Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome everybody. So glad to have you with us today. There's something that is just so important in the business world, every employee at every level, wants to feel seen, heard and respected. If we don't feel safe, we can't be our best selves, and do our most creative, innovative work. This is why leaders must ensure psychological safety for everyone on their team. Today, we're going to talk with two experts who have come together to help us understand. And they've developed a simple playbook on how to make it happen. I just went through the book and I think it's amazing the way they have been able to break this down because it's a subject that can get pretty heavy and there's a lot of books around it, but we need to know what to do. So let me tell you a little bit about our guests. Karolin Helbig helps leaders increase their effectiveness, optimize team performance, and transfer form their organizations through mindset, emotional intelligence, and psychological safety. Previous Carolyn spent more than 15 years as a top management consultant with McKinsey and Company. Prior to McKinsey, Carolyn received her PhD in human genetics from Philips University in Marburg, Germany. And she resides in Germany now. Short version of manette, because they both have very long bios, which we're going to put in the show notes. So I want to make sure you can all see that and see their background because it's so impressive. Minette Norman is an inclusive leadership consultant and speaker, focusing on developing transformational leaders who create inclusive working environments with a foundation of psychological safety. Previously, she spent decades leading global technical teams and in the software industry. So welcome to you both.
Minette Norman 2:26
Thank you for having us.
Karolin Helbig 2:28
Thank you, Wendy.
Wendy Hanson 2:30
It's such a pleasure. So let me start with manette. Mina, would you you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Carolyn is in Bonn, Germany, can you tell us how you got started and how you met to do this book together?
Minette Norman 2:46
Yes, I'm happy to tell that story. Colleen and I met in a virtual class. This was in early 2021. We both signed up for a class in running psychological safety assessments based on the work of Amy Edmondson. So we met in this class, there were about 2530 people in the class. And then there were smaller groups within the class. And Colleen and I were in the same little group. And we hit it off, we just kind of liked each other what the other person had to say. And then one day, I was invited to be on a podcast by one of the other students. And it was a leadership podcast, and I was on there talking about my philosophies on leadership, and psychological safety. And I mentioned on that podcast that it seemed like it was a shame, there was a big gap in that there was no practical information on how to create psychological safety. Like everyone kind of understands why we need it now. But leaders that I work with, and certainly when I was in the industry, I didn't know what to do specifically to create that environment that was safe for everybody. So then I'm going to turn it over to Colleen, who's going to pick up the rest of the story.
Karolin Helbig 3:52
Yeah, exactly. I reached out on the net, with a little bit. I thought that was a crazy idea. And that was the subject line of the email. And I asked her if we What about what if we created this missing material ourselves? And I'm glad that Minette immediately said yes to this crazy idea. And up to this moment, we still have a meal bot with the title crazy idea. We really sought out all our ideas. And that was the starting point for what's now our book. First of all, we thought it would be kind of a booklet just developed for our clients to close the gap. Yeah, and it's really a little bit crazy our story because until now we have not yet met in person. So we are sitting on two different corners in of the word Minette in California and I'm here in Germany and We use all the great tools we have now zoom in mu, Google Docs and so on. And a fantastic collaboration without ever having met in person.
Wendy Hanson 5:14
Do you have a plan to meet in person? So now that the book is out?
Minette Norman 5:19
We just recently got a speaking engagement together. We're both going to speak in Lisbon in July about the book. So we're going to have our first meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. Oh, that's great.
Wendy Hanson 5:31
That's great. Congratulations. I love the crazy idea. Because that's how we make change in work, right. And in business, is to have some crazy ideas that we think, wow, let me see if I can, if I throw this idea against the wall, will it stick? And will it benefit people? And clearly, I'm sure you tested this out with people, and there was a great need for this. Because, you know, there are plenty books and Amy Edmondson does such a great job. But how tos are what people need, you know, and that's what we we focus on in this podcast is I want people to leave and know what to do next, you know, they've got some information, and they have a place to go. So let's get clear on psychological safety. Net, would you would you give us a brief definition of psychological safety, so we're all on the same page?
Minette Norman 6:20
Certainly. So, in essence, psychological safety is a belief or a feeling that you have that in this group, this is a safe place to take a risk, to ask a question, to share a crazy idea. Or maybe to challenge someone else's idea, if you don't agree with it, without fearing that you're going to be embarrassed, you're going to be excluded, you're going to be seen as not really a member of this group. And, you know, we there is a lot of academic writing on it. And we love the work of Amy Edmondson and all the research that came before her as well. But what we what we want to get across is that it sounds like an academic concept. It's kind of a geeky term. And yet it's a deeply human feeling and need, we need to feel that we can show up as ourselves when we're in our workplaces or any group environment. And when we don't have that, I think we've all experienced that. When we feel a lack of psychological safety, what happens is we hold back, we may have an idea, but we're not willing to share it. We may disagree, but it doesn't feel comfortable to disagree. And we hide who we really are. And we don't, we aren't able to do our best work, we aren't able to be creative, because we're afraid to share those divergent ideas. And when we have a high level of psychological safety, we feel free to bounce those crazy ideas and disagree, and be creative and innovate and experiment and even have failures that we can all learn from. So that's it in an essence. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 7:53
I love that definition. And what comes to me too, is that leaders of teams need to think about it and team members need to think about it. And sometimes, you know, the team members are thinking about it. And they have that feeling as you describe it that this is not safe. But the leader doesn't always recognize it. So as we go on, I think that's a good thing for us to focus on. Because sometimes you don't know what you don't know. And if you haven't asked the question, or you haven't read the room, you know, both of you being coaches consultants been in this, you need to read the room, if everybody's silent, something's going on. And it may be an issue of psychological safety. So Kaeleen how how do you think about the role of leaders and managers in fostering psychological safe working environment? Kind of what we were just talking about a bit? Yeah,
Karolin Helbig 8:47
yeah, absolutely. Leaders really play a very crucial role because they kind of set the tone. So if the leader depending on the tone, the leader sets, people behave differently. So leaders really need to be aware of the crucial role they are playing and they need to be aware of the people are closely watching what they are doing, what they are tolerating, what they are punishing, and so on, and people adjust their behavior accordingly. However, and I'd like to make it very explicit at this point. Our book is not written only for leaders, because our conviction is that everyone plays a crucial role in the whole team dynamic. Everyone really contributes to the climate a team has. So it can be that the leader really is committed to psychological safety is inviting everyone is inviting healthy to say And, and still, then others have to really feel kind of this role. They also are very, our influence is often much greater than we think. And yes, the leader sets the tone, but everyone plays a role in this whole dynamic. So our book really is for everyone. It's not only for the leader, it's not only for the C suite, it's really for everyone.
Wendy Hanson 10:28
Yeah, that's great. And what comes up for me there too, is if you have a team, and they're all working towards psychological safety on this whole team, then they can act. Not unison, but you know, they can they, they have to take their actions to make this happen. I love that your your focus not just on the leader, but on everyone. That's great. Now manette, you've structured your book as a playbook with five major plays. And, and it has an with five moves, I love that you broke things down so that you could go back and look at things. Can you explain your thinking behind this structure in the book?
Minette Norman 11:08
Yes, and one of the first things Colleen and I did was really brainstorm the structure of this book, because we wanted it to be different than your average business book, we wanted it first of all, to be as short as possible, knowing both of us that we often have books, we don't finish on ourselves, because they're just too long and everyone's busy. So we wanted it to be as short as possible. And we also wanted it to be something modular. So you don't have to read it end to end, you don't have to read it in sequence, and that each part of it could be used on its own. And so we liked this idea, you know, that we weren't just trying to get on the playbook bandwagon, which is a little bit of a trend, that there are a lot of playbooks out there. We wanted it to really be like playbooks in sports or other places, you see them show up in that, we're going to show you how to do things. And each play, and each move within it stands on its own. And so we structured we thought about this, we even came up eventually with six plays. And we said, You know what, that's too many. Let's just have five, we're gonna save that six in case we write a follow up book. So we said, Five plays, and five moves, you've got 25, freestanding topics that you can use in any way you want. And we also, the other thing about play, we really liked the word play, because it does seem like a heavy topic, right? When you say the term psychological safety, there's a certain gravitas and there's a certain heaviness to it. And we wanted to lighten it up, because we want to bring joy and play back into the workplace and to take this as not such a heavy thing, but something we can play with and experiment with and have fun with. So that was our rationale and reasoning for how we came up with this structure. And it's very interesting now that the books been out less than a week, but we've been seeing lots of reviews and getting lots of feedback. And people love the brevity. And they love this sort of modular, you know, structure that they can go anywhere they want with it. So we think we made a good decision with that structure.
Wendy Hanson 13:04
I would agree. And then you also list all the references, you know, for each each chapter of the book where you got your research, so if people have that opportunity to dive deeper if they want to. So I think that was really helpful. And it shows so many of the books there that are out on psychological safety, but you kind of pulled all that together so we can figure out okay, what do we do to get there? What do we do as anybody in an organization? That's great. The Carolyn, let's dive a little deeper into the first chapter that shows up in the playbook. Communicate courageously. Can you share some of the ideas from that chapter and explain? Why is it the first one in the book? Yeah, sure.
Karolin Helbig 13:51
Yeah, communicate courageously. And maybe that's I'm linking back to what we just discussed about psychological safety, how vital it is for teens, and still how rarely we really find psychological safety. And this is because we are not wired for that. So psychological safety is not the default. It's not happening automatically. It's really something which we need to cultivate deliberately. So leaders really need to kind of commit to Okay, I understand this is important. I commit to cultivate psychological safety. I invite healthy dissent i I commit to listening also to listening to perspectives I'm not agreeing to. I appreciate being challenged for example. So all these elements are not so easy. to do, because we it's not what we do automatically. What we do automatically what we are hardwired for is kind of avoiding risk. Yeah, we all have a brain, we all have an amygdala fight flight freeze reaction. And oftentimes, that was life saving, we had the tiger behind the bush or something, and immediately looked alarm went off alarm, fight, flight freeze, and now, it's maybe your manager frowning, or someone shaking their head or something, and we have the same reaction. And also, our brain than the key purpose of our brain is to keep us safe, right not to be courageous. And in business context, this leads to our tendency to play it safe, to kind of hide, to not expose to not run into interpersonal risks. And, yeah, we started with communicating courageously, because this is such a crucial step, we really need to kind of overcome our natural risk avoidance, take this interpersonal risk, and, for example, propose a wild or crazy idea, or challenge our manager or do something where our brain tells us not to do it, to keep safe. So speaking at is really a very fun foundational element of psychologically safe, teams, leaders really need to encourage everyone to be courageous, they need to reward courageous acts, and we speak of little courageous acts, not the big heroic things, it's more the subtle interpersonal risk taking acts, as the leader, himself or herself also needs this courage, for example, admitting they don't know all the answers, or taking off the mask of perfection, or admitting a mistake, or asking for excuse, for example, these are all actions, which traditionally are not natural for leaders. And so we really want to stress, Being courageous is very essential. And at the same time, even though maybe this was the reason why we started with them communicating courageously, and they want to come back to what Minette just shared. It's a playbook. So you don't have to start with Chapter One. Communicating courageously, you can take whatever chapter is appealing to you and start playing, experimenting with this. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 18:00
I love the word experimenting, because that fits into, you know, let's play Let's experiment. We're not going to get this right on the first. And I love that you explain, you know, we're not wired for this. Because we think about I think about wired for it is the you know, fight flight, you know, the lion coming after you and we run and we react. And we're not wired to the vision that came to my mind wired to stand there and speak up when the lions there. So we have to be able to think of another way to be able to deal with this mean that you have a whole chapter that you really appreciate a manager reactions. And I thought that was a very interesting one. Can you talk about the relationship between managing our reactions and psychological safety?
Minette Norman 18:55
Yes, and it's mean everyone has to become aware of how they're reacting to other people in a team environment. Because the way we react can totally damage psychological safety. And let me give you an example. This came from one of the clients I was working with. So I was working with a bunch of people across the organization. And one of the one of the executives told me, I have to tell you a story about something that happened, our CEO had an all hands meeting. And in the meeting, he had a q&a section and said, you know, ask me anything. And this was a US based company, and someone from one of the foreign offices overseas asked a question. That was quite a quite a courageous question. The person said, you know, we are not having equitable pay in our region compared to other companies here. And are you looking at the pay equity in this region? A totally fair question, but a courageous question. And what happened is the CEO said, Oh, come on. That's a ridiculous question. I'm not going to take that and he just completely embarrassed To the person who had asked the question. So what happens in a moment like that? That CEO got defensive, right? That their amygdala fired and said, I'm getting challenged here, we don't have equitable pay what the heck. And instead of pausing and taking a moment to actually let that question sink in, and have a positive response, it could have looked like that it could have looked like, thank you so much for asking that, you know, I don't have a great answer. But I can MIT to get a new one, I commit to looking into that, that would have made the person feel heard, it would have made them feel that they had it had been safe to ask the question. And instead, what happened is they went away feeling oh, my God, I'm never going to ask another question. Again. I've been embarrassed in front of my global peers. And it wasn't only the impact on that one person, it was every single person sitting in that all hands meeting, who now knows, it's not actually safe to ask our CEO a question. So that's what I mean by managing our reactions. That's what we mean. You know, As Colleen said, the fight flight freeze reaction happens to us all the time, whether we're about to avoid getting hit by a car in the street, in modern days, if it's not the saber toothed Tiger, or sitting in a meeting and your CEO lashes out at you. That's the same time when that amygdala fires, the amygdala fired for the CEO who felt challenged. And so what we have to do is get better. And I, I personally had a really hard time with this when I was in a leadership position, and it was something I had to learn that manette, you're getting defensive, take a pause, take a breath. And in that very short pause, it feels like a long time to you doesn't feel so long to everyone else. What you've done is you've calmed your brain, the amygdala calms down, your cerebral cortex comes back online, so you can actually speak reasonably again. And you can then thank someone, you can ask a curious follow up question. And you can have good dialogue. So I think it's one of the most critical things, especially for leaders who are setting the tone for their organization, to be acutely aware of their own reactions. And knowing that it's going to be they're going to be so much stronger leaders if they can become aware of their reactions, and then decide how they want to respond, instead of having that amount automatic, you know, self defense kind of reaction, which usually doesn't serve us well, in a social setting in a professional setting. Yes, oh,
Wendy Hanson 22:30
I love the example you gave. And I love the pause, we talk about that a lot of BetterManager in coaching, you know, we have a piece of content on the pause, you know, the pause helps both parties if you can slow down the action. And I love your example of because this is what we need is rather than say this, this is what I should say. So, yeah, that and you know, it's a good question. I can't answer that right now. But I will get back to you, you know, people will then feel like, well, that was okay to say, you know, so I love that you could turn something like that. If you pause, if you get your yourself back online again, and be able to then respond in a way. And to know, I think leaders or anybody who's speaking to a group like that need to know in advance how powerful all their words are. Every word is powerful. No,
Minette Norman 23:25
I was just want to show Sorry, I forgot there was one thing I wanted to share, because it's in our book, it was one of these things I remember the editor said, Can you provide an example of this, and the example we provided it was talking about getting defensive and how we might respond. The example we shared was, you get a piece of feedback that hits you hard. And you say, Wow, that hit me harder than expected. Can you give me a minute to think about it before I respond. So that's what we put in our book. What I didn't expect is how many people that resonated with because we keep hearing people who have now read the book, saying, I wish I had used that phrase about a million times in my career, because that's exactly what happens. We get hit really hard by feedback. And we may have any number of responses. But if we can just acknowledge as humans that we are, that hit me harder than expected. Everyone's going to feel better about that. So anyway, I wanted to pull that one out as an example that's really somehow resonating and speaking to people.
Wendy Hanson 24:25
Yeah, yeah, I like and, and that's important, too. And what you just pointed out is what people need is, give me the weigh in to say something, you know, because if I don't have the weigh in, I'm not gonna say it. And I think that's why you're getting so much feedback on that resonating. Yeah. Carolyn, I want to ask you about the chapter on embracing risk and failure. And I understand this is one of your favorite topics. It's not easy for teams to see failure as something positive. Can you talk about this and share some of the ideas from In the book around embracing failure, we talk at BetterManager, about failing fast. And that's actually in part of our leadership training. And I'd love to hear your take on it.
Karolin Helbig 25:11
Yeah, I love this question. As a scientist, you're used to running experiments. And then also experiments, they have all sorts of results, either kind of positive or negative. However, this is just data, right data we learn from, and as a scientist, you can extract the learning value of these experiments a little bit less emotion, an emotional way, maybe. So that's probably the reason why I love this question. Even though it's really not easy, right? It's not easy to do. And here again, it's about our wiring, we all hate failure. We all hate it. It's fear, fear of failure. And this, again, is hardwired in we we don't, don't want to admit, do we tend to hide it, we don't want to discuss it, it makes us feel stupid, and so on, and so on, we really sometimes have a very strong emotional reaction about it. And here, again, the power of pause, which you're just underlined when the is so important. And here, again, the leader has that kind of the responsibility to try to take this emotional shaming blaming out of the game. And really invite everyone to take this more scientific approach saying, okay, these are the data, what do they tell us. And maybe I can share a story about a client, who was really, for me, he was really having this growth mindset and seeing failure as useful data. And maybe failure is even more useful than positive data. And I remember our first meeting a big meeting with a team, we had to do hard stuff that was, at my time with McKinsey him, and then expected him to be upset about the failure we experienced. I expected, shaming blaming going on, so I was really entering the meeting. feeling awful. And then I was so surprised by what he did. He sat down. And he said, in a very calm and friendly voice, okay, this didn't work. Why? What does it tell us? And what can we learn from it? And how can we make it better? And this all in just a very friendly, interested in calm voice? And I've never experienced that before. And I found it so impressive. And that's exactly what leaders need to do. They need to kind of take the emotions out of out of it so that nobody feels bad about this failure. And everyone can enter this productive discussion. Okay, let's look at the data. And let's extract as much learning out of it as we can, and make our next experiment as best as possible.
Wendy Hanson 28:46
I love that example. That's great. And is there anything, Carolyn, that people could set up in advance? Like, we're going to be trying this? And we're not sure we want to keep track of what happened. And then at the end, we're going to look at the data. Is there any kind of pre setup for this as people are taking risks? And they're trying to make courageous decisions that will help that even further?
Karolin Helbig 29:12
Yeah, absolutely. And that's also one kind of one element in our book, what we are, what advice can have to establish a habit of running blameless, blameless, post mortems. So that it's clear for the team, we try something new, we have a project. And when when we achieved achieved the results when the project comes to a close, we then run a meeting, where it's about learning it's not about blaming, it's about learning, blameless post mortems is really a fantastic tool and this is something which you can really establish as a team. Richard untethered, scheduled regularly.
Wendy Hanson 30:04
I love that name. Because just calling a meeting and blameless post mortem give takes a little bit of the anxiety away, like the anxiety, you talked about getting into that meeting. And, and boy, everybody then is kind of shut down when they go into a meeting. But if you know that you're not going to be attacked or anything, it people can keep being courageous and creative and innovative. So wonderful example. So my, my final question, kind of sub final question is that I know your main focus in their areas of inclusive leadership. And I saw one of the chapters in the book really talked about designing inclusive rituals. And we know rituals are really important now that we're, we're in a very hybrid world, and we're all spending a lot of time on Zoom, even more. So rituals happened almost normally before, but now we have to make them happen. Can you tell us about the a little bit more about, you know, designing inclusive rituals for us?
Minette Norman 31:07
Yeah, and of course, this is such a huge topic. And so we tried again, to make it like here are just some things you can start doing, that will really make a difference in how people feel either included or excluded. And we start a lot with meetings, because that's where we spend so much of our time at work. And now, of course, it's either completely remote and virtual or hybrid, and that's complicated. And so, you know, one of the things that I have seen and that research shows is that, in most meetings, you know, let's say you have 10 people in a meeting, what typically happens is two or three people dominate the discussion, and seven or eight people sit back and don't say anything, even though they probably have some really important things to say. And it's because they don't feel safe. And they don't feel that this is an inclusive environment. So, you know, fundamentally, we believe that psychological safety is required, and found is a foundation for an inclusive culture. So what you can do, you know, again, we just start with some really practical things like, how are you going to run your meetings, one, appoint someone to facilitate that meeting, to look out to make sure that everyone is included, whether you use a turn taking mechanism, like one of the things we suggest is try this out, you don't have to do it in every meeting. But try a technique called no one speaks twice until everyone speaks once. So you've made it basically you go around that virtual table, and no one can then rebut or interrupt, basically, each person gets a turn to speak. So that's one technique. But you know, the other thing that you can do is not everyone feels comfortable contributing in the same way. So you want to make sure you are as inclusive as possible, give people time to prepare in advance for the meeting, so that they can digest material and come ready to speak. If they don't actually want to unmute themselves in a virtual or hybrid meeting, maybe they can type something in or they can provide their input in a different way. Because people really process information differently, and some are more verbal, and some are more written. And we really want to accommodate everybody in this meeting. And then the other thing is that when people do contribute, make sure that we have ground rules for listening to one another and that we're not going to interrupt, we're not going to eyeroll or you know, shake our heads and make someone feel bad for having that crazy idea. We're going to listen openly to others. And we're going to have a way to have disagreement, we're going to invite dissent in a way that everyone still feels respected. So this is a big topic, obviously. And you don't, you know, flip a switch and say this is an inclusive, safe meeting. But there are techniques that you can put into practice. And we recommend trying one of them out and then trying another one, and getting feedback from your team regularly. Like how safe did I feel in this meeting? Did I feel comfortable speaking up? And if not, what do I need? So just iterating on your meeting practices to get better and more inclusive and more psychologically safe for everybody?
Wendy Hanson 34:04
Oh, I think those are great ideas. And really being able to make sure that every meeting isn't exactly the same. You can switch it up and say here's some things that we're going to do. And then we're going to get your feedback. Maybe if it's a weekly meeting at the end of the month. We'll give it we'll get a little feedback survey together. What would you like better? What would be easier? Yeah. But that's so important to get every voice in the room is, is an important piece, we use the raise hand function on zoom all the time. And so that really helps at our meetings. Yes, I found that to be very useful. So we're not talking over each other. So a quick wrap up. Carolyn, anything you want to leave us with make sure that we're putting in our bag going forward. This so
Karolin Helbig 34:49
many ideas. I'd love to come back to what you highlighted when need the power of a pause. And I think this is so cool. Arusha because psychological safety, as we explained is not something which happens automatically. It's something which we need to cultivate. So it's kind of a deliberate practice something where we need to choose deliberately what to do and not follow our autopilot. Because our autopilot hardwired, is always or can very easily be the less productive choice. And I don't know if you know this famous quote by Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, that between stimulus and response, this space and in the space lies our freedom. And the power of pause is exactly kind of the golden key to enter this space between stimulus and response, and choose the more protective response. So it's not only about managing your reactions, it's also in all five chapters, it's deliberately choosing a more protective response. And for that, using the golden key of the pause is kind of really the crucial thing to do.
Wendy Hanson 36:17
Good, I love the golden key, that's great man that anything you want to leave us with?
Minette Norman 36:23
I feel like we've covered so much already. And then there's always so much to say still. But what I guess what I would say is that every single one of you whether you're in the C suite, or you're a brand new individual contributor, and everyone in between, you all play a role in creating the culture that you want to be a part of. And so I would say everyday commit to creating a better, safer, more inclusive culture where everyone can do their best work, and even little changes can make a huge impact. Yeah,
Wendy Hanson 36:53
great. We don't have to do this overnight. It'll be much better if we take smaller steps. Yes, success breeds success. So thank you both so much. Now, what's the best way for people to they can go on Amazon or other places and find the book, what's the best place for them to connect with you if they have questions, etc. But yeah,
Minette Norman 37:15
so you can get the book everywhere online. But we'd love people to go to our website, which is the psychological safety playbook.com, we have a lot of resources, their free resources, also links to where to buy the book. And we love you to join our email list where we send out newsletters and keep people updated on what's going on. And then we also are both on LinkedIn, and we love to interact with people on LinkedIn and have a dialogue and find out how this works resonating and what you're facing in your life. So please follow us and connect with us on LinkedIn as well.
Wendy Hanson 37:47
Great, that's wonderful. Well, thank you so much. Thanks for sharing your wisdom today. And and thank you for having me. So pragmatic. So people are gonna get off this call and say, I know one thing I can do to move towards this. So really appreciate that. So thank you all very much today for listening. Please reach out if you have any questions you can always get to me email@example.com. And keep making this an important topic in your business life creating psychological safety. I think we'll all see the difference once we understand how to make it happen. So have a wonderful day.