Emotional Safety® – Tell Me What I Don’t Want To Hear

There’s an old saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

When I deliver keynotes to leaders explaining why Emotional Safety® is the key to making smart decisions, I point out that if people don’t feel safe bringing you bad and/or challenging news, they won’t do it.

Now, on the surface, that might sound pretty nice. You only have to hear about the good stuff. But let me challenge you to think about it another way: You can only make decisions based on the information you have. If people aren’t bringing you the truth about what is happening in the organization, it means you are making decisions with extremely limited information.

Your perspective alone is almost always incomplete.

Getting people to feel “just okay” bringing you “bad” information puts you at a below-average level. You have to strive for more than that. You need people to have the Emotional Safety® to bring you any and all information that could affect your decision-making process.

In our book Step Up, Lead in Six Moments That Matter, we outline the steps to achieving Emotional Safety®. Let’s take a look at how you could put into practice one of the first steps, which is to give the people around you the gift of your invitation.

You might say something like this:

In the past, I may have acted in a way that made you feel I was resistant to bad news — and you know what? Maybe I was. That may have led you to think you should just tell me what I want to hear. Moving forward, please tell me what you think I don’t want to hear. It could be about a customer or vendor problem, an internal issue, or maybe you need to openly challenge a decision or offer feedback on my leadership style. I rely on you to be a second set of eyes and ears for me as I make decisions. So, going forward, please make it a habit of telling me what you think I don’t want to hear.

The more consistently and frequently you ask people to tell you what they think you don’t want to hear, the more they will be willing to try. Make them feel rewarded for doing it, and they will generate a constant flow of what you need to make smart decisions: the truth.

Try giving the people around you the gift of your invitation in one of your next conversations with your team members. Because the reality is, it’s what you don’t know that will usually come back around to hurt you.

If you want to learn more about the value of building Emotional Safety®, check out our post, “Get Angry, Not Stupid™.” You can also take the complimentary “Step-Up Assessment” at dynamicresults.com. For even more practical tools and a deeper dive, consider enrolling in our Emotional Safety® eSchool.

Become A Metrics Medalist

What makes the highest performing organizations better than the rest?

When I’m giving keynotes or working with some of the world’s leading companies, I’m often asked that question. The answer is way too big for a short video and I don’t proclaim to have all the answers.

With that said, our clients achieve extraordinary results by driving Accountability and Emotional Safety® into their interactions and the way they measure and communicate their results.

Competition is like the Olympics: you see levels of performance from some individuals and teams that simply outperform their competition. Culture is a complex and primary ingredient of success. Today, let’s focus on this one aspect of culture and performance, the creation and communication of good metrics.

I see a lot of “thought leaders” trying to sound impressive with complex explanations, let’s keep ours simple.

If you don’t have metrics and use language like “let’s do better” or “let’s try harder”, you simply don’t get a medal.

  • A Bronze Medal means that you have established a metric, where one did not exist before. This is often not enough to ensure success and…..it does show you are starting your success journey. It is usually binary like “as of today, we have a launch plan for our new product, complete with milestones”. It might be as simple as a basic timeline.
  • A Silver Medal means you have a way to measure your milestones along the success journey. For example, if having a prototype is one of your major milestones, having a prototype alone, may not earn you a medal. Having a metric on the milestone puts you at the Olympic level. Is having a prototype enough? Not for me. We hold our clients to a higher standard – how about “by December 12th, we have a prototype which has been tested to a reliability rate of 98% or higher”. Or “By December 12th, we have 1000 pre-orders for our new product”.
  • A Gold Medal means you have arrived at the destination of your success journey and like bronze and silver, in a way which is quantified. For example, “we have achieved a sales target of €300 million” OR “we have a 2-point lift in our NPS score” or “92% of our clients feel that our pizza is “very good” or “excellent”.
  • Please note that this last metric is subjective, and subjectivity is something I see many leadership teams resist. The fact is, in most industries, the consumer experience is your most important metric and….it is often completely subjective.

    Gold medalists embrace this subjectivity and they take a stand, applying specific measurements to subjectively measured achievements. Gold medalists have the courage to commit, even when an outcome is uncertain.

    Your success journey will need all three kinds of medalist experiences, Bronze to get started, with Silver and Gold as you go. Using this formula, our clients implement their strategies at 8x the rate of most organizations, something we hope you will do too.

    4 Steps to Build Your Most Important Relationships

    The people you RELY on most, may not be the people you LIKE the most. Let’s look at how to create a framework for separating, measuring, and responding to this paradigm with a plan of action.

    This coaching exercise is inspired by Dr. Colm Foster (my co-author of STEP UP. Lead in Six Moments That Matter), and also by my colleague and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. They both state that you must be really clear about exactly who are the 5 to 10 people most important to your career, and nurture these relationships above all others. Today, we’ll show you some ways of doing this.

    Step One: Make a list of the 5 to 10 people at work you really LIKE to interact with, showing how they relate to you. These are the people that make you smile when you see their name in your inbox, on Slack, or dialing in on your phone. Please write them down now. When you are finished, your list should look like this:

    like

    Step Two: Now, make a list of the 5 to 10 people you RELY on most to be successful in your career. Some of these people are defaults. (For example, you have no choice about listing your boss.) You should also list any direct reports. Now, think about the peers you rely on most, customers and/or vendors. You’re not listing departments or companies; you are listing individual people. Write them down. When you are done, your list should look like this:

    need

    Step Three: Assess the status of each relationship, using our traffic light system. GREEN means the relationship is great, so keep it going without any need for immediate attention or action. YELLOW means proceed with caution, or slow down. This might be due to some recent struggle or lack of attention. Perhaps this one needs some time for reflection. (You might ask this person “How do you feel about how things are going between us?) RED means the relationship is tense, unproductive, and/or clearly in need of some work. Stop what you are doing and make a plan to improve this relationship. For help on any of your relationships in RED, you might want to watch one of our blogs on Emotional Safety®

    Step Four: Decide what you will do to build and strengthen the relationships you need the most. Will it be an offer of help? Providing a resource? Checking in with them? Starting a new behavior? How about stopping a behavior? When you are finished, your list should look like this:

    Although this concept is easy to understand, with our busy schedules it’s not always easy to find the time required to invest in the relationships we rely on most for our success. Again, it is important not to confuse the people you like the most with the people you need the most. You must pay attention to the ones you need the most; and there is a clear return on investment when you follow through on this. For more on how to do this, watch our blog entitled Reversing the Polarity of Communications for Better Business Results; or our latest blog on Generating Empathy.

    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.

    Passive Endorsements™ – A Deadly Silence

    Today I’ll discuss the tendency we sometimes have to avoid challenging conversations.

    An industrial psychologist in our firm has an interesting take on this issue: He says there are two kinds of people: Those who know they may be avoiding difficult conversations and those that don’t know they are also avoiding them.

    Let’s see how this view applies to our interactions.

    In not addressing an issue that you find critical, you’re endorsing the very behavior that’s frustrating you. We call this ‘Passive Endorsement™’. Think of your silence as an invitation for continuing the very behaviors or processes which you find counterproductive or irritating.

    Sometimes we avoid these discussions because we expect a negative reaction.

    In many cases avoidance is used with good intentions, such as: “She already has too much on her plate. I don’t want to add to her burdens”; or “He’s having some trouble at home. This just isn’t the right time”; or “My team is already stressed about this issue. Why add fuel to the fire?”

    Whether kindly-meant or fear-based, the results can be deadly. They can limit your organization’s flexibility, diminishing your competitive position in the marketplace, and ultimately put people’s jobs in jeopardy, maybe even yours.

    Our solution is to coach our clients to take action on this principle: The organization that engages in and resolves the most difficult discussions the quickest has and maintains a huge Competitive Advantage.

    Consider this: The higher you are on the organizational chart, the more dangerous your silence becomes.

    That difficult conversation you have been avoiding is actually a leadership opportunity. Here are three emotionally intelligent ways to engage in potentially challenging discussions:

    Use a permissive approach: Say something like “I have an observation which I think might be difficult for you to hear. Could you suggest a good time and place to share it with you?”

    Use a contrasting statement: “Overall I think our relationship is good, but that’s a topic for another time. Right now I’d like to discuss my impression that you’ve been interrupting me in meetings.”

    Be vulnerable: “I need to discuss something with you, but I don’t know how to approach it. Will you help me get started?” Remember that vulnerability is the conduit to trust, and trust is the foundation of all successful relationships.

    To sum up: Silence is your enemy when there is a need to resolve conflicts. Finding a way to address these issues is your best way to effect change. While you’re engaging others, remember to generate an atmosphere of Emotional Safety®.

    For more information on doing this, check out our blog “Attack the Idea, Not the Person”, or read our Amazon Top-10 Business Book: Step Up, Lead in Six Moments That Matter.

    As always, we appreciate you. For additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans

    Thank you for your time.