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Two important articles in a noisy week

Two articles I read this week stand out, one about the importance of psychological safety when working in teams and one on transformation when new in role.

We know from previous research that diverse teams with a blend of different approaches, perspectives, background, information and styles are more effective than when one behaviour or approach is dominant. For diversity to flourish, psychological safety is required. It means that team members believe that they will not be humiliated or 'punished' for speaking up, questioning something, expressing concern, making mistakes or having a different idea or approach.

In HBR online this week the article "The two traits of the best problem solving teams' , provides an answer to the question how to establish that feeling of safety. The chart below shows the most common behaviours in four groups, based on their level of diversity and psychological safety. There is much talk about agile and adaptable organisations and the behaviours associated with learning, experimenting, confidence and high quality interactions are demonstrated in agile teams. In contrast, the other quadrants shows behaviours associated with control and constraint.

When leading and coaching teams, we can observe the behaviours in a team, not only how they act but also how they don't act. People can express their differences when it is safe to do so, focusing on the quality of the interaction will support performance as well as the enjoyment of teamwork.

The second article is by Dam Ciampa and Michael Watkins on When new in role, those first few months are the most important and what you do and don't do determine to a large extent success or otherwise. Rather than jumping in and meet high expectations by acting on impulse, first impressions and internal and outside pressures, a deep diagnosis and proper re-alignment of the organisation can be more appropriate. However, if you inherit a crisis situation, prompt action on the basis of incomplete information may be required. Playing catch-up in those situations stops you from getting ahead of the problems. Matching strategy and leadership with the specific situation prevents early mistakes with long term consequences.

The article discusses eight principles that create momentum and carry the new executive through the transition. Some are obvious like agreeing the brief and mandate, promoting yourself as early as possible, getting the right team in place and securing early wins. But often when new in role, establishing internal networks and alliances, communicating frequently, showing up and being visible and sharing your vision are often overlooked and their impact under-estimated. The saying "when you're up to your neck in alligators, it's easy to forget that the objective was to drain the swamp". Sticking to these eight principles (and have a mentor to support you through these first few months) will improve your chances of longer term success in that new role.

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