Challenger Safety in Practice

Today's episode is the final part of our four-part series on the change management principle, behave until you believe. This is our final episode in the series, and it's on challenger safety in practice. Tim and Junior will discuss why innovation requires deviation, why an environment of high challenger safety is not the default, and they'll give you practical behaviors for you to put challenger safety into practice.

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Episode Show Notes

Today's episode is the final part of our four-part series on the change management principle, behave until you believe. This is our final episode in the series, and it's on challenger safety in practice. Tim and Junior will discuss why innovation requires deviation, why an environment of high challenger safety is not the default, and they'll give you practical behaviors for you to put challenger safety into practice. If you like this episode, go ahead and listen to the rest of the series. As always, this episode's show notes can be found at leaderfactor.com/podcast.

(04:51) Creating a more innovative culture doesn't come from pushing behavior through compliance. Punishment-based accountability does not seem to get the job done over the long haul. There's a cost to compliance if it's punishment-based. The accountability mechanism is important because it depends on what else you want. If you just want pure compliance, great, press people into compliance, that's fine, but what are you losing? You're losing innovation.

(09:44) What's at stake when you challenge the status quo, what do people worry about? They worry about social status, political status, their career advancement and their upward mobility. You're risking your job. You might be risking your career in some cases. It may be that you do something that could be seen as this black mark that follows you around forever. These categories of personal risk illustrate the nature of vulnerability associated with stage four challenger safety. If you're asking people to challenge the status quo, you have to keep these risks in mind.

(20:23) Less than 10% of teams have challenger safety. To achieve and maintain stage four challenger safety is the supreme test of a leader. To create an atmosphere where people feel free and able to challenge the status quo without fear of retaliation or repercussions.

(25:50) Weigh in last. If you have an authority position in a room and you weigh in first on whatever the issue is, you anchor your team with bias. You are softly censoring your team and the presumption is that the discussion is over because you possess positional power and you've registered your point of view. Next time, weigh in last. Mirror the team and summarize the discussion to that point the way that you would if you're talking one-on-one. When you can do this right, you're acknowledging everyone's opinion, but you're also consolidating the information so that it's actionable and you can continue the conversation in a productive way.

(32:20) Respond constructively to dissent and bad news. If you respond poorly to dissent and bad news, you inject fear and you break the feedback loop. One of the best things that you can do in a crisis is to ratchet up the transparency and confront the truth head on. Don't try to dismiss things. Don't try to spin things. Don't try to hide things. Just confront it. Square up to the truth and deal with it.

(42:48) Reward shots on goal. "If you're not taking shots, you're not going to score. It's simple math." - Lionel Messi. Become good at identifying what your shots on goal are. A shot on goal might be just a comment or an idea. If it's in the right direction, it's on goal, reward that. If you want something to happen more, reward it.

Important Links
The 4 Stages Behavioral Guide

Episode Transcript

0:00:02.4 Freddy: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. In today's episode, we're wrapping up our four-part series on the change management principle, behave until you believe. These episodes are focused on the practical application of each of the four stages of psychological safety. This is our final episode in the series, and it's on challenger safety in practice. Tim and Junior will discuss why innovation requires deviation, why an environment of high challenger safety is not the default, and they'll give you practical behaviors for you to put challenger safety into practice. If you like this episode, go ahead and listen to the rest of the series. As always, this episode show notes can be found at leaderfactor.com/podcast, that includes a link to our free psychological safety behavioral guide with over 100 practical behaviors to improve psychological safety and culture. Enjoy today's episode on challenger safety in practice.

[music]

0:01:09.9 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. My name's Junior, I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today we'll be discussing the behave until you believe series, the final episode, talking about behaviors that foster speaking up and challenging the status quo, challenger safety in practice. Tim how are you today? 

0:01:27.7 Dr. Tim Clark: Doing well, Junior. How are you doing? 

0:01:29.7 Junior: I'm doing excellent. It is turning to fall. It's a little bit cooler this morning. I love the weather. This is my favorite time of year, so I'm doing well. Okay, so today we're gonna be diving into our top three picks from the four Stages Behavioral guide as actions we can take to behave until we believe in stage four, challenger safety. Tim, what do you think about this episode as we begin today? 

0:01:52.1 Dr. Tim Clark: Well, I wanna maybe take a second and riff on this theme for a minute because the entire series that we're doing, Junior, is based on this principle of behave until we believe, and I want to just take a second and emphasize that. Often we get the sequence backwards and we think, oh, we're going to believe and then we'll go behave differently. Rarely does it work that way in life. We have to go act. We have to act. And in the process of acting, we have an experience and we generate confirming evidence and we learn and we go through a process of self-discovery. Let me share this statement that I love from Richard Pascal who, is at the Oxford Business School. He once said this, and it's always stayed with me. People are more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than think their way into a new way of acting. Let me say that one more time because this encapsulates our theme. People are more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than think their way into a new way of acting. That's what we're talking about here. Behave until we believe. The behavior is the activator. It's what gets you going. How do you like that statement, Junior? 

0:03:28.6 Junior: It's a perfect summary, and in some ways we could just leave it at that and summarize the whole series there, let people think about it and say, that's enough. We're gonna do a little bit of a deeper dive today, but if there were a single sentence to summarize the entire series, that would absolutely be it.

0:03:49.2 Dr. Tim Clark: It really is.

0:03:49.3 Junior: So think about that. I would encourage each of us to think about that.

0:03:49.4 Dr. Tim Clark: Put that one behind class.

0:03:56.1 Junior: Yep. So as a recap, individual and organizational transformation has five steps. Awareness, understanding, appreciation, behavior, and belief. Now, the order of those is very important, and what we said over the last few episodes is that we need to come from both directions. We need to work on awareness while simultaneously we're working on behaviors, and that's what will get us across the threshold of conviction to belief. Okay. Most organizations, what's the failure pattern? They fail to achieve transformation because they work only on awareness. That's why we're focusing on the behavior piece today, and we're going to jump into those behaviors and we're gonna talk about some really interesting stories today. So hang around all the way through the end of the episode because I think there are some nuggets here that are really important. At least I feel very excited to jump into this episode because there are some really neat things to talk about. So the failure pattern is not just by focusing on awareness, Tim, there are a few other things going on, right? 

0:04:51.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Yeah. There's another failure pattern too that we often see, Junior, in which the organization requires training. Now, think about this. It requires training as a matter of compliance. Now, a crass term for that is to sheep dip every employee. Right? And then the assumption is that they will both behave and believe differently. Now, that's not necessarily wrong. For example, let's take some examples of the kind of training that we approach this way. So it could be sexual harassment training, it could be physical safety training, which often falls into this category. So people need to be alert and aware of their responsibilities and with ethical and legal issues. This is necessary and we get that and we need to do this. It needs to be mandatory, it needs to be based on, it needs to be a matter of compliance. But when it comes to transforming a culture, think about this. Punishment based accountability does not seem to get the job done over the long haul. Does that make sense, Junior? 

0:06:06.9 Junior: That Absolutely makes sense. Especially, I love the qualifier at the end over the long haul. So you may get compliance in the short term. You may even get compliance over the long term, but at what price? There's a cost to that compliance if it's punishment based. And so the accountability mechanism here is really important because it depends on what else you want. If you just want pure compliance, great, press people into the compliance, that's fine.

0:06:34.1 Dr. Tim Clark: Fine. Yeah.

0:06:34.8 Junior: But what are you losing? You're losing innovation. You're losing divergent thinking. You're losing feedback mechanisms and ideation. You're losing the challenging the status quo that we're going to be talking about today, you're losing all of the ingredients required for the longevity of an institution. If you get rid of all that stuff, you've got an expiration date and it's gonna come faster than it otherwise would.

0:06:57.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Right. And so the distinction I think that we're making Junior is between being on a compliance track and a commitment track. If the organizational and the cultural transformation that you're seeking relies is dependent upon the discretionary effort of people on their commitment, on their desire to do things and do them in a certain way, compliance isn't going to get it done. Right. So today we're talking about stage four challenger safety, the ability to challenge the status quo. We need people's discretionary effort to do that. You are never gonna get that done based on compliance. That's just not gonna happen.

0:07:38.4 Junior: No, it's not. And I actually quite like the sheep dip analogy. If you've never seen that done, go search it. Is one of the interesting, it's fascinating. And you'll see why that analogy makes so much sense in corporate training. Okay. That is the setup. That's where we've been. That's why we're spending time here. We need to overcome these failure patterns of working exclusively on awareness and working through compliance. We need to shift to include this behavioral element. So challenger safety, we're talking about stage four. What is it? Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It's the support, the confidence that we need to ask questions such as, why do we do it this way? What if we tried this? Or may I suggest a different way? I like the examples of these questions and thinking about how does this actually show up? 

0:08:29.8 Junior: So today, we're gonna have some team meetings. What are some words, some phrases, some questions that I can keep an eye out for to help me identify, okay, here's a challenger safety behavior. Why? There's one, that's a trigger. What if, there's another one. Could we, may I? Those sorts of entries into a question or a comment should trick or flip a switch in our brains and help us understand. Here comes something that's happening in challenger safety, we need to pay attention to that. So challenger safety allows us to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation, without the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation. And this stage differs from the other three in that it requires more risk, it's more vulnerable. So as we move through the stages, we climb this ladder of vulnerability. So now we've gone through stages 1, 2, 3. Now we're at stage four, we're on the highest rung of the ladder. And if we misstep or the ladder moves or something happens, there's much more risk than falling one or two feet.

0:09:44.8 Dr. Tim Clark: That's true, Junior. Think about what's at stake when you're talking about challenging the status quo. What is the nature of vulnerability? How does it evolve? And when you finally get to this stage four and you're thinking about challenging the status quo, think about what you're worried about. So for you listeners, think about this. Personalize what we're talking about. When was the last time you challenged the status? What calculus did you go through? What risk reward calculation did you go through? What were you worried about? What do people worry about here, Junior? 

0:10:17.3 Junior: They worry about all sorts of things. Social status, political status, their career advancement and their upward mobility. Constantly looking at that all the way down, not just to the mobility, but to the job itself. You're risking your job. You might be risking your career in some cases. It may be that you do something that could be seen as this black mark that follows you around forever. That calculus goes through people's minds depending on the scenario. Right? Think about like a whistleblower scenario, that's challenging. That's like, Hey, over here something's going on. And how risky is that? Why do we have witness protection? Right? You can see the type of risk...

0:10:58.6 Dr. Tim Clark: What a case study.

0:11:00.8 Junior: Associated with these acts.

0:11:07.0 Dr. Tim Clark: That's very true. So these categories of personal risk illustrate the nature of vulnerability associated with stage four challenger safety. So please internalize that, personalize that. Think about what is required for you to be willing to challenge the status quo.

0:11:18.7 Junior: So if we don't have it, what happens? We get silenced. Teams fall silent and people are punished for their candor. So what happens when you punish something, you get less of it. What happens when you reward something? You get more of it. And that hinge, that basic idea, defines so much of what a culture becomes. Look at what's rewarded, look at what's punished. And you can extrapolate out into the future and say, this is the kind of culture we're gonna have. So challenger safety is necessary for innovation. That's an important point. So we talk about the four stages being the path to inclusion and innovation. There's in the model a big line between stage three and stage four that we call the innovation threshold. And if we don't move to challenger safety and set up camp there and do everything we can to stay there, we're not going to be able to stay on the other side of the innovation threshold.

0:12:20.6 Junior: If we keep getting pushed back past that threshold, then what are we doing? We're on a compliance track. Does a compliance track produce innovation? No. Not predictably. Not sustainably. Not over a long period of time. And so that's one of the most important points that we can make today, is that challenger safety is necessary for innovation. And what organization needs innovation? Every single one. You may not be the bleeding edge of technology. You may be a really old bureaucratic institution. Do you still need innovation? Yeah, absolutely. Otherwise, you're in this obsolescence cycle that's gonna come really, really fast.

0:12:58.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Sometimes Junior, for example, in capital intensive industries that have planning horizons that go 10 to 15 years where, I mean, you think about the capital budget process for a capital intensive industry. Think about the bets they have to place, they're often bets of hundreds of millions of dollars. Junior, we were just down with the, one of the largest pulp and paper companies down in Brazil. And I was chatting with the CEO and they're putting in a new facility. It's going to be, I think it's between $3 and $4 billion to put in a new facility and a new line. These are big bets. They're very, very big bets.

0:13:47.8 Junior: Cisco just made a $28 billion bet. It's their biggest acquisition in history. Do you think they want a challenger safety through that process.

0:13:54.9 Dr. Tim Clark: So think about wanting to have the best analysis possible. You need constructive descent, you need people scrutinizing what you're doing. You need that help. You need to try to keep each other safe. So sometimes in those capital intensive industries, we kind of think, well, it doesn't apply as much. No, no, no, no. It really does. So I want to talk a little bit more about this Junior. The principle we use here is that innovation requires deviation. You said to get up to challenger safety, we need to cross this innovation threshold. Okay. Well, if we're in the land of innovation, innovation requires deviation. I'll give you an example. Yesterday I did a session with a group of leaders in Canada and I asked this question, what percentage of the time does innovation require deviation? Now this was a virtual session and I asked them to put their responses in the chat.

0:14:53.4 Dr. Tim Clark: Well, after I asked, nothing showed up for a few seconds and I thought, oh, okay, maybe they're afraid to ask or answer the question. And then the responses poured in. What do you think I saw in the chat? They blew up the chat with 100%. It just blew up the chat over and over again. 100%. 100%. 100%. What was the question I asked? What percentage of the time does innovation require deviation? 100% unequivocally. And everybody understands that. Right? There's no improvement. There's no innovation. There are no breakthroughs unless someone is deviating from the status quo and challenging the status quo. Innovation always requires deviation 100% of the time. Then I asked a second question, how much data do we have about the future? How much data do you have about the future? Same thing happened, little delay. And then the chat blew up with, what do you think this time? Zeros.

0:15:58.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Zeros started pouring in zero, zero, zero, zero. What's the point? The point is that we need deviation 100% of the time from the status quo to make things better, to improve, to innovate. But there's no blueprint. We have zero data for the future. No one can tell us exactly how to do things. So let me summarize. We live in a world of 100 and zero. So the only way to be successful in this world of 100 and zero, 100% of the time, we need deviation and we have zero data about the future, is to create a culture that can not only deal with this kind of uncertainty and ambiguity, but thrive in it. What kind of culture is that? It's a culture that embraces and cherishes and protects the right and the necessity to challenge the status quo. So if we want to be successful over time, there must be an obligation of dissent that is embedded in the DNA. Am I overstating things, Junior? 

0:17:16.4 Junior: No, not at all. Not at all. I don't think this can be overstated. And I love the fact that it is 100 and zero. Now we have some ideas of what that foggy future might look like. And for some of us, a 10 to 15 year planning horizon may as well be opaque. There's no way that in our industry we could see 10 to 15 years. Sometimes I feel like we can see 10 to 15 days, and other days I feel like we can see 10 to 15 hours. And I'm like, I don't know where this is gonna go. And many of you may feel that way. And for those of you who say, well, we could see pretty far into the future, well what about the day-to-day? One of the things that I saw recently, and we may have talked about this several dozen episodes ago, but the distance, the time between the Wright brothers first flight and the moon landing was like 60 years. I can't remember exactly. But you can't look at that and say, well, you know, it's gonna stay pretty stable. Well, if a hundred years ago we could move in 60 years from the first flight to the moon landing, and you look at the pace of innovation and computation and all of these things going on right now, there's no way that you can say, wow, we're gonna have a really stable future. And so if that's true, and we know that innovation comes from deviation, then it tells you what that culture must be like.

0:19:00.0 Junior: It also tells you what your future will be if you don't have the deviation. It means that you don't have a future.

0:19:05.8 Dr. Tim Clark: That's right.

0:19:07.4 Junior: The clock is ticking and it's ticking fast and maybe it's gonna speed up and pretty soon you'll be obsolete. So I don't think it's overstating it at all. So let's go into the next section. So where have we been so far? We're talking about challenger safety. It satisfies the basic human need to make things better. This is something that we all have. When we have challenger safety, it allows us to feel that we can challenge, we can do what's required to get that deviation from the status quo. We don't feel that there's risk for us of damaging our reputation, our social status. We're not fearing for our job. The environment's encouraging that information and challenger safety is necessary for innovation. If we don't have it organizationally, then we're not gonna hang around. So if all of this is so necessary, it's so important, then why doesn't it happen all the time? Why is that just not the default? Because it's really hard. It's really difficult to get an organization to this point where they embody stage four challenger safety. That's so much of the work we do here at Leader Factor with some of the biggest organizations in the world. Is how do we get them to move through these stages and set up shop in stage four, challenger safety and stay there and work on it constantly.

0:20:23.3 Junior: So what makes it difficult? There are a few things. Power distance is one that we've been talking about recently that's really interesting, especially as we've started to do more work internationally with big multinationals. This power distance varies across geographies. It varies inside geographies. Even inside a single location, you have power distance that ranges all over the place depending on who the leader is. So this could be isolated to a function. It could be a single team. But when people don't feel like they can challenge authority high power distance, that can be really problematic for an organization. So that's one of the things that makes it difficult, ego. There are all of these things that get in the way of achieving challenger safety. So Tim, we've studied this a little bit. Give us an idea of what portion of people feel challenger safety in their organizations. Like how rare is this? 

0:21:20.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Well, across the world, it's less than 10%. Usually we're right at about 7% or 8% of teams that are there. Now, we don't have even time series data for all those teams to understand if they stay there over time, right, Junior? 

0:21:36.8 Junior: Right. It's delicate.

0:21:38.4 Dr. Tim Clark: It's just that if we take a snapshot in time, then we're looking at 7% or 8% that are there. To your point, it is difficult to get there, and it is hard to stay there. Why? Because it relies on the leader's ability to remain humble, to let go of their ego defense mechanisms and their insecurities. It's the insecurities that sabotage this challenger safety over and over again. And so in many ways, to achieve and maintain stage four challenger safety, Junior, in my opinion, is the supreme test of a leader. Because you're responsible to create this environment, this climate, this atmosphere where people feel free and able to challenge the status quo without fear of retaliation or repercussions. That's your job. And so it becomes a test of really your moral capability as a human being. You're going to face these moments of truth. Can you handle that? Or are you going to go on the defensive? Are you going to get touchy and territorial? Are you going to take things personally? Are you going to shut down? Are you going to lash out? That's what a lot of leaders do, and then it shuts the process down, and then we bump down in our overall level of psychological safety. We regress to the mean. We snap back. We backslide. This is what we see. But there's a reason for hope here, Junior, because some teams do this incredibly well, don't they? They are able to do it.

0:23:24.1 Junior: Yeah, and what I was going to say to that point is that we do have time series data for enough teams to help us understand that this is possible. Let's put it that way. And we can see with the appropriate intervention that's consistent enough, that's based on behavioral change, teams can get there. They can improve challenger safety, and they can stay there as long as there is consistent work.

0:23:49.9 Dr. Tim Clark: And so I have to share this case in point. We just did a third measure of a team. This is a university leadership team. The president and his direct reports at a university. It's what's called the president's council. And we've done three measurements of psychological safety using our psychometric scale. And this is over about a year's time. The third measurement came in when we first measured them. And by the way, as some people may know this, some people may not. So we measure it on a scale that runs from -100 to +100. For their first measurement, stage four challenger safety came in at, I believe it was -60, was really bad. That would indicate conditions that are toxic, not just dysfunctional, but even toxic. Third measurement, stage four challenger safety registered a score of a +80. I don't think we have a case study where we've seen such a transformation. It's unbelievable.

0:25:07.5 Junior: I haven't seen that data yet, that's...

0:25:08.5 Dr. Tim Clark: So it is possible.

0:25:11.3 Junior: That's amazing. Thanks for sharing that. So challenger safety is necessary, but challenger safety is difficult. So what do we do about it? That's what we're going to spend the remainder of the episode talking about today is those three behaviors, our top three picks from the behavioral guide, along with some stories that I think will help illustrate the point. Remember that we're talking about challenger safety in practice, behaving until we believe. And so we want to approach the change behaviorally. So we're not going to say, hey, here are three things to be aware of. We're going to say, hey, here are three things to go and do. And that's the big difference here. So go and take these three things we're going to talk about today, try them out and see if they work for you. So the first one, here's the behavior, weigh in last, weigh in last. Why did we choose this as the first one? Well, if you weigh in first, what happens? You anchor the team, especially if you're in a position of power.

0:26:11.8 Junior: If you have an authority position in a room and you weigh in first on whatever the issue is, it could be what product tweak you're going to make. It could be where you're going for lunch. If you weigh in first, you anchor the entire discussion. And this one I think is one of the most difficult for some leaders to do because they feel like it's part of their role. They almost feel like it's in their job description to give an opinion first. Well, I'm the leader, I must have to know. Well, guess what? You don't have to know. And even if you do, you need to let your team do its thing because there's probably some information that you're missing. There's probably some context that you don't have. So it's important that we let the solution emerge through conversation and take an appropriate stance in the background. Just step back for a minute and let the team do its thing. What do you think about this one, Tim? 

0:27:09.8 Dr. Tim Clark: Well, Junior, when you said that if you weigh in first, you anchor your team, you anchor your team with bias. That's the first thing you're doing and you are softly censoring your team. And there's the presumption that the discussion is over because you possess positional power and you've registered your point of view. That's not a very wise thing to do, right? In terms of group dynamics, when there are power differentials in the room and we understand who has a decision-making authority. So it's just not a wise thing to do.

0:27:45.4 Junior: Yep. So here's some practical tips and tricks to put this behavior in place of weighing in last. Mirror the team and summarize the discussion to that point the way that you would if you're talking one-on-one. Now, this is something that I found to be really effective. So we hear about active listening and we hear about mirroring, right? Someone might say, oh, you know, I've had the toughest day and this is what happened. And one effective way to help them understand that we're tuned in and listening to what they're saying is to repeat that back to them, to summarize what they've told us so they know that we understand. You can do this for groups. So here's a line for you. From what I've heard, here's how I might summarize where we are. Let's say that you go ahead and you listen as this conversation develops inside of the team for 10, 15 minutes, you're debating an issue.

0:28:41.0 Junior: Then you come in and say, okay, from what I've heard everyone say, here's how I might summarize where we are. What did I miss? And so you're doing a few things here. You're acknowledging everyone's opinion, but you're also consolidating the information so that it's actionable and you can continue the conversation in a productive way. And you're not softly censoring. You're just reflecting back to the team. Hey, here's what I hear everyone's saying, right? Who else has a comment about this? What else are we missing? And if you can do that and become more tactful in that dialogue with the team, it'll be much more effective and challenger safety will go up. People will feel like they can jump in and continue to converse without feeling like there's risk. So let's talk about Thomas Jefferson for a second. We're gonna talk about some history.

0:29:29.4 Junior: I've been looking into some pieces of American history that fascinate me. I love world history. I love American history. I love a lot of history. Here's one that I really like as it relates to weighing in last. So Thomas Jefferson was one of the men put in charge of drafting the Declaration of Independence. And if you look at how the Declaration of Independence came together, it's really fascinating. So he starts traveling and seeking input from all the delegates that represented the 13 colonies during the Continental Congresses to draft the Declaration and the US Constitution. So the input and the representative government that they were shooting for was the input to the very Declaration of Independence that they were writing and the Constitution. So they're saying, we want representative government. And then they used representation to start talking to the delegates to put together this document. So to me, that was really interesting. So how might the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution be different if Jefferson just went for it by himself? 

0:30:38.5 Junior: So who else was working on it with him? John Adams, Ben Franklin really closely, Roger Sherman was assigned, Robert Livingston, and then all of the delegates. So we think of Jefferson, but Jefferson did so much summary and synthesis and consolidation. Right? 

0:30:54.2 Dr. Tim Clark: The synthesis. Yeah.

0:30:56.0 Junior: And so I think that's, an interesting one for me is, okay, we have this single product and we often think of Jefferson, but how many other people's fingerprints went on at first before we had our final draft? 

0:31:09.9 Dr. Tim Clark: Right, that's a really good illustration, Junior. I would say, again, weighing in first, unfortunately, is a chronic problem for many leaders. Even though, Junior, they know intuitively that they need to weigh in last, they just can't resist that urge to jump in. So for you listeners out there who struggle with this, think carefully about the ramifications and about the unintended consequences when you weigh in first, how you softly censor, how you anchor your team with bias, how you basically throw sand in the gears of collaboration. Think about that. And you may be... You may find yourself motivated in a new and different way. So I would say, what do you do? Lead with inquiry at the beginning, not advocacy. Get out of advocacy mode and get into inquiry mode. Use questions. And then you can advocate at the very end when you're trying to synthesize things and come to a point of view and take a course of action, right? 

0:32:20.4 Junior: Yep. Well, we've talked about weigh in first and weigh in last. And we understand it's not binary, right? There are probably 70 opportunities for you to jump in. Maybe the behavior should be weigh in later. So that would be my indication to each of us is the next meeting you have and you feel that impulse to jump in early, wait until it's later. Let that discussion develop a little bit more before you jump in. Do that today. The very next meeting you have, jump in later. Okay, that's weigh in last. Number two, here's the second behavior. Respond constructively to dissent and bad news. This is probably my favorite. This is Junior's personal favorite of all of the behaviors in the behavioral guide for stage four challenger safety. This is my favorite. And in my opinion, it might be the biggest lever that we have as leaders to set cultural precedent. Think about how leaders respond to affirmation and good news, right? What does that tell us about them? Nothing, nothing. It does not show us...

0:33:35.2 Dr. Tim Clark: Because everybody's happy.

0:33:37.4 Junior: Yeah, it doesn't show us anything at all. But people...

0:33:41.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Good point.

0:33:42.7 Junior: See what you're made of. People see the principles, the values, the leadership paradigm when things get difficult. That's when we really see. So Tim, let's talk about another example. The Conway Cabal. So this is one that I did not know about in all honesty. This is something that I learned about recently that fascinated me and something that I thought deserved some exploration and deserved some entry into the podcast today.

0:34:16.9 Dr. Tim Clark: So Junior, you got to clarify. Cabal is not a word that most people use in normal conversation.

0:34:20.1 Junior: No, it is not.

0:34:21.6 Dr. Tim Clark: This means big problem. We have a big problem here.

0:34:24.5 Junior: Big problem.

0:34:25.6 Dr. Tim Clark: Big problem.

0:34:26.2 Junior: You can use that word today. Okay. So this is attempted conspiracy against General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. This takes place in 1777. This is a critical period in the Revolution. American forces facing a lot of challenges, including a series of military setbacks, lost battles, supply shortages, troop shortages. There's a lot of stuff going on that's difficult. And if you look at this picture at that time, I can only imagine what that must have been like being a general in the American army and looking at the task at hand and saying, whoa, this doesn't look good.

0:35:14.7 Dr. Tim Clark: No.

0:35:16.0 Junior: So the Conway Cabal, let's jump into it. It's named after General Thomas Conway, a French military officer who had joined the Continental Army and become inspector general of the army. Conway was known for a couple of things. He was very brash and he had a very critical attitude toward Washington. The Cabal...

0:35:35.7 Dr. Tim Clark: Couldn't make it.

0:35:38.1 Junior: As it's called, include several officers and members, not just of the French army, but Continental Congress who were very critical of Washington's leadership and his military decisions. And they believed, this group, that Washington was not competent enough to lead the Continental Army. So Conway is kind of the key figure in this story. And in a series of letters, he criticizes Washington's leadership and is very harsh. In one letter he wrote to General Horatio Gates, heaven has been determined to save your country or a weak general and bad counselors would have ruined it.

0:36:17.0 Dr. Tim Clark: Ouch.

0:36:19.5 Junior: In reference to Washington. So these letters, they are meant to be private, but guess what? They're intercepted and brought to whom? None other than General George Washington. So he intercepts these letters from General Conway that are very pointed and very critical. Not just like, well, it's this soft matter of opinion, but no, of his very competence to lead the army he was in charge of.

0:36:52.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Bad news.

0:36:52.6 Junior: Bad news, Cabal.

0:36:55.5 Dr. Tim Clark: Really bad news. Oh, Junior, and I think I'm pretty sure that to this point, Washington had not won a single battle. And so think about how vulnerable he is feeling. And then on top of all of that, this just devastating criticism.

0:37:14.8 Junior: Yeah. So here's what happened now after this. Remember, we're talking about response to dissent and bad news. When Washington gets these letters, learns of Conway's criticisms and the discontent among a whole bunch of officers and Congress, he's really hurt. And he initially contemplates resigning from his position as Commander-in-Chief. This is General George Washington thinking, you know what, I might just call it a day. I might just go home. But his response marks his extraordinary leadership and his character. Instead of reacting impulsively, he handles the situation with restraint and a lot of wisdom. And he recognizes that the best way to quell the conspiracy and maintain the unity of the Army was to address these underlying issues. He wanted to engage with these officers that were dissenting, do that personally, listen to their grievances. So this is what he does.

0:38:14.6 Junior: He holds a meeting with his officers at the headquarters in Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where he acknowledges openly the challenges that they were facing, including the supply issues, the pay issues. He says, hey, I'm here to listen to your concerns and I wanna overcome these difficulties, right? So what happens? This meeting has a massive impact on the officers, many of whom had tremendous respect and admiration for Washington, not before, but after. It helped to diffuse the tension and all of the support that was coalescing behind Conway quickly erodes, it goes away. So the Cabal, the Conway Cabal ultimately fails in its attempt to remove Washington from command. And then what happens? Conway resigns from his position as Inspector General after this conspiracy unravels and leadership behind Washington solidifies. And people now say, wow, this is our indispensable leader. This is the guy to lead the Continental Army. And he continues to lead the American forces to what? Does he just have an endless resume of lost battles? There are some wins in there. He wins the Revolutionary War. Now so much more to this story, but wow, what an example.

0:39:39.1 Dr. Tim Clark: He got some bad news, Junior, and he responded with astounding poise and composure. And as you said, restraint, which in the end won the day.

0:39:52.4 Junior: So much humility. So why is our response so important as it pertains to dissent and bad news? So what if you respond destructively to dissent and bad news? You won't get any. And you might think, well, that'd be nice. I don't want any dissent. I don't want any bad news. But what happens then? Does that mean that the diverse opinions have suddenly gone away and that there is nothing bad to report? The bad news just goes away? The problems dissolve? No, you just don't hear about it. It gets swept under the rug or it's talked about in another venue and you just become ignorant and naive to it. It can't inform your decision-making. And is that good for anybody? No, it's disastrous.

0:40:39.9 Dr. Tim Clark: It's true, Junior. These are moments of truth. And if you respond poorly to dissent and bad news, as you say, think through what happens. Think through the chain of consequences. You inject... If you respond poorly, you inject fear. You break the feedback loop. You've just handicapped yourself. And it may be nothing short of disastrous. It is a viable hypothesis to say that if Washington had not responded with humility and openness to the concerns and the issues that his troops and his officers were raising, that we would have had a different outcome altogether. So these massive outcomes turn on very small hinges and often those very small hinges are the responses that we have to dissent and bad news. We're not... We've gotta be so careful that we don't cut ourselves off, as you say, from the input, from the feedback that we so desperately need.

0:41:47.1 Junior: So here's some tips as they relate to this point. When you get dissent and bad news, a couple of things to keep top of mind. One, listen. Listen carefully. That's the first thing that Washington did. He said, everybody, let's get together. I want you to tell me everything that's going on. And he probably just sat there as they listed the grievances and said, okay, okay. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you. What else? You listen. Stay calm, right? Don't shoot the messenger. That's an important point here. Be honest. I think that this is also helpful. One of the best things that you can do in a crisis is to ratchet up the transparency and confront the truth head on. Don't try and dismiss things. Don't try and spin things. Don't try and hide things. Just confront it. Square up to the truth and deal with it. And then four is take action. If you do those four things as they relate to your response to dissent and bad news, you'll have a much better time. So that's number two, is respond constructively to dissent and bad news.

0:42:48.6 Junior: Okay, we've got one final behavior. And that is number three, reward shots on goal. I really like this one. And I'm gonna share three quotes to help illustrate this point. They're very elementary and they're very on the nose, but that's why I like them so much. Wayne Gretzky, you can't score if you don't shoot. Thank you, Wayne. Michael Jordan.

0:43:14.1 Dr. Tim Clark: It's profound.

0:43:15.7 Junior: It is. Michael Jordan, the more shots you take, the more likely you are to score. Yeah, that's true. And Lionel Messi, if you're not taking shots, you're not going to score. It's simple math. So we have three of the best scorers that have ever lived on planet earth in their respective sports, all telling us that, hey, you know what? There's something basic going on here that if you don't shoot, then you're not gonna score. And so reward shots on goal becomes I think a really fun way of saying, hey, we gotta take some shots. And some of them might be pretty far out, but if we don't take them, there's no way that the ball is going to go into the net, whatever the ball is and whatever the net is in our context, right? 

0:44:02.4 Dr. Tim Clark: That's right, Junior. So what... Let's just make sure that we're clear so that everybody understands this. When someone challenges the status quo, that is a shot on goal. It may not become a goal. You may not make the goal, but you took a shot. And it's that behavior that needs to be consistently rewarded. That's what we're saying.

0:44:25.4 Junior: Yep. So it's important that we become good at identifying those shots on goal. And a shot on goal might be just a comment or an idea. If it's in the right direction, it's on goal, reward that. If you want something to happen more, reward it. If you want something to happen less, punish it. So if you want less innovation, punish its ingredients, punish divergent ideas, punish dissent, punish critique, punish all those shots. That's the point of this behavior. And I'll sum it up with a Henry Ford quote. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again. This time, more intelligently.

0:45:02.3 Dr. Tim Clark: I love that.

0:45:04.9 Junior: I love this quote because we're going to take shots. They are not all going to go in. Most of them won't go in, but we'll start to see the patterns. Okay, we're taking shots over here. It's not working. We're not even on goal. So let's adjust. And let's adjust. Now we have some more intelligence, right? Let's approach this in a better way. Let's tweak it. And over time, accuracy by volume, we're going to start getting some that land, right? 

0:45:32.0 Dr. Tim Clark: Yeah, that's right.

0:45:34.5 Junior: Okay. So that's the third behavior, reward shots on goal. So now we have a whole road that we've been down today. We've illustrated that challenger safety is important, but challenger safety is difficult. So what can we do? Three things. Weigh in last, respond constructively to dissent and bad news, and reward shots on goal. Tim, any final thoughts today? 

0:46:02.5 Dr. Tim Clark: I think that you've pulled out three extremely practical behaviors that we can take, Junior, and let's go back to the theme and the premise, which is that we behave until we believe, and these are practical. We can go back to our roles and we can start applying these behaviors right now, and we can see the value and the impact.

0:46:25.3 Junior: Yep. So that's our invitation to each of you, our invitation to ourselves as well, to go and do these three things today, tomorrow, the next day, to build challenger safety in our organizations. So with that, everybody, thank you for your attention. We appreciate your listenership very much. This has been a fun series, and we've got some more episodes teed up that we're very excited to record and dive into. So tune in for those. We hope today's content was valuable to you. If it was, please share it. Leave us a like and a review. Take care, everyone. We will see you next episode. Bye-bye.

[music]

0:47:09.7 Freddy: 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 leaderfactor.com/podcast. And if you 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 Leader Factor and what we do then please visit us at leaderfactor.com. 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 info@leaderfactor.com 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

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

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