONG and feel that their UNIQUENESS is valued.
INCLUSION has traditionally been coupled with the word ‘diversity’. We know that diversity doesn’t work unless that difference is included and respected. But the cool thing about creating an INCLUSIVE CULTURE … is that it has multiple other big spinoffs.
An INCLUSIVE CULTURE also enables:
- Increased engagement – it’s really hard to be engaged when you don’t feel included.
- Innovation – when I feel included, I share my wild ideas
- Collaboration – WE are in this together.
- Productivity – it takes a lot less energy for me to be myself at work rather than pretend to fit in.
- Talent pipeline and bench strength – I have a broader view of who may be dubbed ‘talent’ … I might even have a view that everyone was talented (wild thought!)
- Psychological Safety – a safe to speak up culture which reduces group think and enables innovation and engagement.
- Safety leadership – having an environment where I feel safe to report.
The list goes on. But you can see where I’m coming from.
Psychological Safety is at the heart of what INCLUSION day to day really feels like. A “psychologically safe” workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves to make mistakes or take risks in their work.
Google’s research of its own workforce revealed that psychological safety was the most important team norm for high-performing innovative workplaces – those norms are: Psychological safety; Dependability; Structure and clarity; Meaning and purpose; and Impact.
While all five norms are important to team performance, psychological safety has been shown to be the most important attribute – if this attribute is strong, the other four norms are so much easier to achieve.
Psychological Safety at Work in Australia
In 2017, in a world-first, The Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey collected perceptions of psychological safety from a diverse cross-section of workers. Overall, the results indicated low levels of psychological safety with significant variations across income, age, gender, and education level:
- overall, only 24% of respondents reported feeling safe to take risks at work
- lower income earning staff experience lower levels of psychological safety than higher income earning colleagues. Only 23% of lower income-earning frontline employees felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk, compared to 45%of workers on significantly higher incomes
- younger respondents were more concerned about mistakes being held against them (36% compared with older respondents 12% – 21%)
- younger respondents found it significantly more difficult to ask colleagues for help (24% strongly agreed) compared with the average (18% strongly agreed)
- men were more likely to report that it was safe to take risks at work (38% strongly agreed or agreed) compared with women (29% strongly agreed or agreed)
- the higher the education level of a respondent, the more likely they were to feel safe to show initiative. Almost 40% of people who had received a degree (or higher) agreed to feeling safe to show initiative in the workplace, while only 25% of people who had completed year 10 or a trade apprenticeship agreed.
- 58% of all respondents felt that their colleagues often reject others for being different.
Psychological Safety, Inclusion & Innovation
In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment where past methods cannot solve new problems, eliciting and integrating a diversity of thought is essential for challenging established practices and for breakthrough innovation. Innovation is a two-step process: (1) unlocking access to diverse perspectives and sources of information (idea generation), and (2) the merging or integration of these ideas in new or novel ways (elaboration and transformation).
Diversity management refers to organisational efforts to manage diversity’s complexity and unlock diversity of thought. Today’s best practice diversity management involves an organisational culture that celebrates, values, respects and rewards individual differences and unique perspectives. Diversity practitioners call this INCLUSION. Psychological safety supports INCLUSION by creating a safe place for individuals to bring their whole selves to work — an environment where members from non-majority groups can share novel ideas and perspectives free from the risk of ridicule, rejection or penalty. In a psychologically safe environment, employees are less likely to cover or mask their differences.
Psychological Safety and Risk
A lack of psychological safety has contributed to many noteworthy organisational errors and failures. Where psychological safety is lacking, employees are less likely to speak up and challenge the behaviours of colleagues or superiors or challenge the status quo.
What could you do?
- Think about what you call the cultural change you are after – is it bigger than the traditional paradigm of diversity and inclusion? Is an EVERYONE culture a better description.
- Are the words ‘INCLUSION’ and ‘PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY’ actually interchangeable in terms of the what your organisation is seeking in a description of the ‘way things happen around here’ (which is culture)?
- Could you simplify ALL the things you are trying to achieve by focusing on the day to day behaviours of INCLUSION? Rather than confusing leaders with multiple initiatives and approaches.
If you would like to connect and discuss this information and what taking a broader, bigger picture view could look like in the D&I space we would love to hear from you. We are obsessed with getting results and are constantly striving to increase our ROI in everything we do!