Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It’s the support and confidence we need to ask questions such as, “Why do we do it this way?” “What if we tried this?” or “May I suggest a better way?” It allows us to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation or the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation.
As the highest level of psychological safety, it matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk associated with challenging the status quo. Here are five behaviors to help you create challenger safety on your team.
Having challenger safety means that the members of your team can debate issues on their merits and find the best one without creating fear and interpersonal conflict. It’s your job to teach them how to have marvelous disagreement to create this idea meritocracy. Master the emotional and interpersonal art of disagreeing in a warm and friendly way so others don’t take offense. Maintain a respectful body posture while avoiding curt, abrupt, and abrasive language and overly aggressive or sarcastic body language. If you keep practicing this skill, your team will develop an incredibly high tolerance for candor.
Everything we do eventually becomes obsolete. Every source of competitive advantage we have is temporary. It’s like ice. The only question is the rate of the melt. Engage your team to look at the way you do things. Identify anything that is redundant, obsolete, or trivial (R.O.T.). Sources of R.O.T. represent the low-hanging fruit of the status quo that needs to be dismantled.
Speaking first when you hold positional power softly censors your team. Listen carefully, acknowledge the contributions of others, and then register your point of view.
Inviting your people to venture out of their tactical and functional silos creates more opportunity for divergent thinking, allowing them to connect things that aren't normally connected. Of course you must manage the process carefully and discern when constructive dissent is giving way to destructive derailment.
Fear triggers the self-censoring instinct and causes people to retreat into silence and personal risk management. When a leader uses fear, it’s normally a punitive response borne of frustration and insecurity. More importantly, it’s an abdication of leadership.
To create incubators of innovation where divergent thinking, creative abrasion and constructive dissent thrive, we must learn not only to tolerate, but actually invite and welcome constructive feedback. This may feel like an unnatural act at first, but it’s a skill you can develop. Here’s how:
There’s some truth to the adage: out of sight, out of mind. If you’re a remote worker you may be wondering if this applies to you. Does the adage hold weight on our virtual teams? Are we left to the mercy of cloud-based collaboration tools to remind our employers of our existence? If we’re only “in sight” when we’re on-screen, can we still have an impact on our organizations?
Contributor safety satisfies the basic human need for autonomy and contribution. You feel safe and are given the opportunity and role clarity to use your skills and abilities to make a difference. Here are five behaviors that will help you foster contributor safety on your team.