|By Lisa Hughes, Management Facilitator and Executive Coach|
When we think of leadership, we often imagine a charismatic commanding leader who has all the answers. This is the traditional view of leadership, the C suite executive who is confident and charming and leads from the front. This leadership model held up well in the industrial age when markets were predictable, stable and steady. We all recognise that the ground beneath has shifted considerably and we are now operating in what the military call a VUCA environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). In this unpredictable and rapidly evolving world leadership has changed and shifted. Leaders now need to be agile and flexible, responsive to ever increasing customer demands and an employee landscape that is seeking less of a ‘job for life’, and more meaning, purpose and engagement than ever before.
In this environment a leader’s ability to bring all the best minds to the table and ask the right questions rather than provide all of the answers is proving to be more meaningful. Creating culture and environment where employees can thrive and engage is required to create and sustain success. Leaders need to set direction, provide clarity and focus and more than anything else create ‘psychological safety’. Psychological safety came out as the single most important of the 5 major factors identified by Google in Project Aristotle as the characteristics of high performing teams. The other factors are;
These 4 factors are necessary but not sufficient for high performance, as without the key factor of psychological safety the other 4 don’t work.
So what is psychological safety? The term psychological safety was coined by Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School and author of ‘Teaming’. Psychological safety is defined as the shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. In other words the belief that team members have your back, that you can propose new ideas and challenge thinking without being shamed, blamed or ridiculed. It is this culture that creates the agility, creativity and innovation so key to responding rapidly to our changing VUCA environment.
According to Edmondson there are three key factors –
This is a far cry from leader as hero. Leader as glory seeker or credit taker. It is more akin to leader as facilitator – the neutral servant of the group. The one who frames the question and leads the process of understanding and create elegant solutions to complex problems.
The skill of the facilitator is to frame and ask clear, insightful, powerful questions rather than provide solutions. A key part of bringing this alive is looking at how we run meetings, both one to ones and /or team meetings. When we give feedback, do we jump to conclusions or do we bring curiosity to situations? Is there a ‘right’ way to do things and if we do things wrong do we blame and shame our team and ourselves. Can we set our meetings up to create dialogue and respectful challenge?
It may feel counter-intuitive to how we think about leadership, but as the market continues to shift and change at rapid pace, our ability to lead may just depend on our curiosity above all.
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About Lisa Hughes
Lisa Hughes is an experienced management facilitator and executive coach. Having spent 15 years working at a senior level in the Digital and telecoms sectors, Lisa uses her industry experience to focus on developing Leadership, Performance Management, Resilience and Change Management capabilities, enabling better decision making, faster response, more efficient team collaboration.
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