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Emotional Safety™: The Key to Making Smart Decisions

Informed people make the best decisions, and, as a result, add the most value to their organizations.

Whatever job you have and whatever your level of authority, your people are relying on you to be informed about your function, no matter whether you’re CEO or packing and shipping on the warehouse floor. No matter where you sit or what you do, other people count on you to know your stuff.

In short: Your co-workers want you to be an expert; but what makes an ‘expert’? An expert may have earned that reputation through a combination of training, study, work experience, observation, or ongoing learning.

We suggest that part of being and remaining an expert is linked to being fully informed about your role; meaning that your knowledge goes beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of your job. It means you know where your work comes from, why your work exists, and that you understand the needs of your stakeholders. In addition, it means knowing how others see you as an employee, boss, vendor, or co-worker.

This is where our concept of ‘Emotional Safety™‘ becomes important. Most people find it easy to approach you to share good news about your performance or behavior. They also find it easy to tell you when you’ve done something well. But what about the times when things aren’t going so well? What if someone wants to give you constructive criticism? We suggest that the easier and more rewarding you make it to bring you ‘bad’ news, the more informed you will be.

Simply put: Emotional Safety™ means you make others feel comfortable in bringing you bad or challenging news. If you master Emotional Safety™, you will be going beyond making them comfortable in approaching you, and actually make them feel rewarded and appreciated for doing so.

So, when someone points out a problem with your plan, thank them. When someone suggests that you behaved badly during an interaction, thank them; and, when someone challenges your opinion, acknowledge their thoughts and thank them.

For stronger relationships, dealing with feelings before facts will get you deeper, more rewarding and more productive relationships. It will also promote better business results.

One of my colleagues, Dr. Tim Turner, ran the Emotional Intelligence Development program for the FBI. Early in his career as an agent, Tim noticed that the agents who solved the most cases were not the tough guys you see in the movies. Instead, they had a way of making others feel comfortable. Even when interrogating a suspect, the agents created an experience of Emotional Safety™ for that person.

So how can you bring this about in your work? By collecting as much data as you can (even the stuff you don’t like hearing about) so you can make fully-informed decisions.

Think about it this way, just because people aren’t telling you how you can improve, doesn’t mean you don’t need to improve, because we all do. It is more likely to mean that they’ve had an unrewarding experience with you, and, as a result, they’ve started to withhold information from you. If too many people do that, you’ll still have the same decision-making authority; but you’ll be deciding in an uninformed way, making you dangerous to your organization.

For more on Emotional Safety™, read our Amazon top-10 business book, “Step Up–Lead in Six Moments that Matter“, co-authored by Henry Evans and Colm Foster. The last chapter is focused on creating Emotional Safety™ for everyone, which will foster better business results.

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Leadership in Balance

Hi, I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results, and with my colleague Henry Evans, I co-authored Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter. You can stay current with my ideas by following me on Twitter at @DrColmFoster.

When working with our clients to develop Core Competency Models, they sometimes ask us about Key Leadership Traits and whether leaders are born or made. Much has been written about this topic. We believe that leadership is a developable skill but that the personality does play a role.

Based on our work coaching and developing leaders, we believe optimism is a critical leadership trait. Holding a positive view of the future is a key part of leading teams and indeed of leading oneself. It’s also fundamental to bouncing back from setbacks; we sometimes refer to this as leadership resilience.

However, unbridled optimism can lead to unhealthy outcomes. In fact, in another blog, Henry and I talked about the value of pessimism and how to leverage it for better relationships and business outcomes.

When working with our clients we encourage them to temper their optimism with good reality testing. This means grounding your optimism with a solid grasp of the situation you are facing.

So, our definition of the ideal leader?

A person with high optimism – balanced with good reality testing.

This sounds something like: I fully understand and appreciate all of the obstacles we face and knowing all of that I remain confident that we can deliver against our strategy objectives.

Thank you for your continued interest. We look forward to bringing you additional Insights From Our Experts in future blogs.

If you or your team want to deep dive on Stepping Up, contact us for information on keynotes, workshops and custom programs meant to ignite leadership at every level of your organization. Email Ede Ericson Cardell at: [email protected], or call 214-742-1403 x 106.

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Attack the Idea, Not the Person

 


With the successful launch of our new book, “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter” and with the global success of our best-selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations” (now with over 100,000 in print), we are offering you some of our best insights and practices to create an Accountability Culture in, and generate leadership at every level of your organization.


Henry Evans, Managing Partner, and Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results, are co-authors of “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter”. They are talking today about a problem we call ‘terminal politeness’.

Follow Colm and Henry on Twitter: @DrColmFoster @HenryJEvans

We often experience and diagnose terminal politeness in client organizations we work with. What we mean is, sometimes people are avoiding critical dialogues that they would be much better served having. This could be because they don’t recognize the need to have them, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, they don’t want to overload someone or they might be afraid of how the other person might react. Whatever their reasons are, avoiding these critical issues can lead to a state of mediocrity. It can sometimes lead to people thinking, feeling and acting like we are okay just as we are and we have no need to improve.

While that may be and feel okay at the time, if you have a dynamic environment and/or a competitor who is willing to have these discussions real time, it can lead you and your team having to have these critical conversations when it is too late. We believe the answer is to generate constructive conflict in your organization.

Imagine a situation where I might say something that is completely stupid. How would you respond to that idea, demonstrating constructive conflict?

For instance:

We do strategic planning and leadership team offsites for clients, they take all day, I think we ought to get into the hot dog business! Our clients have to eat, why should we make money on feeding them?

Attack the Idea:

Henry, generally, I like and agree with your ideas. But, I am struggling to understand how getting into food service is going to serve our business, what might I be missing?

What did Colm just do? He expressed confidence in our relationship and in my capability. Afterward, he directly attacked my idea without me being personally attacked and perhaps more importantly, without any need to defend myself.

Here is an example when we were facilitating a meeting with clients. They were trying to solve a major cash flow problem. One of them suggests, maybe we should liquidate all of our inventory? His colleague said, hey, that’s a stupid idea. We will have nothing to sell and you will create a customer service disaster.

That executive could have expressed that same sentiment in a slightly different way. It might have sounded like this: I know that you are looking for solutions that are going to generate quick cash flow for us. I also know you are committed to maintaining a high level of customer service, but, I am really failing to see how your last suggestion is going to do that. I think it would cause serious interruption to our service levels and what I would like to know from you is how can we maintain our service levels and still generate a quick cash flow?

In short, you can avoid terminal politeness by generating appropriate, healthy conflict. One of the ways to do this is to attack the idea, not the person. You can get a deep dive on this in our new book, “Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter”.

Keep in mind, the other person is the judge of whether you have done this effectively or not. If they felt attacked, you have to show up differently with them next time.

We always look forward to bringing you real life examples in our blogs. If you and your team ever want to do a deep dive on stepping up, contact us for information on keynotes, workshops and custom programs meant to ignite leadership at every level of your organization.

For more information on how to bring the method to your team or about any of the services we offer, contact Ede Ericson Cardell, Director of Operations at [email protected] or 214-742-1403 x 106.