In the fast-paced, competitive business world, organizations constantly seek innovative ways to stay ahead of the curve. A critical aspect of fostering innovation and creating a positive working culture is psychological safety.
Psychological safety is the belief that we will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. This can lead to increased innovation, improved problem-solving, and a more positive and productive work culture.
In a 2022 survey of 36,000 employees, Managers whose overall skills are rated higher in areas like psychological safety can lead teams who bring in an average of $4.3 million more in revenue per year.
In today’s episode, Chris Hood joins Rich Kirkpatrick, an author, musician, and leader in the creative space, along with Katherine McCord, President of Titan Management, to explore the benefits of psychological safety and provide practical tips for how leaders can foster a thriving culture in their organizations.
What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety is when individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, opinions, and concerns without fear of negative consequences. A psychologically safe environment encourages open communication, collaboration, and risk-taking, all critical innovation components. When employees feel secure, they are more likely to share ideas, offer constructive criticism, and engage in problem-solving activities that drive the organization forward.
The Importance of Psychological Safety in Fostering Innovation
- Encourages Open Communication and Collaboration
A psychologically safe environment encourages employees to communicate openly and collaborate effectively. This open flow of information and ideas allows for diverse perspectives to be shared and can lead to developing novel solutions to challenges. In addition, when employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, organizations can address potential issues early on, preventing costly mistakes and fostering continuous improvement.
“Bringing everyone together and having them contribute and having them understand where you’re going with things, and again, expressing that vulnerability and all of you deciding together what you want this to look like is extremely important.” – Katherine McCord
- Supports Risk-taking and Experimentation
Innovation requires a willingness to take risks and explore new approaches. When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to engage in the experimentation necessary for innovation. They are less afraid of failure and more open to learning from their mistakes, which can lead to developing groundbreaking products and services.
- Boosts Employee Engagement and Motivation
A positive working culture characterized by psychological safety can enhance employee engagement and motivation. Employees who feel valued and respected are more likely to be enthusiastic about their work and committed to the organization’s goals. This increased engagement can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation, as employees are motivated to find new ways to contribute to the organization’s success.
“I think also if you’re looking at this, you, you look at innovation really as an iteration.” – Rich Kirkpatrick
- Reduces Turnover and Attracts Top Talent
Organizations with a reputation for psychological safety are more likely to attract and retain top talent. High-performing employees are drawn to environments where they feel they can make a meaningful impact and are supported in their personal and professional growth. This influx of talent can help organizations maintain a competitive edge in the market and drive innovation.
How to Leverage Psychological Safety for Innovation and Positive Working Cultures
- Foster a Culture of Trust and Respect
Building a culture of trust and respect is the foundation of psychological safety. Leaders must model these values by being transparent, treating employees fairly, and showing genuine concern for their well-being. This behavior sets the tone for the entire organization and encourages employees to act similarly.
- Encourage Open Communication
Organizations can promote psychological safety by encouraging open communication and allowing employees to share their thoughts and ideas. This can be achieved through regular team meetings, town hall sessions, and anonymous feedback channels. When employees feel their voices are heard and valued, they are more likely to contribute innovative ideas.
“You elevated other people’s voices and let them be heard. And I’ll tell you too, whether it’s an inclusion, psychological safety, etc, it is so importance to break our natural ego defense and respond with curiosity.” – Katherine McCord
- Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Innovation is inherently risky, and failures are inevitable. Organizations must create an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks and are not penalized for failure. Instead, leaders should frame failures as learning opportunities, encouraging employees to reflect on their experiences and apply the lessons learned to future projects.
- Provide Training and Support
Organizations can further promote psychological safety by providing employees with the necessary training and support to excel. This includes offering resources for personal and professional development and fostering a culture of continuous learning. Employees who feel supported in their growth are more likely to take risks and contribute innovative ideas.
- Recognize and Reward Contributions
Recognizing and rewarding employees’ contributions can encourage innovation and reinforce the importance of psychological safety. Acknowledging employees’ efforts, celebrating successes, and providing constructive feedback can help individuals feel valued and motivated to continue pushing boundaries.
- Encourage Diversity and Inclusivity
Embracing diversity and inclusivity can enhance psychological safety by bringing together individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. A diverse workforce can lead to more innovative ideas and solutions as employees are exposed to new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Organizations should actively promote diversity and inclusivity through hiring practices, training, and ongoing efforts to create an inclusive work environment.
“I call it the robot in the wizard. It’s like creativity in the brain might look the same, but there are these different ways we start it.” – Rich Kirkpatrick
Leveraging psychological safety for innovation and positive working cultures can profoundly impact an organization’s success. By fostering trust, open communication, risk-taking, and continuous learning, organizations can create an environment where employees feel empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives. This, in turn, can drive innovation and create a positive work culture that attracts and retains top talent. By prioritizing psychological safety, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce and stay ahead in the competitive business landscape.
Hey everyone. Thanks for listening. Psychological safety is the belief that we will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. This can lead to increased innovation, improved problem solving, and a more positive and productive working culture. In fact, in a 2022 survey of 36,000 employees, managers whose overall skills are rated higher in areas like psychological safety are able to lead teams who bring in an average of 4.3 million more in revenue per year. In today’s episode, I’m joined by Rich Kirkpatrick, an author, musician, and leader in the creativity space, along with Catherine McCord, president of Titan Management to explore the benefits of psychological safety and provide practical tips for how leaders can foster a successful culture in their organizations. To support the show, visit chris hood.com/show. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform. Follow us on social media, or you can email me directly, show chris hood.com. I’m Chris Hood, and let’s get connected.
VOICE OVER (01:14):
Connecting access. Granted, it’s the Chris Hoods digital show where global business and technology leaders meet to discuss strategy, innovation, and digital acceleration. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Your digital evolution starts. Now, here’s your host, Chris Hood.
CHRIS HOOD (01:47):
So great to have both of you joining us today. Rich, would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself?
RICH KIRKPATRICK (01:52):
I’m an author and musician, lived most of my life as a church musician, but also a jazz musician, and had worked my way up into institutions of like having dozens of employees and hundreds of volunteers. And so I got thrown into management a little bit and I wrote a book recently about creativity, the creative process, because I just really wanted to help people who are strange like me, survive environments that are very structured, especially a religious and music environment. That combination is almost a paradox there. And so it’s a little bit about me, and I’m from the Bay Area near San Francisco.
CHRIS HOOD (02:24):
Great. Welcome, Katherine.
KATHERINE MCCORD (02:25):
Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. I actually, right now I’m mostly traveling the world talking about neurodiversity and disability inclusion, which is super exciting. I love it. I also own a people operations, which is the people side of HR consulting company, and I live in South Florida. My weather is beautiful. And that’s pretty much it.
CHRIS HOOD (02:48):
So today we are going to talk about psychological safety, and I think both of you have a really interesting perspective on this, especially when we start thinking about creativity and diversity. So let’s try to define what is psychological safety, and I wanna look at it beyond the typical definition. Let’s look at your perspectives and try to define it for our conversation today.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (03:14):
Well, I look at it this way as people cannot be creative if they can’t make mistakes and learn from them. And so I look at it as, as a, as a way of trying to help that happen. And sometimes it feels awkward, sometimes it, it takes a lot of work, actually. But that’s kind of how I look at it.
KATHERINE MCCORD (03:28):
That’s actually, that’s a good one, but I, I would like to add to that, that it’s also about dissent and being able to be comfortable to dissent an opinion. And so if the majority thinks this, or even your, your boss thinks a certain way, you feel comfortable to speak up and say, no, I don’t think that’s correct, without fear of, you know, reprisal or, you know, having people think less of you, that type of thing. I think that’s an important aspect of it as well.
CHRIS HOOD (03:54):
You know, that dissent is very interesting because I can tell you a story comes to mind where I was actually consulting with a very large organization, and the top person in the room was the chief operating officer, and everybody was agreeing, and I asked the simple question, does everybody feel comfortable with the culture in your organization? And everybody was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I could tell instantly no one in that room was willing to dissent what the chief operating officer had to say.
KATHERINE MCCORD (04:24):
That is so common. I see that all the time. In fact, I just I just was working with a client of mine, and it was really funny because we had a moment where, you know, I, I said, you know, I was telling them why I was there. I was explaining what I do, and there was a moment when I started talking about the importance of psychological safety and the importance of respect and the importance of not having any bullying in the workplace. And everyone’s face changed, and I thought, uhoh, there we go. And sure enough, we found out that there was a particular leader in the organization that was not creating psychological safety, and we had to work on that, but in that moment, they couldn’t say anything because that person was in the room and they just froze. I’ve hit that a lot in HR over the years too, is that people they’ll freeze and just not feel able to express themselves at all, which is dangerous.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (05:17):
Her addition, of course, to completed what it really is, because if you can’t, you know, have that awkward conversation easily or aren’t free to have that, then of course that’s not good
CHRIS HOOD (05:27):
In there. What you’re talking about free to have the conversation or, or even the dissent that Catherine, you were just talking about, oftentimes those organizations don’t even have foundationally that safe space to be able to just talk about ideas. How do we get to that point?
KATHERINE MCCORD (05:46):
Well, honestly, it, it starts with the leadership and it starts with proactive implementation of psychological safety. So for instance, when I get up to give a talk and I give some very sensitive talks in classes, in, in what I do, and I get up and I immediately let everyone know that I am excited about their ideas. I am very open to dissent and that I, I welcome it in my talks and that I am vulnerable with them. So for instance, when I give one of my neurodiverse or mental health talks, and I will immediately start off by disclosing that I have obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar one amongst other diagnoses as well. And that calms people because it lets them know, okay, this person is safe, this person will listen to me. And so that kind of combination of things of vulnerability is so crucial and that, and that step, and then to let people know that, that it’s welcome and to encourage dissent to tell people, all right, argue with me. And I’ve done that as a leader. I’ve stepped up and said, all right, you guys, I know you don’t all agree with me. You’re full of it. Argue with me. And then they’ll get going. And then once that’s established, you just kind of roll with it and then keep it going from there.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (07:10):
Yeah, I see this kind of as also having a time and place that you actually identify, this is this kind of a session, it’s a listening session, like just as you said at the parameters, but you know, on the calendar, here’s a date that we’re gonna have that. And one of the examples of the worst behavior of this is the brainstorming quote meetings where everyone’s supposed to come up with ideas that are not judged, and then they are. But a lot of this happens because there’s two kinds of thinking going on. There is a time and place to sort the ideas to evaluate and judge them, but there’s also a time that you need to be open and free to come up with things that might be offensive at the moment in order to get to the bottom of it. And that requires two different spaces in order to do that, two different kinds of meetings, sometimes having that identified, like when you’re coming up with idea generation, you have to have that space and you have to really mean it.
CHRIS HOOD (08:01):
How much of that though is based or rooted in personality? So, so from a creative perspective, brainstorming I think is great. We all come up with ideas in a different method that personality conflict often comes out in meetings like brainstorming sessions. How do you encourage getting to know each other in a way so that that psychological safety can be more apparent or help with that idea? Generation?
RICH KIRKPATRICK (08:28):
One thing is studying the, the creative process is in creativity. There’s, there’s two main ways of thinking, divergent and convergent thinking, then the pathway between those things. And so really sometimes it’s beyond personalities, actually understanding that everybody has these capacities. And so a lot of it, there’s gonna be people better obviously at the being open-minded to strange things. And that is 20% of the population. So it’s important to have those kind of numbers to that 20% of the people on your team, if you have an average group, are gonna be preferring to have that kind of activity. And the others are gonna be finding that one right answer. They’re gonna be good at sorting and, and deconstructing and, and developing things. And so a lot of it sometimes comes into looking at your team and saying, self-identifying that I am idea generation, that’s kind of my edge. Or I’m the person who needs to allow that to happen even though it’s not my edge. So I do think sometimes understanding even the creative process itself enables that kind of safety
KATHERINE MCCORD (09:28):
Spot on. The only thing I would add to that too is that we also need to learn to adjust what we think creativity looks like. So we see a lot of this in, in the workplace. We think that creativity means, you know, you’re going 90 to nothing and you’re very artsy and that type of thing, but sometimes creativity can come from very linear sources. And I think that’s really important to remember too. So as you are building out these types of meetings, be sure not to exclude, be sure not to put something down just because it doesn’t come out in the most artistic fashion. I see that a lot and it’s, it’s crazy up squishing, just some absolute brilliance. That’s the only thing I would add. It’s part of the inclusion aspect as
RICH KIRKPATRICK (10:11):
Well. And I’m the artist person who’s the 20% minority in some of those meetings. And so being included is important, but, but what you’re saying, I call it the robot in the wizard. It’s like creativity in the brain might look the same, but there, there are these different ways we start it. If you’re very technical, you have to prepare a lot of things before you even get to the, the idea generation, you know in setting up experiments or things like that. And so that requires those people who are very adept at analytical thinking, and those of us who are artists, we do the same thing, like I’m a musician. Music theory is so important. It saved me so much pain, it helped me earn a lot more money as a musician. And so I think really it’s, it’s embracing the fact that there’s a spectrum between a robot and a wizard, as I call them. But there’s in between lots of things that go on there and appreciating the fact that yeah, you could be, I think sometimes, you know that I love engineers and I’m a musician, and because they, they bring out into me something kinds of questions they ask is like, what’s the problem? Rich ? And I love that. I need that.
CHRIS HOOD (11:11):
I’m going to reuse robot and Wizard. I love that. I’m gonna use it in something. I’ll probably write a blog post on it. I usually fall back on Star Trek references, and so I’ll do a Spock and Kirk, right, which is basically a similar concept. You get the emotional versus the logical, and same thing, there’s a lot of people who are more logical in other people who are more creative, but psychological safety doesn’t just happen. It has to be nurtured. And so I love that adjustment, Catherine, that you were talking about, because there are moments where we have to just tweak this a little bit or grow it so that it becomes more prevalent within the workplace. So how do we build a program for psychological safety?
KATHERINE MCCORD (11:56):
Honestly, I think it starts with, and actually it’s funny, it’s really funny that you’re diving into this because I’m actually going to be doing a presentation on this as the intro presentation to a convention later this year. So . So I think honestly, one of the biggest aspects is to have everybody involved, and people really miss that. They’re like, oh, let’s have two or three people involved, and that’ll, that’ll fix everything, right? We can, we can build the whole thing that way. No, absolutely not. Everyone needs to be involved. And so bringing everyone together and having them contribute and having them understand where you’re going with things, and again, expressing that that vulnerability and all of you deciding together what you want this to look like is extremely important. And then doing that periodically, right, revisiting that. So I think it’s getting together, having the, the meeting kind of a think tank style.
Then you start implementing, then you get together, you, you say, okay, is it working? And you need to get a lot of data anonymously too, because if it’s not working again, you’re gonna have that same problem we discussed earlier, right? Where people feel the need to say, yes, it is, but it doesn’t really. So get that anonymous data and then adjust as needed. But it’s a combination of kind of the robot side to, to Rich’s analogy to use Rich’s analogy of, you know, getting things like the anonymous data, which is a great way to start also, you know, see where you’re at, get the jumping point, the real jumping off point and as much as possible, and then have the think tanks bring people together and then to revisit it. But that first step of getting the data is crucial. And then also having everyone involved.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (13:31):
Yeah, I think also if you’re looking at this, you, you look at innovation really as an iteration. We’re looking for something gigantic to happen when often, like Olympic athletes within the first top five rated swim match, we’re talking about fractions of seconds, and sometimes that’s what we need. We don’t need to have this view. And so, so it’s a pressure I think of, of being realistic, looking at we’re gonna take steps together. It’s easier to take a step together than leaps. And I think that implementation, having people in the room is really important. And I, I spent a year with an organization on contract, and all I really did was get people to sit in these large meetings and say, 15 minutes, trust me, you’re gonna wanna come. And, and at the end of some of these meetings, some people say, you know, I’ve never had a chance to even hear that person talk, or I never had a chance to express what I was feeling about something. And the role I took, of course, was just facilitating the fact of getting that going. But it did take a lot of coaxing with a leadership team that was very open to it, but it just wouldn’t happen without a lot of deliberation to even get that, that to happen. And that’s just an implementation faith.
KATHERINE MCCORD (14:39):
Absolutely. I, I think, you know, it’s always so funny how, how often bureaucracy can kind of get in our way, right? I love that you just went in and said, no, we’re gonna do this. And you again, you elevated voices, right? That’s what it’s all about. You elevated other people’s voices and let them be heard. And I’ll tell you too, that the number one thing I teach, whether it’s an inclusion, psychological safety, et cetera, is the importance of breaking our natural ego defense and responding with curiosity. And that’s a huge element of psychological safety. So for anybody listening who doesn’t know, the ego defense is a very naturally occurring phenomenon in our brains. And our brains need to be correct. And so if something tells us that we’re incorrect, we get very egotistical, thus sense the name, and it starts throwing up defenses as to why.
No, no, no, I’m right. But that stops you from learning, it stops you from advancing, it stops creativity, innovation, all of these beautiful things. So it’s very important that when that happens, when we feel that happening, that little response start to kick in, that instead of indulging it, we stop and we go, okay, no, I’m gonna respond with curiosity. So if someone says something to you that you disagree with or that tells you that you’re wrong, instead of responding with ego, respond with curiosity and say something along the lines of, okay, tell me more about that.
CHRIS HOOD (15:54):
On that, how does psychological safety then contribute to our personal growth and productivity and wellbeing?
KATHERINE MCCORD (16:03):
Oh, God, it’s everything. It’s everything. When, and I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but when I started breaking the ego defense and growing the curiosity response, and when I started building psychological safety so that I could do these te these education sessions so I could do listening sessions so I could, you know, have my clients work more effectively with their employees, it, it not only changed how I was able to innovate and how effective I was, and by the way, it made everything run incredibly more efficiently to have to have this type of environment. But it changed me as a human and it made me respond to things in a very different way. And it helped me grow and it helped me evolve, for lack of a better term, just exponentially within just a couple of years. And so now my career is going hold directions. My relationships are all stronger and greater, and it’s really, it really has made a difference.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (16:59):
I think defining this, the win as the process, as much as the product is important. So when people understand that how I’m doing my work is not just a number, that is, is what’s important, it’s how I’m treated and treating others. And I think the power dynamics get it in the way, and, you know, all those things, not just ego, but there is a bureaucracy to, to fight against. There is a lot of hairiness to get through in this. And so I think the, the benefit of just seeing that you to be seen and to see others is just as a human beings, that’s what we need. And we can’t do that out of a tribal setting. We have to have others around us. And so if we want the best of ourselves, we need to see others. And as we see them, we know that we’re being seen and able to, to make corrections improvements and see a better version of ourselves that we’re not able to tap into otherwise.
CHRIS HOOD (17:53):
In the theme of psychological safety, I’m gonna be honest, out of all of my jobs throughout my entire career, I think I’ve only had two managers and two organizations that I’ve worked for where there was legitimate, sincere psychological safety. Present psychological safety is one of the easiest things to actually talk about, but it’s one of the most complicated things to actually implement. So how do we go about this?
RICH KIRKPATRICK (18:22):
What is the saying that, that people don’t, that they, they are not averse to change, but to the pain that’s gonna be required of the change. And I think there is a lot of pain to make the kinds of changes for people to do that. And if you’ve been in an executive bubble for a while, unable to have the nimbleness to make these kind of changes, it will be a challenge, a significant challenge that I’ve seen for friends of mine who’ve had to do that. A as, as I’ve seen them go through that. I’ve seen others just refuse as leaders to do it. And I’ve also seen some that have sometimes against their edge to be vulnerable and to allow the voices. It’s been really, it’s so hard. I can see why some people don’t do it.
KATHERINE MCCORD (19:03):
Well, my first thought is, and, and I always get a lot of laughs with this one, but it’s true. Fire the jerks right off the bat. Like, just get rid of them . And I don’t mean people that, you know, just need a little coaching. I mean, the people that are adamantly, they dig in, they wanna be rude, they wanna be aggressive they wanna cause problems, fire ’em, get rid of ’em. It makes all the difference. You cannot have psychological safety with someone who will not allow it to exist. So yes, I’m kind of being funny, I’m kind of making a joke, but it really is true. Sometimes you’ve gotta let people go. But then the other part is to commit to it. And it’s actually not that hard. The only reason it seems hard is because we make it hard, , but psychological safety, I’ve actually watched it be built multiple times and I’ve come to understand it’s not that difficult, but everyone has to commit to it and everyone has to make it a goal. And if you start to catch yourself slipping, you have to correct it. So that’s kind of my two tips is you have to fully commit and you have to fire the jerks.
CHRIS HOOD (20:03):
You know, rich was just talking about something, maybe not fire the jerks, but something similar, which is you’re going to get some people who are going to push back, whether that’s based on their own personality or their job role. A lot of people are gonna sit here and say, we don’t have a place for that in business. How do you combat that?
KATHERINE MCCORD (20:25):
Dude, I am the least feely emotionally. Like if you tell me like, oh, we’re gonna sing Kumbaya and do all this hippie stuff, I’m gonna, I’m just gonna pew. Like, that just does not work for me at all. I not I, I’m converted by the way to this. So I, I was the, you know, keep it all professional, don’t, you know, don’t show emotions at work, all this. And now I miss, you know, promoting emotional agency and all that type of thing because I’ve seen it work. And there is a difference between psychological safety and just diving head first into everything, personal about yourself at work and, and just, and being vulnerable can be done in a way that’s comfortable for you. So I, I’ve talked a lot about that with different leaders over time. Like, dude, this is not natural to me either, but it’s important.
It works. It makes your company more effective. It’s part of your job. This is it. This is how you do your job more effectively. So, you know, leaders buckle up because you signed up for this , you know, but that’s what it’s, but it’s, it, it’s, it’s harder for people who are not naturally emotionally inclined. I’m very left brained. I’m certainly not emotionally inclined, as I said. So it’s just a matter of teaching them why, again, feed into that logical side, right? This is why it matters. When you get people behind the why, then they’ll follow along with the what
RICH KIRKPATRICK (21:46):
Then emotion stuff is interesting. Be being an art artist person and wearing my heart on the sleeve all my entire life, you know, you, you have to learn that A thin scan of course is the other side of the problem with if you’re too, like you said, if people overshare and those kinds of things, that’s a problem. But when I learned about imagination is an interesting thing is that it uses executive function. In other words, what I’m feeling as I’m imagining stepping towards a cliff and my stomach tightening and my fear and, and all that driving is really driven from a point of logic that I could have danger, I could fall. And it’s a logical expression of these emotions. And so sometimes it’s people understanding, being so self-aware now that they have feelings, they’re just not necessarily identifying that, that that’s happening. And understanding that sometimes if you look at the logical reasons behind why you’re feeling something, which is how we heal often anyway you can really learn a lot about yourself and then therefore listen to other people better.
KATHERINE MCCORD (22:49):
CHRIS HOOD (22:51):
In all of these scenarios, we have leadership that has to embrace this. In all of the companies that I’ve worked for where there was no psychological safety, I could probably come up with a few things which were consistent with all of my managers, micromanagement, toxic cultures, a repeated focus on mistakes and individuals who won all the recognition and all the glory. You’ve gotta be able to get through all of that. Also, to be able to implement these cultures that we’re talking about.
KATHERINE MCCORD (23:22):
Yes and no, to make it company wide. Absolutely. But I once worked in the worst company I’ve ever come across, but on my team we had superb psychological safety. And so even if executives are pushing back, even if you have that type of situation, you can still build it on your team. You can start with, you set the example and then when people come to you and go, what’s different? Why is this working so well? How are you accomplishing this? Then you can start showing them, you know, be the case, be the, be the example. It works. And that’s exactly what we did. We created that on my team, we made it work. And then people started contacting me, even from other locations that I barely knew going, what is going on over there? Why is everyone working better? Why is everyone asking to come to that team? You know, people that were ready to quit or suddenly the best performers, what’s going on? There you go.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (24:25):
There’s two words that that you’d think if you heard you get a appreciation for too good. And I’ve been in situations where I was still, that’s just, this is too good. And the reason was of course, because the people could work together and when you can see a result that’s greater than your vision for it, the team puts together something great and you have a higher up tell you that’s too good saying, you put too much effort, you guys are enjoying yourself too much. There’s a lot of hidden cultural language that’s underneath that that’s unfortunate that, so there is, it’s, it is very difficult I think sometimes for some people, I feel from my experience, to make it, when you’re tr when you actually succeed with that and you’re not at the low, you know, at a lower level perhaps in an, in an institution and you succeed, that’s something to a degree where it’s, it’s objectively really good, but then you fail because it causes enough this equilibrium in the whole institution.
Because now one time we created a newsletter and it got shut down cuz our department newsletter is better than the whole organization’s newsletter. That’s an example what I’m talking about though. We can’t, that’s too good. And why, because we had a team of people. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous. Like why, you know, let’s make those people do. Now you have now Rich, you have more work , we’re gonna have you guys do the newsletter. For the whole, that’s what could have happened. But instead at let’s known, we’re we’re gonna protect egos in that. And so there are times, at least in my experience, where you face that, where you even offer and you see your team do stuff that’s just wonderful. But because in the organization there’s not a desire to value the process that created that. Cuz really what that was was a process that made that happen with people listening and, you know, saying, could I try this and could I do that?
And I remember one situation where I had an assistant fire. This was in, in a church situation, huge place. And she was a a an executive type person. She, she’s so smart and I was using her in ways that were how she was wired and, and and gifted. And they said, no, her job description is only this. And so what she did, she retired early so she could volunteer to do the same things. And that’s how we kept her on our team. And to me that’s just an example of how you do face so many obstacles sometimes when you’re really trying to do this. Especially if you’re not the leader and you’re trying to survive by helping other people thrive.
CHRIS HOOD (26:39):
How do we monitor this? How do we track that it’s being successful, that what we’re implementing is actually working?
KATHERINE MCCORD (26:46):
Part of it is the anonymous data and that type of thing. You know, you can ask people cause you wanna know how they’re feeling, how they’re doing. But then there’s also very actionable items that you start to notice such as employee retention such as ability to hire actually, because people will start spreading the word such as productivity going up, such as efficiency increasing, but also, but the most important thing are the immeasurables. And, and so I, I have one friend who does some work in psychological safety who talks about keeping the checklist of things that she wants to see and when she sees them, she goes, we’re building it. And so for instance, it’ll be the first person who used to never speak in a meeting, raising their hand and participating, you know, the, the first one of those to, to do that.
And you know, the first time that somebody speaks up and dissents in a meeting with, with upper management and then it goes, well first time that two people who previously couldn’t stand each other come together intentionally to work together. You know, these types of things, things that are not so quantifiable so to speak, but that you’ll notice and that you’ll see and that do start to make a difference. So she just kinda has the little checklist, you know, these are the things that we want to see and these are the things that will show that yes, people are comfortable. And all of those are based on different psychological elements that she researched very well. But I thought that was kinda fascinating.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (28:09):
You can look at how you are spending your time. And so if I’m spending my time fixing problems and it’s always, there’s always a cue of things, then that’s, you know, that’s unfortunate. But if I’m spending time trying to build relationships and having those difficult conversations and doing the inner work of myself, preparing for those kind of meetings, so I’m appropriately having the, the right emotional temperature to deliver and survive those meetings. If I’m doing all those things, like with a an executive team of partner, we were meeting and we, we had pizza twice a week to solve this huge problem and we just did not see eye to eye whatsoever. And so I was spending my time with this guy having pizza, I can get him. And it worked out with him to meet there twice a week. And over the course it took months.
So instead of spending time of trying to politically maneuver, we really spent time together deliberating. And it was not easy and at the end it felt great at the end of it, but it really was what I call embracing the awkward. If you can quantify how people are embracing what is awkward that moves them forward and other people forward, that would be a, a good metric to, to try to, to decide. And for me in that situation it was, okay, I’m gonna meet with this person who disagrees with me, but I need, in order for us both to survive, we need to work together. Me seeing, am I spending time doing that? Am I willing to put that on my calendar and be present even in that situation as an example? I think that would be one thing to look at a team are are the leaders willing to do those kind of things? And, and listen and deliberate too,
CHRIS HOOD (29:38):
If a leader is listening to the show right now and they’re thinking, great, I I’ve bought in, we need psychological safety, but help me get started. Let’s come up with two or three steps that that leader can take right now to start implementing this in their workplace.
KATHERINE MCCORD (29:54):
Be vulnerable. And yes, I realize this an emotionless robot as rich referred to it, that that can be very challenging , but find a way to be vulnerable to them, whether it’s professionally and or personally because that will go a long way and then have a listening session. Those are the two most important places I would say to start,
RICH KIRKPATRICK (30:16):
I would add to that is define in how people self-identify. Are they the robot or wizard or somewhere in between? And then teach the team to celebrate whoever their opposite is and learn that that’s good. It’s good that I’m not that person, that I’m not the emotional wizard guy or you know, I am the technical person here on the team and I have, this is what I bring to the table and it’s a great thing and I can really offer something. So whatever your situation, cuz you know, even on a marketing team, you’re gonna have a robot. Yeah. So I’d say define who are you and there’s a spectrum of course. And then celebrate the fact that there’s others that aren’t like you and learn to make that a good thing.
KATHERINE MCCORD (30:54):
Inclusion and integrity. That’s it. You nailed it, rich.
CHRIS HOOD (30:58):
Well, thank you both for joining us today. It’s been fabulous and I’ve really appreciated hearing both of your perspectives.
RICH KIRKPATRICK (31:06):
KATHERINE MCCORD (31:07):
Thank you for having me.
CHRIS HOOD (31:08):
And thanks to all of you who are listening. If you like what you heard, please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform and leave a review. Your feedback helps us improve, grow, and reach a wider audience. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for the show, you can connect with us throughout social media and online at Chris Hood Show or chris hood.com. And please share this episode with your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone else looking to grow their business and start their own digital evolution. Until next week, take care and stay connected.