Promoting psychological safety with ‘Beyond Leadership’
The world of work is undergoing profound change, one that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional structures built on hierarchies are not flexible enough to respond to the many changes this brings with it, and they are increasingly being replaced by organisations that are built on collaboration.
One of the most important success factors here is psychological safety, which is the shared belief within teams that supervisors and other team members won’t humiliate, reject or punish you for contributing your ideas and expressing yourself freely. It is therefore not entirely sur-prising that Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, who developed the concept of psychological safety, came first place in the 2021 Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers. The concept of ‘Beyond Leadership’, a collaboration method that strong-ly promotes equal input within the team, helps to build psychological safety. The three key driv-ers of psychological safety, which are respect, trust and appreciation, are therefore also the core elements of Beyond Leadership.
Structured sequence of small-group exercises
In practice, Beyond Leadership occurs in a structured sequence of small-group exercises that aim to make the values and attitudes of both the individual participants and the whole team transparent and evident. First, the team is divided into groups of two and then given a question, which is worked on by all groups of two individually, but also parallel to each other.
Listening and giving mindful, appreciative feedback
One of the two people starts and is given two minutes to answer the question. The other per-son must remain silent during these two minutes and instead focuses on listening. This is be-cause directly after the two minutes are up, the listener has one minute to give positive, mindful and appreciative feedback to the first person. They may not give any criticism, no matter how well it is meant. Once they’ve given their feedback, the second person also then has two minutes to answer the same question, after which they too receive positive, mindful and appre-ciative feedback from the first person.
Who am I and why am I here?
The question in the first round, which is known as ‘Connect’, is: ‘Who am I and why am I here?’ This is about your own personal values – what is especially important to you, what you are personally committed to and what you are passionate about. In a possible second round, the group’s shared values are addressed – they are asked the question: ‘Who are we and what is important to all of us?’ In subsequent rounds, they can then develop a shared vision or a solu-tion to a problem and the resulting ideas can be transformed into a concrete commitment. What is important is that all rounds need to place the focus on very attentive listening and only giving appreciative feedback.
Participants in Beyond Leadership workshops emphasise the incredibly strong impact that ap-preciative dialogue has. Many find that they get to know their interlocutor better in the six-minute Connect exercise than in several years of working together at the same company. This deeper process of getting acquainted with each other supports collaboration between people based on shared values, and this is the decisive factor in the success of modern organisations.
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