I was in a meeting recently discussing the take down of Harvey Weinstein and others accused of sexual harassment, and the rise of the #metoo campaign. We were freely exchanging opinions about these trends in culture, except for several men who declined to add to the conversation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the matter, and they replied that there wasn’t anything they were willing to add; because, they said, the truth was that they were only allowed to agree with the perspectives already in the room. As much I as prodded to elicit other points of view, they remained firm. They weren’t angry, resentful, or upset about it. They were just unwilling to risk a damn word.Read more
Emergence. A word filled with openness, possibilities, and novelty. I often witness it with teams I work with, and it is truly beautiful to see a group of people unlocking new ideas that will carry them a little further. The resulting burst of positive energy and motivation creates momentum and amazing outcomes. As a facilitator, it’s a real treat to be part of the process. (more…)Read more
“I hate this exercise,” she announced in moment of quiet as the group sat working diligently on their own.
“I am sick of having to use my own oppression to teach white people about their privilege,” one of the only women of colour in the group angrily proclaimed, sitting back, arms crossed, challenging my authority, attempting to bring the group onside. (more…)Read more
As aspiring individuals and coaches alike, we are often inherently biased towards short term outcomes. Maybe as a coach, you’re looking ahead at six sessions where you are committed to quickly impacting your client’s life. Or, perhaps you’ve committed to six months to making some more substantive changes in your professional context and are eager to see the results. Or maybe the challenges you’re grappling with are changes that will inherently take you the next two years of concerted efforts to generate. (more…)Read more
Twenty years ago, I made my debut as an organizational psychologist. Perhaps influenced by academics and my former life as an accountant, my envisioned ideal was a neutral, even stoic, helping professional. But I failed spectacularly; I have always had preferences and get very passionate around values, ethics and methods in organizations and leadership. I’m also sensitive to dynamics and emotions in the room, find myself contracting when conflict and stress arise, and become deeply touched by the lives of my clients. (more…)Read more
Thanks to Google’s recent analysis of high performing teams, the popular press on leadership and innovation is abuzz with an interest in “psychological safety.”
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety (her term) is present when members of a team or group believe that they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.
Google’s research found that psychological safety is key (maybe the key) to high performance, matching Edmonson’s findings that it drives an organization or team’s ability to learn and innovate—particularly for people working in fields that are rapidly changing, uncertain, and ambiguous. (In other words, all of us.)
“Psychological safety” can sound clinical to some—in our work, we understand it as a description of a generative and safe group culture. Therefore, if you wish to improve performance, start with culture design. By designing a more accepting, tolerant, adaptive, flexible culture, you will increase safety, support, and influence the performance indicators you care about.
In order to help clarify what you can do to positively influence the culture you’re in, let’s take a closer look at the building blocks of a psychologically safe culture.Read more
There are all kinds of conversations going on right now about the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, another young African-American male in Ferguson, Missouri last week. Most of us are quite familiar with the story by now, and are outraged by another incident in the U.S. involving the use of lethal force by law enforcement against unarmed teenagers, particularly those who are black. And if we aren’t outraged, I think that we should be.
These conversations are more difficult to navigate when certain important distinctions are not made clearly. We can see this problem in the news media in which the third person reporting of relevant facts to the public immediately becomes conflated with the social and political views of the news station and host.Read more
A question came to me recently from a student in the Integral Facilitator® program who is facilitating a conversation among members of a classical music orchestra who are looking for ways to evolve their work together. He says that as a facilitator, he wants to create an open space for all perspectives to be presenced in an atmosphere of genuine inquiry.
But often, he says, people are not as elegant in their conversations as they are when playing music together. He says that they express themselves emotionally and dogmatically, pounding out their opinions in one repetitive note: the “I am right” tone. In their assertiveness, they turn a deaf ear to the silence, to the space, to the new, unknown possibilities that come from a depth of listening.
It is ironic because musicians are probably some of the best trained listeners in the world. And yet, this quality of conversation is often common among all kinds of people, regardless of their ability to hear, when change is afoot, when values are being discussed, when conflict arises, or when new risks must be taken together. In fact, paradoxically, any time anxiety levels rise in a conversation, so do the black and white tone of certainty and unpleasant sensations of dogma. (more…)Read more