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2023 Psychological Safety Year In Review

This special year in review episode of Culture by Design features hosts Tim and Junior interviewing members of the LeaderFactor team. They get unique perspectives on psychological safety trends and insights from 2023 based on interactions with clients. Guests include Jillian (Marketing), Ryan (Technology), Kelsea (Sales), and Alex (Client Success).

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Episode Show Notes

This special year in review episode of Culture by Design features hosts Tim and Junior interviewing members of the LeaderFactor team. They get unique perspectives on psychological safety trends and insights from 2023 based on interactions with clients. Guests include Jillian (Marketing), Ryan (Technology), Kelsea (Sales), and Alex (Client Success).

5 Key Moments
  • Interest in psychological safety continues to grow exponentially based on search volume (0:04:21)
  • Audiences want both a business case and practical guidance on implementing psychological safety (0:04:21)
  • Individual contributors feel most vulnerable about expressing disagreement compared to managers (0:24:55)
  • Successful organizations measure psychological safety as a baseline and track progress over time (0:37:58)
  • Consistent effort over an appropriate time horizon is key for cultural transformation (0:58:56)
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Episode Transcript


0:00:02.5 Producer: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddie, one of the producers of the podcast. We have a special episode for you today, a 2023 Psychological Safety Year in Review. In this episode, Tim and Junior invite four special guests from LeaderFactor to join them in sharing their unique perspective as they help organizations lead with psychological safety. In this episode, you'll first hear from Jillian from our Marketing Team, Ryan from Technology, Kelsea from Sales, and Alex from Client Success. Tim and Junior interview each department representative for their individual perspective and insights. When it comes to bringing psychological safety to practice and implementing real cultural change, we are in a unique position to see what's working and what's not. Thanks to the clients we interact with and the data we collect. I'm confident that you'll find something interesting out of today's episode.

0:01:00.2 Producer: It has been a fantastic year for the podcast as well, and we can't thank you enough for listening and supporting our mission to influence the world for good at scale. As always, this episode's show notes can be found at Thanks again for listening and enjoy today's episode, 2023: A Year in Review.


0:01:27.0 Junior: Welcome back, everyone, to Culture by Design. I'm Junior here with my co-host, Dr. Tim Clark, and some co-hosts as a little bit of a spin. Today, we'll be reviewing the year, 2023. It absolutely flew. Much has happened in the last 12 months as it relates to psychological safety. We worked with a huge number of organizations, we gathered a tremendous amount of data, and we helped a lot of people get better. Tim, how are you? How was your year? 

0:01:54.9 Tim: Oh, wow. It flew by, but it was a great year. And we did a lot of... I think we have more of a global perspective now...

0:02:02.8 Junior: I agree.

0:02:02.9 Tim: Because we did so much work with organizations around the world. And so I think we're different at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the year. We can talk about that.

0:02:11.9 Junior: Agreed. As we were thinking about the final episodes of this year, 2023, we had the idea, wouldn't it be cool if we got the perspective of more than just me, more than just Tim? What if we brought in some of the team and asked them a few questions about how their year went, how they saw the world in 2023 from their roles and their functions? So that's why today's format is going to be fun. They're going to get to hear from more than just the two of us. We've invited several members of our team who represent a few different functional areas to tell us a bit about the last year as they see it. So with that, we would like to introduce our first guest, Jillian, who's representing the Marketing Team here at LeaderFactor. Jillian, welcome.

0:02:57.0 Jillian: Hi, so excited to be here.

0:02:58.0 Junior: We're excited to have you. So Jillian, tell us a little bit about you. What's your role at LeaderFactor? Who are you? 

0:03:02.9 Jillian: Sure. I work in Marketing, like you said, primarily on the content side of things. So if you get our newsletter, if you read our blog content, if you follow us on socials, if you read our ebook content, that's where I play mainly.

0:03:15.0 Junior: Yeah, the newsletters have been really strong this year. So if you have not had a chance to subscribe to the newsletter, we would highly encourage you to do that. So Jillian, what are the patterns that you're seeing in the content across 2023? Are there patterns in the way that the audience is engaging with the content? Is there patterns in the content itself? Tell us a little bit about that as it relates to your role.

0:03:37.4 Jillian: Yeah, sure thing. I think it would be important to start with psychological safety, just as a term, as a concept in general. I think a lot of people used to think that psychological safety was going to be a buzzword. And search term volume-wise, that is just not the case. We are seeing psychological safety increase exponentially, and that is so exciting to see. Because of that, more people are getting used to that concept and used to that term, and we're seeing more people want to know how to build it. I would definitely say that there's maybe two things that our audience is looking for, and they're related, but they're distinct enough that I think they both deserve to be mentioned. And that would be the business case for psychological safety, but also just practicality in general. And I'm happy to talk about both of those things.

0:04:21.7 Junior: Yeah, please do. You have a unique perspective, and we have these content meetings where we'll look at views and impressions and shares and likes across all of these platforms. Maybe before we launch into those two, tell us a little bit about channels. What channels do we use? What channels do you see as the most interesting this last year? I know LinkedIn's been interesting. Tell us a little bit about that.

0:04:45.1 Jillian: Yeah, of course. Other than the podcast, which totally counts as one of our content channels, LinkedIn is one of the big places that we play. Our audience is mainly L&D, DEI, change-management-type people, and they live on LinkedIn because that's where they can share frameworks and things that they're working with and working on. We love to show up there because if you're familiar with LeaderFactor at all, we love frameworks and we love practicality ourselves.

0:05:08.9 Tim: Yes, we do. Yeah.

0:05:10.0 Jillian: We have been learning a lot about what things trend there, and normally it's practicality and framework-oriented things. We have other channels as well. Our long-form content is a different beast, but does a lot of those same things too.

0:05:23.8 Tim: Well, Jillian, you and I were having a conversation the other day, and you mentioned that a lot of the posts and the tools that we've put out there, they keep recycling. Right? It's not one and done. They don't have this short shelf life, and they go away. But people go back to those, and they talk about those, and they must be using those. So that's telling us something, right? 

0:05:45.4 Jillian: No, absolutely. Yeah, we'll see posts from Tim's LinkedIn that resurfaced from seven months ago that are still relevant. And of course, I think they still would be. But it's just an indicator of the shelf life, like you said, of psychological safety as a concept. And I think that's really great.

0:06:00.1 Tim: Well, probably two things, that, the shelf life of psychological safety. But number two, the fact that we're trying to give people tools.

0:06:08.4 Jillian: For sure.

0:06:08.9 Tim: And you talked about the practicality. People are looking for tools that they can use and apply, right? 

0:06:14.5 Jillian: Mm-hmm.

0:06:15.1 Junior: So let's get into the business case. Tell us a little bit about that lever that people are looking for.

0:06:20.0 Jillian: Yeah, absolutely. So I think it's important to recognize that our audience consists mainly of psychological safety champions. We're not necessarily needing to convince people that we talk to that psychological safety is an important concept, that it's something that their organization needs. But what these people need is to have, like we said, a toolkit or a business case that they can bring to their stakeholders to encourage them to consider psychological safety as an initiative, as a part of their culture. And that is a very different thing than just teaching somebody what psychological safety is. To be able to connect it to the business case, to say, "Hey, this can be a competitive advantage for your organization. This can be a competitive advantage for your teams. This makes your culture better." It's a completely different asp than to just say, "Hey, tell me what psychological safety is. Tell me something interesting about it."

0:07:08.2 Tim: So inevitably, people, they get excited about it, they see the importance of it, but there's a job to be done. And the job to be done is, how do I increase it on my team or in my organization? How do I even begin this journey? Right? You inevitably are gonna get to that point. And that's not intuitive. It's not obvious how to start that. And so you need some help.

0:07:31.3 Jillian: Especially because this concept is quite new. So it's not like we've seen many psychological safety initiatives come through these large organizations yet.

0:07:38.9 Tim: Right.

0:07:39.3 Jillian: For the most part, this is their first one, if they're even considering it at all.

0:07:42.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:07:43.0 Jillian: Which I think we need to recognize.

0:07:44.8 Tim: That's true.

0:07:46.2 Junior: So practicality, you mentioned that as the second lever. Tell me more.

0:07:49.8 Jillian: Oh, absolutely. I think practicality is interesting because practicality is the antidote to helplessness in a lot of ways. And I think...

0:07:58.2 Tim: [laughter] I like that.

0:08:00.0 Jillian: I think our L&D and our DEI people don't want to feel helpless, especially when they feel the push to bring psychological safety to their organization. But maybe they don't have the scope or the budget to do that quite yet at a rollout scale. The practicality element helps these people feel like they can do something now.

0:08:17.3 Tim: Yeah.

0:08:18.0 Jillian: Feel like they can say, "Okay, in this specific context, in this specific environment, I know how to show up and be psychologically safe." It also, I think, highlights the unique instances where psychological safety makes a difference. And that can be role-specific, that can be environment-specific, or situation-specific. For example, we have content like your HBR article that came out this year, How a CEO Creates Psychological Safety in the Room, that talks specifically to executives. We also have our behavioral guide that is sectioned out for individual contributors, managers, and teams to find psychological safety behaviors that work for them.

0:08:51.3 Tim: Yeah.

0:08:52.1 Jillian: We also have situation-specific content, right? So how do you create psychological safety in a meeting? How do you create psychological safety in an interview setting? What does that look like? What does it look like on cross-functional teams? We have podcast episodes on what it looks like on global teams. And all of those play into... We say psychological safety is a culture of rewarded vulnerability, but vulnerability shows up in so many different ways. And so being able to speak to those unique instances of vulnerability with practical tools is great. I think it's so impactful.

0:09:22.9 Tim: That's a really good point, Jillian, that you're making. And it reminds me of the fact that, for example, individual contributors will experience psychological safety a lot more than people with positional power. So what do you do? If you're an individual contributor, what do I do? How do I approach my team? What's my role in being a cultural architect? It's gonna be different than if I'm the team leader. And how do I experience vulnerability? We just looked at some data this week that shows us very clearly that if you're an individual contributor, you feel a lot more vulnerable about challenging the status quo than if you are at the top of the hierarchy. Right? We just went through that data, and it's very, very clear. So I love your role-specific point. It's just very true. Who are you? What do you do in the organization? And how are you going to go about improving psychological safety? That's not intuitive for most people. They don't know exactly what to do. And as you said before, if an organization has a psychological safety initiative, guaranteed, this is their first time doing that. So this is all uncharted territory for organizations around the world.

0:10:36.0 Junior: Jillian, I want to give you a chance to plug some assets. We've seen some of those that have done really well this year and have been valuable for people. Tell us maybe your top few, and we can link those in the show notes. What are some of the assets that you feel like are the most valuable for the community and that have also performed well? 

0:10:54.0 Jillian: For sure. Yeah. I think because I don't just want this to feel like a plug. There's a reason why we've created these assets in the first place, and it's to solve for these needs that we just talked about, right? 

0:11:02.1 Tim: Allright.

0:11:03.0 Jillian: It's to provide that business case. It's to provide that practicality. And I think as an organization, Junior, you've said in recent podcast episodes that LeaderFactor has a bias for practicality, I think a lot of that has to do with the Four Stages of psychological safety in general. That framework, the fact that there are four progressive stages that are components of psychological safety means that practicality is baked into the framework as well. So the assets that we're gonna talk about, sure, they are four-stages-focused, but that's because that's where the practicality lives. I've made jokes recently that this is the year of the ebook for us, honestly. We have revamped basically every digital guide that we have available on our website, and those have been my favorite to work with. That would be our Ladder of Vulnerability, which I think is the best guide that has totally slipped under the radar for most people who listen to our content.

0:11:55.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:11:55.4 Jillian: Tim, that data that you mentioned was challenging the status quo for individual contributors, that data and Ladder of Vulnerability, that's where it comes from, right? 

0:12:02.1 Tim: That's right. That's right.

0:12:03.1 Jillian: And there are hundreds of ways that you can model and reward vulnerability in that guide that I would definitely recommend taking a look at. If you haven't had a chance to look at our Psychological Safety Behavioral Guide yet, that would be the next place I would send you to. And that's 120 specific ways that you can improve psychological safety on the team, individual, and manager levels. Phenomenal resource. We've worked a lot to get that where it needs to be. And then our Complete Guide to Psychological Safety just got a revamp as well.

0:12:31.3 Tim: Oh, yeah.

0:12:32.2 Jillian: There's what? 20 different frameworks in there that you can use to apply psychological safety into your business context. And I think that's incredible. And just as a fun plug, I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say this. I'm gonna say it anyway. We're working on a Complete Guide to EQ that'll go live early 2024. So keep an eye out for that.

0:12:51.3 Tim: That's exciting.

0:12:52.2 Junior: Yeah.

0:12:52.3 Jillian: I am very excited about that one.

0:12:53.4 Junior: You heard it here first. [laughter] That's great.

0:12:56.1 Tim: Well, I think we need to give Jillian a lot of credit as the genius behind a lot of these resources. And you've also incorporated a lot of client feedback, right, Jillian? As we have updated and revamped these assets to make them more helpful, more practical, more applied.

0:13:15.1 Jillian: Absolutely.

0:13:16.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:13:16.2 Jillian: I think we want to be a value add, first and foremost. It's not about attention for us. It's about adding value where we can and helping people get where they want to go on their psychological safety journey. And I'm happy to be a part of that.

0:13:27.8 Tim: And I think that speaks a lot to the relationship that we want to have with organizations. We want to deliver an enormous amount of value before we do anything else. Isn't that true, Junior? 

0:13:38.0 Junior: Yep. So if you want to participate in more of that value, sign up for the newsletter. Keep an eye out for the EQ Guide. Jillian, thanks for joining us on the podcast. We appreciate everything that you do for the team. And we'll continue with the next guest.

0:13:51.2 Jillian: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

0:13:53.2 Junior: Next up, we have a very special guest. We have with us, Ryan. Ryan, welcome to Culture by Design.

0:14:00.3 Ryan: Awesome. It's good to be here.

0:14:01.0 Junior: Ryan, can you give us a snapshot of your role at LeaderFactor, a little bit about your skill set? 

0:14:06.0 Ryan: Yeah. So I work on LeaderFactor's technology platform. I've been able to help out on everything from product exploration to design and implementation for most of LeaderFactor's technology platforms.

0:14:16.9 Tim: Hey, Junior, we need to acknowledge here though that we're kind of stretching Ryan's job description today because he's the Chief Technology Officer, but he didn't know he was gonna be a podcaster too.

0:14:29.1 Ryan: True.

0:14:30.0 Tim: Right? 

0:14:30.1 Junior: True. Absolutely. But we're grateful for Ryan's [laughter] flexibility.

0:14:34.8 Ryan: That's right.

0:14:35.0 Junior: And really the whole team's flexibility in agreeing to do this with us.

0:14:38.4 Tim: Right.

0:14:38.9 Junior: It's not the most exciting thing for a lot of people to be talking to us in a room for two hours, whatever this is gonna be.

0:14:44.0 Tim: That's right. So Ryan, thanks for doing this.

0:14:46.2 Junior: Yeah, we appreciate it.

0:14:46.8 Ryan: Oh, no problem. Yeah, this is my debut. It's a...


0:14:51.0 Junior: Oh, that's great. So for those of you who have interacted with, whether it be the Ladder of Vulnerability, the Four Stages Team Survey, the online course, you have participated in some of Ryan's expertise. And what Ryan's been able to do, him and his team, it's pretty incredible.

0:15:07.2 Tim: Yeah, it is.

0:15:08.0 Junior: And the technology platform has grown a lot...

0:15:10.9 Tim: It's amazing.

0:15:11.8 Junior: In the last couple of years. Maybe give us a sense for some of that growth.

0:15:15.4 Ryan: Oh, yeah. So in 2023, for example, we've more than doubled our data points we've collected on the team survey. Did you know that? 

0:15:22.3 Tim: Have we? 

0:15:23.0 Junior: It's a lot.

0:15:23.3 Ryan: Yeah.

0:15:23.8 Tim: Yeah.

0:15:25.0 Ryan: It's not even been like close. We've been well over double.

0:15:29.1 Tim: It's exponential then? 

0:15:30.1 Ryan: Yeah.

0:15:30.4 Tim: Yeah.

0:15:31.0 Junior: So we do find ourselves in a unique position as it relates to the data. And so we can speak from, I guess, a point of credibility, at least as it relates to psychological safety in a way that other organizations probably can't. And so Ryan, talking about this data, what are we finding as maybe some of the patterns as we've collected this data over the last year? 

0:15:52.7 Ryan: Yeah, sure. So we've got two primary data sets related to psychological safety in the app. We have the Four Stages Survey data and then the Ladder of Vulnerability. The Four Stages Survey we send to organizations typically on an org-level survey, while the Ladder of Vulnerability is usually a more engagement or for a specific engagement like a workshop. And so some of the data that's most interesting is in the Four Stages Survey data. So we have a 16-question survey. It has 12 quantitative response questions and three questions per stage in those 12. So we go through the Four Stages within the survey. So as you might expect, the trends that we see in the data is that people are way more likely to feel included on their team than willing to challenge their team. That's pretty consistent. But one of the things that's even more interesting within that is we've got... For example, for the three inclusion safety items, our number one item is if they feel like they are treated with respect on their team.

0:16:55.9 Junior: The highest performing item.

0:16:57.1 Ryan: Yeah. So this is their... On average, when people take the survey, they rate that one, one of the highest.

0:17:03.2 Tim: And that's worldwide, right? 

0:17:04.2 Ryan: That's worldwide, yeah. That's across all organizations. The number two is if they feel accepted as a member of their team, which makes sense. That's another inclusion safety item. But where this gets interesting is the third inclusion safety item, which says, "I feel included by the people I work with," it drops off. It's actually number eight of our 12 items. And so it goes from... I've got the data here. It drops off almost to the same category as a challenger safety items, to be honest.

0:17:33.3 Tim: That is amazing.

0:17:33.9 Ryan: It's a steep drop off.

0:17:35.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:17:36.1 Junior: So that's telling us that people perceive a really big difference between being treated with respect and feeling included.

0:17:44.2 Tim: Yeah, that's right. They're two different things. They're related...

0:17:48.0 Junior: But they're very different...

0:17:48.8 Tim: But there's difference.

0:17:49.2 Junior: As far as the data is concerned.

0:17:50.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:17:50.9 Junior: And so it's also safe to say then that respect is not inclusion, right? 

0:17:55.8 Tim: Right.

0:17:56.1 Junior: And so I think that some people mix that up. And they think that, "Well, as long as I treat other people with respect, that's it. That's all we need to do. That's all I'm obligated to do."

0:18:06.1 Tim: And they will feel included.

0:18:07.4 Junior: And they'll feel included as a consequence.

0:18:08.3 Tim: And that's not true.

0:18:09.8 Junior: It's not.

0:18:10.2 Tim: It's not true.

0:18:11.0 Junior: Yeah. And it's actually not by a long shot. That's pretty interesting in the data.

0:18:15.2 Ryan: Yeah. So the neighboring questions, for example, for this one that almost have the same averages are, "I'm allowed to learn from my mistakes and my team valued my contributions." So people are putting it close to those same items, which is pretty far from the other inclusion safety items.

0:18:30.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:18:32.0 Junior: So, tell us about Challenger Safety. What's at the bottom? 

0:18:36.1 Ryan: Yeah. So this is a pretty common theme. Feeling safe to take reasonable risks is a really hard question for a lot of organizations. That's by far our lowest rated item. And I think that people forget that the question asks them reasonable risks. We're not asking you to do things that are out of protocol. Just doing things that are maybe you perceive as risky but are still accepted on the team, right? People, they're not willing to do that, which is kind of the heart of Challenger Safety.

0:19:02.2 Tim: Yeah, it is. So let's just clarify this, Ryan. What you're saying is that's the lowest performing quantitative item in the entire survey? 

0:19:11.1 Ryan: In the entire survey, yes.

0:19:12.5 Tim: Right? 

0:19:13.2 Junior: Well, then another interesting point is that you found that it also had the highest standard deviation.

0:19:19.3 Ryan: Yeah, that's an interesting data point for this too. So not only is it lowest, but it has the highest variance.

0:19:24.0 Tim: Okay.

0:19:25.0 Junior: So what does that mean? That means that people experience this more differently than any of the other items.

0:19:31.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:19:31.9 Junior: And so the environment changes most as it relates to challenging the status quo team to team.

0:19:38.4 Tim: Yeah.

0:19:39.3 Ryan: And even note on that as well, this isn't just unique to that item. All of the Challenger Safety items have the higher standard deviations on our survey items.

0:19:48.1 Tim: So there's more of local variance, right? 

0:19:50.0 Ryan: Oh, yeah.

0:19:51.2 Tim: It depends on what team you're working on, your colleagues, the leader, all of those things come into play here.

0:20:00.1 Junior: One of the things that I found most interesting about the Four Stages Team Survey data is that it's global data. And so we're getting this across demographics. We're getting this across culturally. We're getting this across industries. And this pattern holds true across all of those variables. If you go and survey in APAC or you go and survey in Europe, that item is still going to be on the bottom.

0:20:23.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:20:23.1 Junior: That's pretty interesting.

0:20:23.2 Tim: So what it's proving is that the nature of vulnerability is a universal pattern that cuts across culture, cuts across demographics or psychographic attributes, right? It's a consistent global pattern.

0:20:40.0 Junior: Some of the most interesting data we gathered this year was in the Ladder of Vulnerability. So, I'd love to shift focus and talk about that for a minute because there's some interesting stuff in here. Tell us a little bit about the Ladder of Vulnerability, Ryan.

0:20:52.8 Ryan: Yeah. So the Ladder of Vulnerability is a 20-question assessment. Participants will rate 20 items based on how vulnerable that activity makes them feel at work. And then at the end of the assessment, they get a ladder and it's ranked by their items in this order that they chose. And so as you might imagine, well, we've got a lot of questions here. So we've got questions related to inclusion safety and learner safety, contributor safety, and challenge of safety. And our least vulnerable item is generally, do they feel safe to connect with their team, right? That seems pretty universal. So that item is generally one of the lower ranked items on Ladder of Vulnerability. And on the opposite end, we've got giving an incorrect answer. So this is kind of the spectrum of that.

0:21:35.3 Junior: So that's number one.

0:21:36.1 Ryan: Yeah, right.

0:21:36.9 Tim: That's number one...

0:21:38.9 Ryan: Most vulnerable.

0:21:39.3 Tim: Most risky, most vulnerable behavior, right? 

0:21:43.1 Ryan: Yeah, giving an incorrect answer. Right.

0:21:46.0 Junior: So let's think about that for a minute because this, we can't just gloss over this. This is an important finding. Giving an incorrect answer. So what does that mean for us as leaders, Tim? If we know this, going into a situation that giving an incorrect answer is the most risky thing? 

0:22:04.2 Tim: We need to be able to overcompensate for that and create conditions that will persuade people, convince people to give their feedback, give their input, register their points of view, and take a stand even if it's wrong, even with the risk of being wrong. So think about the cultural burden that creates for the leader to be able to overcome, because that obstacles are already there. We already feel that vulnerability.

0:22:32.8 Junior: Yeah.

0:22:33.7 Tim: So we're trying to overcome that. If we can, and if we can really draw people out, then we will have the benefit of their candid feedback and their views. And we need that, but we're going to have to work hard for it. That's what it's telling us. We're going to have to work very hard for it, and the job is never done.

0:22:51.8 Junior: The data, I think, can inform your behavior as a leader so much more than almost anything else, because you can go into a situation with some pretty strong assumptions with a lot of confidence that people are going to perceive something a certain way. And so defusing some of those things up front by giving institutional permission to challenge, by asking questions yourself, by admitting that you don't know. There are so many things that we can do to defuse some of that risk up front. So I want to spend the last couple of minutes that we have with Ryan talking about something particularly interesting, something that we have not shared yet at all, which some of you may know, we gather demographic data for research purposes on the back end of the ladder. And Ryan's done some recent analysis to try and see if there's anything interesting here, looking at the demographics relative to the order of those behaviors. So Ryan, tell us a little bit about the analysis that you've done and some of your findings.

0:23:54.1 Ryan: Yeah. So we did a two-tailed T-test, which tells us how likely are these scores related to certain demographics to just appear in the wild, basically at random. And we found that the most unlikely to your random items, if you want to use that explanation, are for those in the demographic that are not managers. So actually, I probably want to walk back a little bit. For the ladder, one of the things that makes the ladder so interesting is that everybody's ladder is different. The standard deviation on each of these items is like half the scale.

0:24:23.1 Tim: Yeah. Which proves it. Yeah.

0:24:25.0 Ryan: Right. And so there's not like one demographic that's just uniform, saying this is the most vulnerable activity. But of those demographics, we do see a small trend in those who are not managers on their team.

0:24:38.4 Tim: Yeah.

0:24:39.1 Ryan: For example, they will say that expressing disagreement is their top most vulnerable item. And for the rest of our items, that item shows up as number three. So of our entire population, they say that expressing disagreement is the number three most vulnerable item.

0:24:55.0 Tim: If you are an individual contributor.

0:24:58.1 Ryan: If you are an individual contributor, you say that this is the number one most vulnerable item.

0:25:02.1 Tim: That's the hardest thing for you to do.

0:25:04.0 Junior: And then as soon as you become a manager, that shifts.

0:25:08.1 Ryan: Yep, shifts slightly.

0:25:09.2 Junior: Which is so interesting to me. Across all the demographics we measured, this seemed to be the most poignant.

0:25:16.9 Tim: And I think, Junior, it has to be attributable to power distance and a bias based on hierarchy, right? A status-based bias. People are shying away from that. So when we talk about creating a norm where there's an obligation of dissent, that's a hard thing to do to actually embed that norm of dissenting, constructive dissent, getting that into the DNA of your organization, that is a hard thing to do.

0:25:47.1 Junior: Well, to give people an idea, we're collecting demographics like geography and tenure and age and a whole host. And yet the only ones or the majority that were statistically significant had to do with this manager, non-manager difference.

0:26:05.9 Tim: That's right.

0:26:06.5 Junior: So that to me is a very unique finding.

0:26:08.9 Tim: It is.

0:26:09.0 Junior: It's something worth really pondering.

0:26:10.9 Tim: It is.

0:26:11.0 Ryan: Yeah. So for context, there were 680 different categories that looked at it.

0:26:15.9 Junior: That's amazing.

0:26:16.0 Ryan: And the top six were all related to if you were a manager or not.

0:26:20.1 Junior: Man.

0:26:21.1 Tim: That's amazing.

0:26:21.9 Junior: That's amazing. Yeah.

0:26:22.5 Tim: It really is.

0:26:24.0 Junior: Well, Ryan, anything else you want to share with us? 

0:26:26.9 Ryan: No, it's been a wild ride. 2023 has been one for the record books. It's been intense.

0:26:33.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:26:33.3 Junior: It has been. We've gathered a lot of data. It has been a ride. And we're excited, Ryan, that you're on this journey with us. Thank you for all that you do. We appreciate your contribution and everything you do to help us gather this data and help people use this data effectively. Because that's what we want to do at the end of the day with the organization, to show them this data and then create better leaders.

0:26:54.2 Tim: Yeah, Ryan, thanks so much. You're allowing us to really plow new ground as we collect these data and as we do this analysis. We're coming to findings that no one has ever come upon before. It's unprecedented.

0:27:08.3 Junior: Yeah, and part of the thing that we're doing in 2024, Ryan's incorporated some new data science levers that we can pull. I think that 2024 will be a year of a lot more of this type of thing.

0:27:20.0 Ryan: Oh, I hope. Man, we are just right there where we can have some serious breakthroughs related to psych safety. And 2024 is gonna be the year.

0:27:27.9 Tim: Yep.

0:27:28.1 Junior: Excellent. Well, thank you, Ryan. We appreciate your time. All right, we've got our next guest. We've got Kelsea representing the Sales Team. Kelsea, welcome to Culture by Design.

0:27:37.5 Kelsea: Thank you for having me.

0:27:38.2 Junior: We're excited that you're here. What a year.

0:27:39.9 Tim: Good to have you, Kelsea.

0:27:41.0 Kelsea: What a year.

0:27:42.0 Junior: So Kelsea, maybe you could begin by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

0:27:47.2 Kelsea: Well, my name is Kelsea. I am an Account Executive here at LeaderFactor on the Sales Team. My main goal is to help organizations find the best fit of what we offer for them.

0:27:58.1 Junior: Yeah. You've had a lot of opportunity to do that this last year.

0:28:01.8 Kelsea: Yes, I have.

0:28:02.0 Junior: It's been a really good year.

0:28:02.9 Tim: Yeah. In fact, Kelsea, people call you, right? 

0:28:06.0 Jillian: They do.

0:28:06.1 Tim: You don't call them.

0:28:07.0 Kelsea: I don't.

0:28:07.7 Tim: Why do they call you? Like, it's constant. [chuckle]

0:28:10.2 Kelsea: It is constant. [chuckle]

0:28:11.1 Junior: It's a really good question though, and something that I think is worth calling out. We do next to no outbound, right? 

0:28:18.0 Kelsea: No. Yeah, we don't.

0:28:18.9 Junior: And so one of the funnest things for me at LeaderFactor is paying attention to all the Slack channels. We have a lot of Slack channels at LeaderFactor, maybe too many. But you get a lot of dopamine hits throughout the day, right? A lot of organizations raising their hand and saying, "Hey, we need a little bit of help over here."

0:28:33.8 Tim: "We need some help," yeah.

0:28:35.1 Junior: So Kelsea, we want to dive into that a little bit. So an organization reaches out and says, "Hey, we're interested in psychological safety or culture change or leadership development," or one of many things they might say. And your role in the beginning is just discovery, right? So tell us a little bit about that discovery process.

0:28:55.9 Kelsea: Yeah, that's a good question. So when an organization reaches out, we hop on a discovery call. And basically, the point of that call is to find out who they are and what their needs are. So we'll ask a bunch of questions, trying to get to know them better, get to know the organization better, and see how we can help.

0:29:16.1 Junior: So what are you finding in that discovery process that illustrates the problems that these organizations are having? Any patterns that you've seen over the last year? 

0:29:26.0 Kelsea: Yeah, there have been some patterns. So a lot of organizations will come to us and say, "Hey, we've taken an engagement survey. We have some low scores in around the speak-up culture. People don't feel safe to speak up. And we need help with that." They've attributed that speak-up culture to psychological safety and are looking for some support.

0:29:44.9 Tim: So they're finding that in their survey data? 

0:29:47.0 Kelsea: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

0:29:48.0 Tim: Right? Okay.

0:29:48.9 Junior: So they have underwhelming employee survey results, let's say, in a given area, right? How do they make that connection between those survey results and psychological safety? Is it that people aren't speaking up or they've got disengagement or attrition? What are they looking at that tells them they have a problem? 

0:30:07.0 Kelsea: From what I've seen over the past year, it's a lot of speaking up, the lack of speaking up, and employees feeling comfortable to speak up and share feedback. And then a lot of lack of engagement. So disengagement is a big one that we've seen over the last year as well.

0:30:21.3 Junior: So let's talk about industry. So on any given day, you could be having calls with higher education, pharma, high tech. So we experience conversations with a lot of different industries. Are there patterns by industry or are they similar? Tell us about any differences you might see or if it's just the same.

0:30:43.2 Kelsea: That's a great question. I think the biggest pattern I see is with manufacturing industries looking at their relation between physical safety and psychological safety. That has been a big pattern over the last year. Other than that, it really varies by industry and there's not a whole lot of patterns.

0:31:00.1 Junior: Yeah, that's interesting.

0:31:00.2 Tim: In other words, regardless of the industry, people are struggling with these same challenges...

0:31:05.9 Kelsea: Exactly.

0:31:06.3 Tim: Across the board? 

0:31:07.2 Kelsea: Mm-hmm.

0:31:08.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:31:08.3 Junior: We did a webinar... Was it this year? Last year, on physical safety and psychological safety? 

0:31:13.2 Tim: Right, we did.

0:31:14.8 Junior: And that's been an interesting one to see over time with some of these bigger organizations, these manufacturers that we've worked with. They're making that connection, I think in a way that they haven't in the past. That psychological safety is a function... Or physical safety rather, is a function of psychological safety.

0:31:31.0 Tim: Yeah, it is.

0:31:31.8 Junior: And so psych safety as an input will create better physical safety results.

0:31:35.3 Tim: I think the thing that's come home to people on that, Junior, and Kelsea, you can speak to this as well, is that if you don't have a psychologically safe environment, culture, it drives mistakes underground. People don't... They're not going to tell you about their mistakes, right? They're going to hide those. And where that becomes relevant is that if you're trying to get better, you're trying to make a safer work environment, you can't fix a secret. So if people are not talking about their mistakes or their errors or potential problems, you can't go fix that. And so I think they're seeing the direct connection between psychological safety and physical safety in a way that they haven't seen before. It's clearer than ever before.

0:32:17.0 Junior: Yeah. So these people that you're talking to, Kelsea, who are they? What are their roles? Where are they coming from? 

0:32:22.8 Kelsea: So a lot of them are HR professionals. We see a lot of people in the HR department. We have a lot of D&I individuals, not as many as last year but this year we still have some, and then L&D professionals.

0:32:38.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:32:38.7 Kelsea: Lots of L&D professionals.

0:32:40.4 Tim: And sometimes even just line managers and executives that are just coming to you directly, aren't they? 

0:32:48.2 Kelsea: They are, yeah, for their teams.

0:32:50.0 Tim: Yeah, for their teams.

0:32:51.2 Junior: So give me your, I'm interested, a dream call. So what's the person like on the other end? What are they telling you? And how can you... What's true when you get off a call and you're like, "Oh, they get it. They get it?"

0:33:05.9 Kelsea: Oh, I love that question. I think my dream call would be somebody who's maybe an HR, and they've seen a problem within their culture and their organization. They have decision-making power to move forward, move to the next step. They care about their people, you can tell. You ask a question and they give you all of the information; they're not holding anything back. And that's what we really need to make: A really good informed decision on a call. So I think dream outcome is, they want to improve their culture and they have all the information and the resources to do so.

0:33:40.0 Junior: Well, it seems to me that a pattern in our industry is that these are very pleasant people to talk to.

0:33:45.1 Kelsea: Oh, they are.

0:33:45.9 Junior: Aren't they? 

0:33:46.0 Kelsea: They're the best. You can tell they're people who care about their people.

0:33:49.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:33:49.9 Junior: And I think that that's something that I want to call out as we wrap up with Kelsea, is a lot of our listeners fit that category, right? So it's true. A lot of people listening to this are inside organizations. They want to make those organizations a better place. They want to improve the culture, and they want to treat people with respect. They want them to feel included. And so what a cool privilege that we have as an organization, and that you have Kelsea to talk to these people and to hopefully provide some value and to help. So what are you looking forward to in 2024? 

0:34:19.4 Kelsea: More conversations, more discovery calls, more solutions calls, and figuring out what the trends will be in 2024.

0:34:26.1 Junior: Yeah.

0:34:26.9 Tim: It's dynamic, isn't it? And we're gaining momentum.

0:34:29.2 Junior: We're gaining momentum, we're seeing these patterns, and we're anxious to be able to help. So Kelsea, thank you so much for your contribution, everything that you do for the team, and we're looking forward to another good year.

0:34:38.9 Kelsea: Thanks for having me.

0:34:41.0 Junior: Okay. We're back with our next guest, Alex. Alex, welcome to Culture by Design.

0:34:46.1 Alex: Thanks, Junior. Yeah, it's good to be here. Thanks for having me.

0:34:48.4 Junior: Thanks for joining us on the podcast. This has been fun. We're in a little recording studio. We've had team members in and out. It's kind of a fun format. And for us, I'm used to just seeing Tim, and Tim's used to just seeing me. So having another person there, it's kind of nice.

0:35:04.9 Tim: Yeah. And they didn't know they were gonna be podcasters.

0:35:06.9 Junior: No, they did not. But here they are. Right, Alex? You're doing awesome. [laughter]

0:35:09.3 Alex: Yes, here I am. [laughter]

0:35:11.0 Junior: So Alex, who are you and what do you do? 

0:35:13.0 Alex: Yeah. So I'm on our Client Success Team at LeaderFactor. So I help our clients navigate how to use our LeaderFactor solutions in their organizations. And my hope, as Tim says, is to help them turn theory into practice.

0:35:27.0 Junior: Well, you certainly have. 2023 has been quite a year of implementation. The CS team has grown. And I think we've become a little bit more process-mature. We've dialed in on some of the patterns that we're seeing with these organizations. And I think we've been better equipped to help them. So Alex, who do you work with? Do you work with executives or intake teams or cohorts? Who's the audience that you're supporting? 

0:35:51.2 Alex: Yeah, good question. And honestly, it ranges, but we do... There's two kind of main groups. Sometimes I do have an executive sponsor, and it's really amazing to see when these leaders who have so much influence, such a large influence in the organizations, help try to create the conditions for psychological safety. And then the other group falls under HR. So a lot of it is HR-driven. Sometimes that's the CHRO. Sometimes that's the head of L&D or a DEI leader, leadership development, people org, it's called many different things in different organizations. So we work with a wide variety of functions within organizations.

0:36:30.8 Junior: That's one thing that never ceases to amaze me. We can't agree on terminology.

0:36:34.2 Alex: Yeah. [laughter]

0:36:34.4 Junior: You go organization to organization, they call things different things.

0:36:37.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:36:37.3 Alex: Yes, that's so true. And then I would say among both groups, there's some amazing champions as well. And I love learning from them. And you can tell that they put in the work to understand psychological safety and then also model it. And it's pretty amazing. So I learned a lot from the clients that I work with.

0:36:55.8 Junior: That's excellent. So what are some of the patterns of the most successful organizations? As you look back on 2023, those that have really been able to move the needle, what characterizes them? 

0:37:07.8 Alex: Yeah, I think there's two main things. Well, I could say a lot here, but [laughter] I'll try to sum it up into ideas. First, I would say measurement and follow up. So not just measuring the level of psychological safety at the Intacct team level or at the organization level, but then also following up with that measurement. And it is clear that those who survey, specifically those who survey the whole organization or a large section of it to create and understand their baseline, have an informed direction to go as they think about the year in front of them or the next few months. So that is one thing. And then the next thing would be executive buy-in. And so a lot of the times when we start working with organizations, we'll ask them, "Who do you perceive owns this initiative or psychological safety? Who owns it?"

0:37:58.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:38:00.2 Alex: And most of the time they'll respond and say, "No, it's HR-driven," or, "It's an HR initiative." But we want them to understand that everyone owns it, and especially from the top, right? They are responsible for those conditions. And so that is one of the main factors. If we see that executive buy-in, things really start to pick up in the organization.

0:38:22.0 Tim: Junior, I think what Alex just shared is really valuable for all of our listeners. Because if you have a psychological safety initiative, if you're interested in cultural transformation, then you want to pay attention to what the best organizations are doing and what the best practices are. So Alex just named two of those. Number one, start with measurement. Get a baseline throughout the organization, understand where you are. Number two, make sure that you have executive sponsorship, that you've got that support and commitment at the top. So those are two patterns. They're unmistakable factors as we look at the organizations that are successful. And then of course, they go forward with an intervention and then we measure again. Right, Alex? We measure again and again and so we can see improvement over time based on the time series data. It becomes longitudinal. And so I just want to underscore the fact that what Alex is sharing is extremely valuable for all organizations too. They need to know that.

0:39:26.8 Junior: Well, and that opinion's informed by a lot of data. So the organizations that are listening often have one opportunity to test and learn. Given our perspective, we have dozens and dozens of opportunities to test and learn. And so all of that opportunity has informed our perspective as we've seen these patterns. So Alex, give us an idea of what we can expect from an implementation of psychological safety. How much progress can we expect to make? What happens? 

0:40:00.8 Alex: Yeah. Yeah. So I'll just start by saying the Client Success Team, we are in charge of everything from onboarding to training, and then seeing that implementation through with our clients. And so there's many, I think there's a few clients I have in mind, about the progress that they've been able to make, especially this last year. For example, I'll take you through one of my clients' journeys, which is an energy company. And they have started two years ago with trying to align, create alignment in a common language. And so they started with our 90-minute overview with the entire organization. They made sure that all their locations and employees were able to see that with our recording. And then they moved into their survey of a large population of their employees, which then informed, as Tim just said, then informed their direction of an executive session and cohort workshops with top leaders.

0:40:57.4 Alex: And so with that, they had lots of things to work through during the year until they resurveyed just recently, and were able to see progress in that measurement about a 15-point increase, which is incredible.

0:41:11.8 Tim: Yeah.

0:41:12.0 Alex: And that's just the overall score. But then I look at the data at the Intacct team level, and you can see how that ranges from team to team, manager to manager. So it's pretty incredible to look at just that quantitative data. But then I would also say one of the best things that I would say is the qualitative data. First, leaders are using the language, is the feedback that I've been given. And then the other feedback is those who are creating action plans with the cohort workshop, they're following up and they're saying, "Hey, look, I was able to solve this huge business problem because of the behavior I selected." And I think that's incredible.

0:41:50.9 Tim: It really is.

0:41:52.2 Junior: Well, it's amazing to see that qualitative feedback because it's real people making real comments.

0:41:58.0 Tim: Yep.

0:41:58.9 Junior: And when you look at the level of the leader, that is so gratifying to see that they've come to terms with the data, seen the opportunities, and then are making behavioral change to make their teams better culturally. Alex, any other examples or things that come to mind as you look back on 2023 that you'd like to mention? 

0:42:20.0 Alex: Yeah, I would love to mention just another client journey because they vary [chuckle] so widely. Different organizations have different focuses, objectives, right? And so for another, it wasn't as interactive in terms of using our solutions, but using our resources such as the book. Right? Creating their own book club or creating their own podcast and talking about psychological safety. They've been able to be very creative with how they try to share the message and create alignment and understanding among their employees. There's at least two other clients that I can name that have had similar point increases in their survey scores, in their overall survey scores throughout the last year. And that momentum is just continuing to grow with both of these clients.

0:43:08.9 Junior: That's excellent. Well, Alex, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. We appreciate your time and everything that you do alongside the Client Success Team to help these organizations. It's meaningful. It makes a huge difference. And we're looking forward to another good year.

0:43:22.0 Alex: Yeah, me too.

0:43:22.1 Tim: Yeah, thanks so much, Alex.

0:43:23.2 Alex: Thank you.

0:43:24.9 Junior: Okay. Well, Tim, that was our last guest for today.

0:43:27.7 Tim: Wow.

0:43:28.0 Junior: How do you think that went? 

0:43:28.9 Tim: I think it went really well. And it just helps me see, kind of get up in our hot air balloon and look at the year and see what's happened and see what the trends are. And I thought it was very helpful, and each of them contributed some great insight.

0:43:43.5 Junior: Yeah. I so appreciate the team's willingness to jump in on the podcast with us. We heard from Jillian from Marketing, Kelsea from Sales, Alex from Client Success, and Ryan from Technology. And I think we pulled out some pretty interesting perspectives.

0:43:56.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:43:57.1 Junior: Some pretty interesting insights. And you have to understand that these people, they are in it, they're in it with their teams every day.

0:44:04.3 Tim: Every day.

0:44:05.0 Junior: Working with these organizations and working with the content, doing analysis and discovery and implementation. And so just a huge thank you to the whole team at LeaderFactor. I wish that we could have a two-day podcast where we have everybody participate.

0:44:20.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:44:21.0 Junior: But we're grateful for their representation today. So we wanted to wrap up this Year in Review with just a couple other things. We want to go through a couple more trends that we've seen that might be valuable to you, and then leave you with some practical tips; going into 2024, some things that you might keep top of mind in order to be more successful in your cultural transformations. So the first trend that we wanna call out is Global Initiatives. 2023 has been a year of global rollouts for us more than in the past. And we've learned a lot through that process. Part of what we've learned is that the world has many cultures in it.

0:45:02.8 Tim: Yeah.

0:45:02.9 Junior: There are many geographies that behave very differently from each other, that believe different things, that have different cultures and expectations. And we've learned more about power, distance, and hierarchy, and language. We've learned a lot about translations. Think of all the languages we've had to deal with...

0:45:21.4 Tim: Oh, wow.

0:45:22.0 Junior: Over the last year.

0:45:23.3 Tim: Yeah.

0:45:23.9 Junior: We've done Chinese and Japanese and Spanish, French, Portuguese.

0:45:27.8 Tim: Portuguese.

0:45:28.7 Junior: All sorts.

0:45:29.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:45:30.2 Junior: The book itself was published in how many languages this year? Several? 

0:45:33.4 Tim: Yeah, several more.

0:45:34.4 Junior: Yeah. German... It's amazing. So Tim, what do you think about when you think about the global nature of these cultural initiatives that organizations are undertaking? 

0:45:45.8 Tim: A recurring thought, Junior, keeps coming back to me, and that we see it over and over again as we work with, especially with the executive teams. And I'm talking to them and what are they saying? Many of them have highly, highly diverse employee populations, but they're stepping back and they're looking at everything and they're saying, "Do you know what? We have a very highly diverse employee population, but we have not activated that diversity. It's there, but we haven't tapped all of the potential, all of the talent, all of the knowledge. We haven't fully activated it." So it lies fallow to a certain extent. That's one thing that I've heard over and over again. Right? Because diversity for its own sake, you have to activate it, and you activate it through psychological safety. That's how you transform the culture of an organization, and you reach the potential of that organization to create and deliver value to others. So that's a conversation that I've had more than once this year, let me tell you.

0:46:50.4 Junior: And part of what the global nature of these initiatives necessitates is simplicity. And we're going to talk about that. But it's something that we've had to come to terms with at LeaderFactor and figure out English as a second language, just as an example. How do you make the language and the concepts accessible? And so this is something that we are looking to do more of in 2024: Is simplify, reduce, and ensure that the accessibility is good cross-culturally. Another trend that we've seen is psychological safety at the team level. Now, this is a drum that we've been beating for a little while, and it's been interesting to see how it's taken shape in the industry. We've tried to help organizations understand, and this was emergent to us from the survey data, but that efforts have to live at the level of the team. And so one thing that we've noticed from 2023 as a trend is that the shotgun blanket approaches have not worked. And we've experienced and worked with many organizations that have been well-intended, that have tried to do a global rollout of psychological safety and culture change, but they haven't gone as well as they might have because of this point.

0:48:03.5 Tim: My thought on that, Junior, is that you have to look at the employee engagement movement that's been going on for 30 years. What have we learned from that movement? Most organizations that participate in engagement surveys, they'll do the survey every year or two, but they're looking at aggregate data. They're looking at enterprise-wide institutional data. That's wonderful. But it's not actionable. Now, I guess you could make the argument that it's actionable to a certain extent. For example, we can communicate to the entire organization, but we're really not going to make significant gains until we disaggregate the data. We go down to the team level. It's at that team level. As we say, Junior, right? Over and over again, the team is the basic unit of performance. So we need data at that level that shows us how the team is doing, and then we begin the intervention there. That's where we make the significant gains. We've seen this over and over and over.

0:49:10.9 Junior: So we've learned quite a bit over the last 12 months. And the point is that our effectiveness this next year will depend on our ability to take what we learned and translate it into appropriate action. So what should we do differently, or what should we clarify as we enter this next year? We wanna leave you with just a few things to keep top of mind. And the first one comes in the evaluation phase when you're evaluating cultural transformation, is to find your Why. This is one that I believe is incredibly important. You can't just jump in to work like this because you feel the need to check the box. The initiative will not be sustainable. It's not something that will flow from the top down and stay that way. So why exactly do you want to jump in? What problem are you trying to solve? These are questions that we have to answer before we jump in. Who cares about the problems that you're trying to solve? What is the deep motivation and the Why behind your entry into an initiative like this? 

0:50:15.9 Tim: And I think as part of that, Junior, there has to be a vision, right? Where are we going? What is the portrait of the future? For example, I've seen so many leaders that will put a financial goal out there, and they'll call it a vision. That's not a vision, that's a financial goal, right? A leader is commissioned to give the organization sight and to put a compelling vision that appeals to both the intellect and the emotion to put that in front of people. And it has to be a source of tremendous energy and momentum for that organization. So if you want cultural transformation, to your point, what's the deep Why behind that? And where do you want to go? 

0:51:01.0 Junior: So that's number one. Find your Why. Number two is define terms. This is something that comes from observation of all the clients that we've worked with. Defining terms is always the appropriate place to start because it will inform everything else. So if you're going to talk about culture, make sure that everyone understands what culture means to you. What exactly is it that we're talking about? If you're going to introduce psychological safety, what is psychological safety? And understanding these words in layman's terms and communicating that to the organization is incredibly important. One of the pitfalls that we've seen is when an organization will publicize a term like psychological safety but they won't define it, which means that it is up to the audience to interpret what that means. And you could have very disparate definitions...

[overlapping conversation]

0:51:53.2 Tim: It's not gonna go well.

0:51:54.8 Junior: No, it's not gonna go well. So we have to start there in the definition of terms.

0:52:00.2 Tim: Well, let me clarify a distinction I think that's really important. If we are talking about helping an organization transform its culture, then we have to understand that we're moving from a philosophical world to an operational world. The world of organizations is an operational world. So we have to take terms, right? This goes exactly back to your point, Junior. We have to take terms and operationalize the definition of those terms so that the term is simple and it's scalable. And we create shared understanding and commitment behind that definition. Otherwise, we're not going anywhere. So everything has to be operationalized to give us the opportunity to create alignment.

0:52:44.4 Junior: It's the perfect segue into the next point, which is choose scalable language. You mentioned scalability, and this is something that I've always seen Tim do phenomenally, is choosing language that can scale. So if you look at some of the terms we use as they relate to psychological safety, well, first look at the definition. Psychological safety, a culture of rewarded vulnerability. It's about as simply as you can put it, which is why we've put it that way. You look at red zone and blue zone, right? Red zone, an environment of punished vulnerability. A blue zone, an environment of rewarded vulnerability. And what we've noticed is when we introduce scalable language like this that's very simple to organizations, it spreads. And people start to use it. And they start to adopt it, which becomes very powerful, especially in a large, complex organization. Especially in a big multinational, right? You have to think about how these things translate and how they move throughout the organization. So Tim, help me understand your bias for simplicity when it comes to this type of language.

0:53:44.2 Tim: Well, you're trying to align and then change a large complex organization. That's the job to be done. So let's just take the term "culture," for example. Culture is one of the most complex, sophisticated concepts that we even use in social science. And it cuts across social psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, political science. It cuts across all of the social sciences. And we're trying to harness that concept. We're actually trying to change culture. Well, if we don't know what we're talking about, and if we don't have a common definition, a shared definition, we're not going anywhere. So culture as an example, the working definition that we use for culture is simply the way we interact, right? Those four words. Now, of course, there's a lot that we could throw into it that we could make the case that there's so much to it, yes. But in an organizational setting, what we're really concerned about is the way that people interact. So if we focus on that, we can make gains. That's just one example of creating an operationalized definition.

0:54:58.3 Junior: So that's number three, is choose scalable language. Number four is don't get caught in the quicksand. I'll say in this one that we need to remember what psychological safety is not. Now, we've put together some assets in the past about what psychological safety is not. And I'll encourage you to a refresher course on those going into the next year. It's very important. And remember that to me, a lot of the quicksand around psychological safety is politics. And psychological safety is not a question of politics. Psychological safety is a question of humanity. So Tim, what's the distinction? Why is it not political, and why is it just human? 

0:55:37.0 Tim: Because I think it goes back to the fundamental definition of stage one, inclusion safety. That inclusion safety means that you feel included and accepted and you have a sense of belonging, and that you're entitled to that based on your humanity. So if we anchor everything to humanity in the first place, it's depoliticized, right? We are not in the service of some political agenda or policy stance or ideology. It's apolitical in that sense, because we're tying it to the right that you have to be in that kind of environment. We are elevating humanity as the highest loyalty, and we're subordinating all other human characteristics or opinions or ideologies or philosophies. That's where it lives.

0:56:36.0 Junior: Humans first.

0:56:37.0 Tim: Humans first.

0:56:38.5 Junior: And don't let psychological safety become rhetorical reassurance. That's another point I would make going into this next year. It's one of the things that psychological safety is not. It's not something that we can just declare and say that we're gonna do this now, and this is something that characterizes our organization. We need to do the work, and we need to behave in a way that's conducive to creating that cultural environment. Next is measure. If you don't measure, you'll have a hard time because you don't know where to start.

0:57:07.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:57:07.8 Junior: Alex alluded to that. I've seen this time and time again through the Client Success Team. It's always more difficult if the client hasn't or doesn't wanna measure for whatever reason. Because then you're left with that question, where do we start and what do we do? And what is the problem? 

0:57:23.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:57:23.8 Junior: We can answer all of those questions through measurement, which will then give us better leverage because we know exactly what we're going to do and why. And we also know what the intended outcomes are. And so Alex said, well, this organization was able to increase 15 points in this area. Right? 

0:57:41.0 Tim: Right.

0:57:41.8 Junior: Without time series data, it's difficult for us to justify the engagement at all. Has it worked? Has it not worked? Well, we don't know other than anecdotally if we're not measuring. So I would leave that with people as a thought.

0:57:55.0 Tim: Well, Junior, that's the entire premise of data-driven cultural transformation.

0:58:00.9 Junior: Yep.

0:58:01.0 Tim: Right? If you don't measure, then you don't comprehend your current position. You have no bearing points...

0:58:05.0 Junior: Yeah.

0:58:05.3 Tim: To go forward.

0:58:06.7 Junior: Well, part of the irony to me is that sometimes organizations will say that it's a resource issue. The resource issue is when we don't know what problem we're trying to solve, and we go to try and solve it. Because your efforts will be diluted.

0:58:18.1 Tim: That's right.

0:58:18.5 Junior: Because you'll almost inevitably start on the wrong thing and you won't know if you're moving in the right direction. And so measurement, I would say is one of the things that has characterized the successful organizations of 2023. And the last one is to stay consistent and to choose an appropriate time horizon. The time horizon is something that I think I've become less ignorant to. Let's put it that way, is we can have lofty ambition and high aspiration to make big change really fast. And it's possible. But these things take time. And we're talking about some organizations that are really big ships.

0:58:53.6 Tim: Yes.

0:58:54.0 Junior: That take a long time to move.

0:58:55.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:58:56.0 Junior: And so you have to be consistent and pragmatic in the way that you approach that. And you have to adjust your expectations and understand that these things are not going to change overnight. There's something that require consistent effort.

0:59:07.4 Tim: That's true. You can find big changes in small teams, Junior, over a very short period of time. But if you're trying to transform the entire enterprise, then you need to be prepared for a long journey. You got to stay with it because you're trying to get change from stem to stern.

0:59:25.9 Junior: Yeah.

0:59:26.2 Tim: And it's gonna take a little bit of time.

0:59:28.0 Junior: It is. So those are our suggestions moving into 2024: Find your Why, define terms, choose scalable language, don't get caught in the quicksand, measure, and stay consistent, and choose an appropriate time horizon. So Tim, what a year.

0:59:44.3 Tim: Yeah.

0:59:45.1 Junior: 2023.

0:59:46.0 Tim: Yeah, what a year. We just need to breathe a little bit.

0:59:48.8 Junior: Just about in the books.


0:59:50.7 Junior: Yeah. We do need to breathe a little bit. So to everyone listening, thank you so much. Thank you for your listenership. We appreciate you taking time. Because we know that you could be doing other things. We know that you could be listening to other things. And we hope that we've been able to give you some value at some point this year. And our aspiration is to do it again next year. So what's next? Well, psychological safety's not going away. Pay attention. We've got new things coming. And EQ is on the horizon. Jillian mentioned that. We've got a new asset coming out early next year that will be accompanied by a webinar. We're already beta testing a new version of EQ Index. So there is a lot happening on the EQ front. If you haven't had a chance to tune into the EQ series, we would recommend that you do that. Join the wait list if you haven't already, if you want early access to that.

1:00:41.2 Junior: But I'm so excited for next year and very pleased with what we've been able to accomplish this year. I think we've learned a lot. And it leaves me with a lot of gratitude just seeing the organizations that we've been able to help and the things that we've been able to learn. And it's motivating to see the clients we work with, the listeners of the podcast, those that engage with the content, and just how optimistic that audience is for where the world could go and the content that we can develop. So Tim, what are your thoughts as we wrap up the year? 

1:01:10.3 Tim: Well, I just want to express gratitude to all of the people that we work with. We have the privilege of working with the best human beings and organizations today. And I wanna wish everyone a happy New Year. And again, thank you for the privilege of partnering with you in your cultural transformation journeys. What a privilege.

1:01:30.4 Junior: Best wishes to all of you as you end the season. We're gonna take the next few weeks recharging to hit it hard next year. Take care everyone. We'll see you soon.


1:01:46.9 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at And if you've found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about LeaderFactor and what we do, then please visit us at Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design Podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design, not by default.


Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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