Leading in business today often means moving at a brisk pace, embracing a significant level of risk, and making decisions quickly. It can also require a certain level of adaptability and agility to navigate in uncertain times. Which behavioral types thrive in this kind of environment, and how can CIOs work with other types in the C-suite to drive success for their organizations? Read the article in the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Corner.
“Can you describe a time when you were on a team that was really successful?”
That’s more than just a leading question in a job interview. Answering that prompt can begin to give us clues into why some team experiences–and outcomes–are just better.
I bet you could probably list some of the characteristics that define the highest performing teams—things like goal focus, dependability, and complementary skills.
But what if the key to high team performance is something far more basic and subtle?
Newer research1 suggests that what distinguishes top teams is actually “psychological safety.” Said another way, we do our best work when we feel safe enough to take risks and contribute without holding back. And in a truly psychologically safe work climate, people aren’t just comfortable expressing themselves, they’re comfortable being themselves—complete with quirks and peccadillos. It’s also important to consider what we’re *not* doing on a team we deem safe. Harvard business professor Amy Edmondson describes psychologically safe teams as ones where “people are less likely to focus on self-protection.”
When we’re not constantly calculating whether we’ll lose face by taking a risk, we can more easily lean into our desire to engage with others and to learn. Research1 supports that a psychologically safe team leads to better overall engagement and an openness to learning. Indeed, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles3.
So how could your team start to build more safety, interpersonally speaking?
An old maxim cautions: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” We live in a world where feedback is unavoidable. And for most of us who deliver feedback to others, our default tendency is to give praise or constructive criticism in the way we like to hear it.
The trouble is, taking a universal approach to communicating with others works to our detriment. When we use a “standard template” for conveying praise or corrective advice, we’re practically inviting misunderstandings and broken trust. Just imagine the aftermath of giving hard-hitting feedback–with little context–to your most sensitive but reliable worker. More than just hurt feelings, we can actually distract a person from our main message with an ill-chosen delivery!
You and I don’t know each other. And yet, I’m pretty sure we have something important in common. And further, what you and I have in common we also share with leaders of all kinds, politicians, sales reps, and my 10-year-old son. What might that be, you ask? We all spend a lot of time and energy trying to influence others.
What we may not share are the strategies we most commonly use in our influence attempts. I tend toward supporting my point of view with evidence and data. My son, on the other hand, has perfected the strategy of wearing people down through relentless requests.
Depending on your Business Chemistry type, some influence strategies may be more natural for you and some more of a stretch. While there is power in focusing on your strengths, there is also evidence that when it comes to influence, using more strategies is better, so it probably pays to work on adding some of the stretch strategies to your arsenal.1
‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.
‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’
‘Not the same thing a bit!‘ said the Hatter.
– Alice in Wonderland
Do YOU say what you mean? If you’re a Driver, chances are you probably do—Drivers tend to be direct and are unlikely to shy away from confrontation. If you’re an Integrator, well… you may mean what you say but not always say it directly—Integrators lean towards diplomacy and usually avoid confrontation. But does it matter? And if it does, which approach is best? As usual, it depends…