Amy Edmondson is a renowned expert in the field of Leadership and Management. She is the Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at Harvard Business School where she teaches courses on Leadership, Organisational Learnings and Operations Management on the MBA and Executive Education Programs. She is a rigorous researcher and prolific writer. Her books on Teaming: how organisations learn innovate and compete in a knowledge economy, Extreme Teaming: teaming where you are exploring teaming in dynamic organisational environments and her latest book the fearless organisation: creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning innovation and growth are all must reads.
Podcast episode summary: Amy’s latest book The Fearless Organisation: Creating Psychological Safety in the workplace for learning, innovation and growth is the focus for this podcast episode. Amy expertly guides us to understand what Psychological Safety is, why it matters and what it takes to build in organisations. She shares that Psychological Safety is an enabler and affords organisations a real competitive advantage in a knowledge economy . She also shares that it is incredibly rare. Amy explains why and discusses some of the organisational learnings she writes about in her book.
Noteworthy points of discussion
- Amy started by sharing her real interest in workplace learning. She stumbled on teaming and psychological safety in her field -based research
- Psychological Safety describes a climate, technically an interpersonal one where we size up our environment and assess whether it is safe enough to speak up on work relevant content at all times.
- Psychological Safety matters because we are engaged in knowledge- based work that relies on our interdependence, creativity where we have to use our brains to think and co-ordinate together
- The messy and constantly changing nature of work means that it is necessary to speak up or the work will suffer
- “Excellence rests on our willingness to come forward”
- We have two jobs at work, our job and then the job of looking good
- At some unconscious level all of us are deeply afraid we will be found to be inadequate. The fear may be trivial and unfounded if we were to pursue its logic but as humans we don’t -we act as if we could be fired.
- Psychological Safety whilst a competitive advantage in organisations is missing because it is hard. Our default state for humans is to be a little afraid and to hold back for fear we will be judged
- The research shows that it is easier to find places and organisations where Psychological Safety does not exist than ones where it is healthy.
- NASA is an example shared in her book where an engineer had a supposition that something was not quite right with the shuttle but felt he could not speak up because he could not substantiate his findings. The result was a fatal tragedy.
- In another example Amy shares how, Pixar cultivated a rich culture of psychological safety. It took a dedicated institution of processes, structures and norms to make speaking up easier.
- Leaders behaviours and attitudes often erode Psychological Safety; the belief you are supposed to know and its cousin, you have to be right making it difficult for others to want to participate.
- Amy describes some antidotes and practices for Leaders
-Be explicit about the nature of the work, the inherent uncertainly and the need for ingenuity and teamwork
-Create explicit structures and norms
-Enquire more, ask genuinely curious questions
-Respond productively in other words be conscious your response has implications for the future participation of your colleagues.
- Amy advises leaders and members of teams to keep mindful of what is at stake -consider why your work matters. She also suggests that Leaders force themselves to be curious because if you adopt a curious mindset you will ask questions, you will learn, especially if you listen.
Resources mentioned on the show
- Amy C. Edmondson, Teaming: How Organisations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy
- Amy C. Edmondson, Extreme Teaming: Lessons in Complex, Cross Sector Leadership
- Amy C. Edmondson, The Fearless Organisation: Creating Psychological Safety in the workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth.