Most companies want to create positive work environments for their employees, right? After all, they want workers to be happy, but are they creating “fearless” environments? Recently on an episode of Let’s Fix Work, I welcomed Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School. She is the author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Her book discusses creating a psychologically safe workplace that invites employee participation and innovation. We took a look at the state of work environments today and the need for change.
During the conversation, we discussed many topics regarding psychological safety, which, according to Amy, is a climate where people feel that their voice is welcome and they know, “They not only can, but they are expected to bring their ideas, their questions, their concerns,
and even their failures to the table.” This embodies the idea that everyone has thoughts about their workplace, from ways to improve morale to ideas on how to make the business better. But, sometimes workers may feel afraid to speak up. Why is that? Fear of failure or bad consequences at work can keep workers silent. The company could be missing out on good ideas. After all, as Amy pointed out, if someone is in a state of fear, their brain doesn’t work well and they may be holding back…not expressing the ideas that could be so beneficial for the boss to hear.
So, what do we do about this, and how can we create a fearless environment at work? Amy says there are three things that a boss can do right now to work towards this: set the stage, invite participation, and respond productively.
First, let’s explore setting the stage: This involves opening up to employees and telling them that you, as the boss, don’t have all the answers. That you don’t have any magical way of seeing into the future to know what the solution to an issue may be and that others are welcome to bring forward their ideas. That’s setting the stage – letting others know that you are open to hearing what they say.
Next up, inviting participation: Which means asking employees for specifics of what they are seeing in their jobs or for their input on the topics being considered. Actively asking questions and listening to the answers.
And finally the last item Amy discussed, responding productively: If people present you with some bad news, don’t overreact or lash out. Instead, as Amy says, “Take a deep breath,” and listen to the whole situation. It could be an opportunity to work together to find a resolution to whatever the problem is.
Good leaders use self-control and self-awareness. Only then can they be truly aware of others and appreciate their efforts, as the leader can’t do all the work alone. Amy says, “Understanding that fundamentally as a leader, your job is to harness the efforts of others.” That’s the bottom line. It’s important to work towards a positive work environment that not only welcomes but encourages input from employees…fearlessly.
If you’d like to hear more details about creating a fearless organization, check out the podcast episode with Amy Edmondson, here.