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.

Strong impact

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. 

Refe­ren­ces

  • Alve­s­son, M., Blom, M., & Svenings­son, S. (2017). Refle­xive Leadership: Orga­ni­sing in an im-perfect world. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications
  • Creary, S. J. Caza, B. B. & Roberts, L. M. (2015). Out of the box? How mana­ging a subordi-nate’s multi­ple iden­ti­ties affects the quality of a mana­ger-subor­di­nate rela­ti­ons­hip. In: Academy of Manage­ment Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, p. 538–562
  • Edmond­son, A. (1999). Psycho­lo­gi­cal Safety and Lear­ning Beha­vior in Work Teams, Admi­nis-trative Science Quar­terly, 1999, Vol. 44, No. 2, p. 350–383
  • Edmond­son, A.C. & Dörf­fer, T. (2018). Selbst­ver­ständ­lich fehl­bar — Psycho­lo­gi­sche Sicher­heit als Erfolgs­fak­tor für High Perfor­ming Teams. [Fallible, of course – Psycho­lo­gi­cal safety as a success factor for high-perfor­ming teams.] Orga­ni­sa­ti­ons­Ent­wickung 3/18, p. 19–23.
  • Laloux, F. (2015). Reinven­ting Orga­niz­a­ti­ons: A Guide to Crea­ting Orga­niz­a­ti­ons Inspi­red by the Next Stage of Human Conscious­ness, Vahlen
  • Mölle­ney, M., Sachs, S. (2019). Beyond Leadership. SKV Verlag
  • Wink­ler, B. (2016). Effek­tive Google-Teams. [Effec­tive Google teams.] Orga­ni­sa­ti­ons­Ent­wick-lung, 1/16
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