In today’s world where working remotely is the norm, it is critical we communicate well. When we are no longer in the same location we lose the opportunity for ad hoc discussions and it requires us to be much more intentional about when and how we communicate.
A lot has been said about how best to do this. From regularly scheduled 1:1 and team meetings, to fun unstructured happy hours. While that’s great, we still face the challenge of how to make these meetings effective. How to include everyone and encourage them to speak up. This is the leader’s job, to lay a foundation to thrive working remotely. It is an environment where everyone feels comfortable taking a personal risk and speaking up.
It Is The Leader’s Responsibility To Make It Safe To Take Personal Risks
When I say personal risk, it may sound a bit dramatic, so let me explain. In a team discussion we want everyone to share their point of view. What if my view is critical and opposes that of my colleague. How will they take it? How will my peers take it? Will I come over as trying to be smart? In effect, I am putting my relationship status with my peers on the line. I am taking a personal risk. In many team discussions, the personal risk is seen as too great, and team members simply keep quiet depriving the team of their contribution.
In her book Teaming, Harvard professor, Amy Edmondson, describes an environment where everyone is comfortable taking personal risks as psychologically safe. She also notes it is the team leader’s responsibility to create it, and sadly they don’t occur on their own. The good news is it’s not complicated, it takes courage and conviction.
So what do leaders do to create a psychologically safe team environment that is a foundation to thrive working remotely? Here are three of the most important leadership behaviors.
Give The Team A Voice
They communicate empathetically with team members and foster open and transparent dialog. If a team member is uncomfortable speaking up, the leader can build their confidence in 1:1 meetings. In team meetings, they invite participation from everyone in the group. This is especially important in remote meetings with a large team where all team members may not be visible.
Confident leaders acknowledge their personal fallibility and they are not shy about asking for help when they don’t know. They shift the culture from valuing knowing to learning, highlighting ‘failure’ as a key source of learning. Experimentation is a necessary to navigate the path to the goal.
Lead By Example
Ultimately, the team looks to the leader and will follow what they do over what they say. When the leader displays vulnerability they make it safe for others to do the same. Asking for help from team members is a powerful way to display vulnerability. They also hold themselves and others accountable to role model agreed team behaviors.
These three behaviors are key but we are only scratching the surface. We’ve provided a more detailed review of eight behaviors leaders use to generate a safe team environment at the link below.
Creating a safe team environment is not easy and it takes courage from the leader. We know from our client experiences the results far outweigh the effort. Please reach out for a conversation if you are looking for help to put these behaviors into action with your team or group.