How a CEO Can Create Psychological Safety in the Room

There’s a power dynamic in every room. If you’re the CEO and you’re in the room, you control that dynamic. Positional power is consolidated in your hands, and what you say and do can draw people out or make them recoil with anxiety and fear. In this weeks episode Tim and Junior discuss 10 ways CEO's can create higher levels of psychological safety in the room. 

Apple podcast buttonSpotify buttonGoogle podcast buttonAmazon Music button

Episode Show Notes

There’s a power dynamic in every room. If you’re the CEO and you’re in the room, you control that dynamic. Positional power is consolidated in your hands, and what you say and do can draw people out or make them recoil with anxiety and fear. In this weeks episode Tim and Junior discuss 10 ways CEO's can create higher levels of psychological safety in the room.

(11:48) Hierarchies often create inequality and that inequality can foster some of those negative outcomes. Leaders should strive for cultural flatness. Cultural flatness is a condition or an environment where people as they're interacting they become agnostic to title and position and authority and therefore they're able to debate issues on their merits. The best ideas in the room win rather than the hierarchies in the room.

(21:58) As the CEO you can re-distribute the power dynamic in the room. Two concrete examples are 1) by delegating the conducting of the meeting and 2) by not sitting at the head of the table. You've got to disrupt the power dynamic by avoiding the head of the table and sitting next to someone different.(

35:35) Rewarding challenges to the status will bring more psychological safety to the room. The premise of this recommendation to stimulate inquiry before advocacy. It's not enough to ask for feedback you have to respond positively to feedback and buffer strong personalities to encourage everyone's participation.

Important Links:

Episode Transcript

0:00:01.9 Producer: Welcome back, culture by design listeners. It's Freddy one of the producers of the podcast in today's episode is a deep dive on Dr. Clark's most recent Harvard Business Review article, how a CEO can create psychological safety in the room, as Tim puts it, there is a power dynamic in every room, and the leader can draw people out or make them recoil with anxiety and fear. In his article, Tim shares 10 practical ways to do this, and him in junior will dive deep into each of those topics. Today in this episode, we will include a link to the article and any other relevant links in this episode, show notes at Thanks again for listening. Thank you for your reviews. Enjoy today's episode on how a CEO can create psychological safety in the room.

0:01:00.0 Junior: Welcome back, everyone to culture by design. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today we'll be discussing Tim's recent Harvard Business Review article, how a CEO can create psychological safety in the room. Tim, how are you.

0:01:09.3 Tim: Doing great, Junior. Gonna be with you, this is gonna be a fun discussion, hopefully.

0:01:14.2 Junior: I think so too. It's gonna be with you. I would like to begin today by asking, Tim, you a question, why did you write this article of all the topics that you could choose to cover, why was this one important to you now?

0:01:26.6 Tim: Well, I would say it's not important to me just now, it's been important to me for years and years and years, and this has been something that I've been paying attention to closely, because I happen to work with a lot of CEOS and their teams, and it's unmistakably the case that when you walk into a room with the CEO, that that CEO owns the power dynamic and controls the power dynamic, and so we've been studying this from a qualitative standpoint, qualitative research in terms of observation and interviews, and then quantitatively, we've been studying it to Junior through our... For example, our psychological safety team survey, where we gather quantitative feedback, and that largely is a reflection of what's going on in the room with the leader, whoever the leader may be, so... Yes, the title of the article is how a CEO does this, but it's whoever is at the top of the hierarchy, so it applies to everyone in that sense.

0:02:32.3 Junior: Yeah, well, I'm acres to dig into it, and as a CEO or any leader for that matter, as you mentioned that your presence in a room dictates the power dynamic and the paradox that you identify is that your job as a leader as the CEO, is to encourage ideas to encourage collaboration and debate, yet your very presence can work against that, and as we'll talk about, you may not even need to do anything but be in the room and your presence starts working against that immediately, so to be successful as a CEO or any leader you have to overcome the inter-personal liability of your role in order to perform it at capacity. So today we'll talk about the article, and the article goes through 10 things you can do to promote the healthy exchange of ideas and to appropriately circulate feedback, we're not gonna jump right into those 10 things though, we're gonna do some background, we're going to do some excavation and figure out why this is important to begin with.

0:03:32.2 Tim: Junior, I wanna come back to what you said, because listeners may have not really heard what you said, maybe it didn't register, let me see if we can come back to this and emphasize this a little bit more when the CEO is in the room, the CEO either warms or chills the air. You can't be neutral, but the other thing that you said that's so important is that the CEO has to overcome the liability of that role in order to perform that role. Now, hang on. What did we just say? Are we saying that the CEO'S role is a liability in the room... That's exactly what we're saying. That's exactly what we're saying. You have to overcome the liability of that role in order to perform that role, so there's a liability associated with being a CEO when you walk in the room, you're a liability, and so we're gonna talk about how to overcome that liability... It's a paradox.

0:04:33.8 Junior: No, it's fascinating because let's say you're a brand new CEO and you enter the room, you start at least culturally, as far as the free exchange of ideas is concerned, in a deficit position... Yeah, you don't come in at neutral or positive, it's a deficit position that you need to... And the word is overcome in order to be effective. So why is this the case? This is the case because of hierarchies, to put it simply, hierarchies have been around since humans have been around, and they historically have been based on a number of things in a towel, power, social status, competence, hopefully competence, education, income. There are a host of variables by which hierarchies are dictated, and there can be many layers to a hierarchy, or there can be one layer to a hierarchy, and that's something that I would suggest that each of us think about today, that this is not just... Inside a professional context, this is in the context of being a human who is on planet Earth and deals with other people, those social dynamics are everywhere, and these principles apply more broadly than just a bore room and a CEO.

0:05:51.5 Tim: It's very true. So junior, think about the Mayflower, that came over a long time ago, what happened with the Mayflower, there were what, 10 and something passengers on the Mayflower, they came up with the Mayflower Compact to figure out how they were going to govern themselves, but out of that came a hierarchy, they had to have a division of labor, someone had to be in charge, and so just think about that example, think about the Lord of the Flies, when those boys are stuck out there on the island, what happens... A hierarchy emerges. So in every social setting, a hierarchy emerges, and it may be a good one, it may be a not so good one, but it's a naturally occurring phenomenon that we have hierarchies because we've gotta figure out how we're going to govern ourselves. Sometimes we do a good job. Sometimes we don't do a good job. And those hierarchies always exist, an important observation is that they exist and we recognize them, it's not that they exist, and we're kind of ignorant to it, every human has really good hardware and software to be able to recognize hierarchy, it's very important because it establishes order.

0:07:20.4 Junior: And predictability in Lord of the fly is maybe not the type of order that we would want in the Mayflower contact maybe a little bit more, it establishes some predictability. We kinda know what to expect when we go into a hierarchy, it gives us a role sometimes responsibilities, expected behavior, conflict resolution. There are a lot of things that come out of hierarchy that are naturally beneficial, what hierarchies can be problematic as well, that's right.

0:07:49.9 Tim: Sometimes they're official, sometimes they're unofficial, sometimes they're more formal, sometimes they're less formal, but when humans get together, they're always emergent... The hierarchy is emergent, it's going to happen and it's inevitable, and as you said, we have the equipment to naturally perceive both the Informal and the formal sides of hierarchy around us, we can perceive that, we have the equipment to understand power dynamics and power differentials. We get that.

0:08:25.5 Junior: So tied at the hip with hierarchies is power dynamic, and those power dynamics were equally attuned to, and those power dynamics can be influenced by the people that comprise the hierarchy, and how is it influenced? How is it that a power dynamic emerges? Some of it is verbal. The things that we say, perhaps far more of it is non-verbal, how we say the things we say, our body language, we'll even talk today where we sit in a room influences the power dynamic, and we need to be very observant, very aware of all of the variables and levers that affect the power dynamic, so that we can pull them or push them in our favor and in our favor, I mean in the healthiest way possible, so that we can get the free exchange of ideas, we can get the debate, we can get the collaboration that we're looking for. And as you do this inside organizations, that type of culture will be perpetuated, it will permeate and it will ripple, and so at the top of the organization, we have special responsibility, but before we go to that piece, I wanna call out one more thing, which is what I'm going to call the grape vine or your reputation, to put it more simply, what other people say about your behavior and how that information travels through the organization, it's likely that there are people that you associate with that you didn't know before, who you learned about through others, and that set up some expectations, and so let's say that you're a leader in an organization who has some work to do in this area, I suppose we all do, but maybe you have a lot of work to do, and maybe that idea went down through the organization a little ways.

0:10:13.8 Junior: What do you think people will think when they come to work with you for the first time, even if you haven't met them? They may be silent from the beginning, and so understand that your reputation follows you, you only get one, and it's important to consider that when you're thinking about power dynamics and hierarchy, because your radius of influence extends past to the people that you interact with directly. There is a lot of indirect information that gets around, and that's very important to consider, so don't think that just because someone who's never met you face face, that they don't have some opinion of how you might be in a room and what the power dynamics might be I wanna call that out.

0:10:57.7 Tim: Yeah, that's so true. Reputational assets are assets that we all have, and they travel in advance of us, and they linger behind us after us once we're gone, so those reputational assets are a very important part of hierarchy and junior... We need to mention this too. Why is this so important? Because hierarchies have a tendency, they have a clear tendency, they have a tendency to often marginalize people, discriminate against people and suppress the free flow of information among people, so these are some liabilities associated with hierarchy, there's clearly a susceptibility for hierarchies to fall into these patterns. These negative patterns. And so we've gotta be able to solve for that.

0:11:48.2 Junior: I think that part of the root of that issue is that hierarchies often create inequality and that inequality can foster some of those negative outcomes that you talked about, and before the podcast, you and I were talking just briefly, and you mentioned the idea of cultural flatness, and why that's important to a leader, why the hierarchy can actually be dangerous to the leader, and I thought that that was a pretty interesting language. I'm wondering if you can dive into that for a minute and help me understand why is it that cultural flatness should be so high on the list of objectives for a leader...

0:12:30.8 Tim: Here's my definition of cultural flatten, as cultural flatness is a condition or an environment where people, as they're interacting, they become agnostic to title and position and authority, and therefore they're able to debate issues on their merits, they're able to have healthy, rigorous dialogue and debate. And so there's this truly unencumbered free exchange of information and ideas... The hierarchy tends to get in the way of that. But it depends on the behavior of the leader or leaders, and so I just wanna point out that the leader should be constantly striving to achieve cultural flatness, if the leader is not striving for that, then there's always the possibility that that hierarchy might be dangerous to the leader and the organization. And what I say dangerous, what do I mean? If the cultural flatness is not there and the liability of hierarchy is exposed, and if it's in the way, if it's becoming an obstacle, then the danger comes from poor information or misinformation or... No information, and what does that lead to? It leads to poor decision-making, it leads to heirs and judgment, it leads to unforced human errors, and then the entire train of consequences that follows, so...

0:14:01.3 Tim: Where did all this begin? If we trace it to its origin, it goes back to the liability of the hierarchy, it goes back to a lack of cultural flatness, and then here we go, and we start making poor decisions because our information not of high quality, and why is it not of high quality, think about this. For anyone who's listening to this podcast episode, if you're in a managerial role... Let me ask you this question, as soon as you step into a managerial role, what happens to the information that you receive from your direct reports... From your subordinates, what happens to that information? Well, at least two things happen, there's a qualitative and a quantitative change to that information, the information that you get is of lower quality, it's being filtered, so there's a qualitative change, the quantitative change is that you're going to receive less of that feedback and that information... So two changes, you get less information and that what you do get is of lower quality, that almost always happens, unless you take some deliberate steps and actions to prevent that from happening, but that's not a one-time thing. That's going to be something that you are constantly fighting against, and you're constantly trying to guard against those changes in the feedback and the input and the information that you receive, qualitative change, quantitative change.

0:15:43.9 Tim: So do you see the danger? Well, just think if you're a CEO, you're constantly up against the liability of your own position and you're trying to overcome that... And it's not a one-time thing, it's something that you're up against all the time. You're constantly trying to create cultural flatness and you're trying to solicit... Unfiltered, unedited, unencumbered information, so that you can make good decisions. Wow.

0:16:16.4 Junior: It's a huge point. And I think that it's part... Or maybe a large part of the Quest that each of us has inside leadership, the best leaders do this well, the worst leaders do this very poorly, and often as leaders, we're so focused on the job itself, the task at hand, the execution, the whirlwind of activity that we don't consider or we consider less than we should, this invisible part of our role, and when we're developing skills, we're looking at developing tactical skills that have to do with the TAs, Ahab, and we should be dedicating some time and energy to developing these type of skills, because these types of skills will help perhaps even more, because we'll get better information, we'll have fewer errors in judgment and the train of consequence will be more positive than it otherwise would have been. So let's talk about why this article even needs to be written, this article needs to be written because most hierarchies eventually unravel into toxicity, and maybe unravels the wrong word, but they develop into it, maybe the hierarchy becomes more and more rigid. We did an episode a while back on why some leaders are afraid of psychological safety, that's an interesting episode, if you haven't seen it or listen to it, will link it, but some leaders, they can intentionally and some unintentionally, as you put it in the article, intellectually muzzle the room...

0:17:51.0 Junior: And I really like that visualization, they create echo chambers and they create agreement, and some of them may think that agreement is a good thing... Agreement can be a good thing, but it can also be very dangerous. Agreement and alignment are not synonymous, and that's something that I've been learning over time, that if you say, Okay, does everyone understand... You get a bunch of yeses. Okay, does everyone agree? You get a bunch of yeses, does that mean that you have alignment... No, it does not. But that is what you will hear If you intellectually muzzle the room and if the power dynamics are bad, they'll get a bunch of yeses, or you'll get a bunch of silence and you'll move forward in a road down a road that may not be the best road to go down. And so the effects of this are very dangerous because as we mentioned, you get silence, you get fear, and the feedback loop gets broken and it only goes one way.

0:18:43.2 Tim: Yeah, it reminds me of Jeff Bezos 2017 letter to shareholders when he was still the CEO of Amazon, and one of the points that he makes in that letter is that employees need to learn how to disagree and commit, so the leader in the room... Especially the CEO, has a very important responsibility to surface disagreement, we're not trying to suppress disagreement, we're trying to surface disagreement, we need to know, we need to understand who disagrees and why that's critical to the analysis process and the decision-making process. So we need to surface disagreement, we want to know, because we want to understand how they went from data to conclusions, how they arrived at their point of view, it's very important that we understand that we're not trying to suppress it, we're trying to surface the disagreement and so one of the terms that I mentioned in the article is that the American diplomat, George Kennan, years ago, he coined this phrase The treacherous curtain of difference. This is what we're trying to guard against, this is the liability, this is the problem, the treacherous curtain of difference, when people start to pull that curtain of difference around you as the leader out of difference, what are they doing? They're agreeing, they're complying.

0:20:11.9 Tim: They're yielding its acquiescence. It's even OB-sequins, and that's not going to help you at all in your role.

0:20:20.7 Junior: So think about that treacherous curtain of deference, you don't ever want that curtain to go up, you're going to do everything in your power. And part of that means surfacing disagreement, not suppressing it, and maybe that curtains up by default and your jobs to take it down, because it's often the case that you inherit a team or a position in a hierarchy, more often than not, you're taking a position that existed before it's not being created from nothing, so there will be some liability may be attached to it, or maybe there will be some positive consequences that you want to continue, but either way, you're gonna need to pay attention, so let's dive into the tools... The suggestions or recommendations, 10 ways to create psychological safety in the room, and as we go through these today, I wanna extend an invitation to everyone, myself included, to pay better attention to the social dynamics of all the social collectives of which you're a part, as it relates to these 10 things, so it could be at work, it could be a group of friends that you're getting together with this afternoon, it could be a dinner party that you're going to, it could be your family when you walk in the door.

0:21:32.0 Junior: Think about those contexts when we go through these because they're applicable widely, and this part of why I love this topic in this conversation, because each one of us can use these to help... So the first one assign someone else to conduct the meeting... Why is this one of the first ones to him assign someone else to conduct the meeting... What does that have to do with anything? Isn't it just let's just get the meeting kicked off and going...

0:21:58.6 Tim: Actually, no. So the CEO or the leader, you can re-distribute power, you can shift the power dynamic by doing very small things in the way that you orchestrate the meeting. So for example, if you have someone else conduct the meeting, what you're doing in essence is you're leveling yourself down, you're redistributing power, you're becoming more of a player coach, and you're giving yourself a better vantage point by which to monitor the content, but also the social dynamics. Of what's going on in the room. So you become a dual monitor, you're doing both just by letting someone else conduct the meeting, so that's just one thing. That's just a suggestion. Number one.

0:22:53.0 Junior: One of the simple realities that I've bumped into along these lines is that it's much more difficult to observe and to listen when you're talking, and that may seem obvious, it may seem like a simple point, but I've noticed that when I'm sitting back, someone else is conducting or running the meeting, I don't have to focus on what I'm saying, I don't have to focus on the agenda at hand, I can look around and I can observe... That's much harder to do if you've got words coming out of your mouth, number two, don't sit at the head of the table.

0:23:24.2 Junior: This one's very interesting to me, and we alluded to it earlier in the episode, I thought This was brilliant, this is not one that I would have put down, but when I read it for the first time, it made so much sense to me, seating reflect. Hierarchy, think about that. Think about where you normally sit in a meeting, where other people normally sit in a meeting, or you normally sit just generally in different venues, the seating reflects the hierarchy, it would be very interesting to see the person that you would expect to be sitting at the front not sitting in the front. And so think of a smaller meeting, where does the person with the authority or the leader of the meeting normally set ahead of the table or a position of prominence? So Tim, tell me a little bit more about this.

0:24:14.8 Tim: Well, if it's a round table, I guess it doesn't matter very much, right. So maybe we all need to get round tables, but the reality is that rituals reflect the power structure in the hierarchy, and so do artifacts. Now, artifacts refer to the physical side of culture and cultural anthropology, we talk about the physical culture, and we talk about the artifacts in the environment, so the seating structure, the way the room is laid out, whatever venue you're in, it will often reflect the hierarchy and the power structure. And so if it does, if you have inherited that or if you've created that, you may wanna take a hard look at that physical culture and those artifacts that reflect the hierarchy and then mix it up, so don't set it ahead of the table, disrupt that ritual. And not only that, let's take it a step further, don't sit by the same people over and over again, because your proximity sends a message of power, those that are closest to the CEO are often those that have the most power. So mix it up. Stir it up, break it up. You gotta disrupt that. There will often be a kind of an equilibrium that comes into place with the way that people sit where they sit next to whom they sit, so you disrupt that, keep that in a state of disequilibrium, disrupt that.

0:25:51.3 Junior: Sometimes it seems to me that we ignore that a lot of things that we don't think mean something, mean something, where you say, you might not think about that. It may be very natural to just go in and sit where you've always sat, but it's important for us to be observant and aware of those dynamics that are attached to some of those artifacts, even where you have the meeting, if you're inviting people into your space, every single time, maybe switch it up, there's this physical component that I think is very interesting...

0:26:23.9 Tim: Oh, junior, let me just say this, I just thought of the... Years ago, we had a US Senator, his name was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he was also a social scientist, he was a prominent sociologist in his day, and he made a comment, he said, Nothing propinq’s like propinquity. What's propinquityt is the closeness, physical closeness that you have, the proximity that you have to another person... So what was he saying? He was saying that If you're close closer to someone, then you've got more influence and there's a stronger power connection between you and that person, so I just thought of that, I remember learning that statement back when I was in graduate school, it's true. So disrupt that Prouty, that pattern of pro-Piquet.

0:27:17.0 Junior: I like that. I haven't said that word, maybe ever go to stay in the last week, and then I... You know what, I'm gonna be honest, I never said that were my whole life...

0:27:25.5 Tim: No, we don't use that word a normal conversation, but it's kind of fun to say.

0:27:28.8 Junior: Yeah, I'm gonna use it today... Okay, create warmth and informality. This one goes a long way, and I've been paying extra attention to this one personally, the energy that you bring into a room and what's your posture looking like? Is it optimistic? And as it warm, is it inviting? Or is it pessimistic? Is it cynical? Is it overly formal? You can ice the room by walking in and take two steps, and if your body language is wrong, people are gonna pick up on that, and maybe it's not even wrong, it just means what you don't want it to mean, which is a... You don't even try today, I'm not having it, it's a bad day, or things are happening, or whatever the case may be, you don't even need to say anything before people start picking up those messages, alternatively, if you walk in and you're warm and you're inviting, and your cordial and you're pleasant, those are much different words than the others, and people pick up on that quickly, it makes a big difference, you can say the exact same words, but with a different tone, and you'll have a much different outcome.

0:28:38.3 Tim: That's really true. Junior emotions are contagious. But the good ones and the bad ones. Yeah, well, I shouldn't say good. Matti should say maybe positive and negative, but they're contagious, and so when you walk in the room, just to understand that your facial expressions, your gestures, your body language, your non-verbal cues, you're sending signals, you're sending streams of data to everyone else in the room, and they're reading that, they're interpreting that data and it's a constant flow, your emotional intelligence becomes your delivery system to everybody else, and so they're reading it, their dual monitoring, by the way, what you're saying and how you're saying it. And based on many studies, most of the communication that you're doing is non-verbal, we just need to remind ourselves of that. That's.

0:29:31.4 Junior: True. And another quick tip here that I just thought of when it comes to informality and sometimes too much formality, a healthful way to break that cycle, it can be to eat together, I just wanna pop that in there.

0:29:44.8 Tim: Yeah. Oh, thank you for saying that.

0:29:46.8 Junior: There's something about that, and if you find yourself in meetings with the same people all the time and you've never broken bread and you've never had a meal together, try that, I think you'll be surprised at just how much that breaks up the ritual, because there's some informality and even vulnerability sometimes when it comes to having a meal together, and so I just wanna toss that in.

0:30:08.6 Tim: Junior, that may be the best icebreaker known to the human family, as you say, breaking bread together. Okay.

0:30:15.3 Junior: Number four model, acts of vulnerability, this is a big one as a leader, especially as a CEO, if you look at CEOS today, you probably wouldn't be able to call out a long list of acts of vulnerability that you've seen from CEOS, and that's on purpose. Vulnerability can be very risky to people in those types of positions, vulnerabilities can be risky business for all of us, but if you do not show... If you don't model those acts of vulnerability is unlikely, they'll be modeled by those around you, so we talk about the mechanism of modeling and rewarding vulnerability, but if you're not modeling as a leader, you're not gonna be able to get very far. So what does that look like as a leader? What are some acts of vulnerability that you should be thinking about, the one that I like self-deprecating humor. If somebody can just take a poke at themselves with some sort of joke that goes a long way to know this person doesn't take themselves too seriously. Okay, they're normal. They're confident enough, they're not so insecure that we can't have a little bit of fun, openly challenging yourself, not other people yourself, even it could be right after you put something on the table, you could just walk it back, you say, You know what, after thinking about that for two more seconds, I don't think that...

0:31:37.2 Junior: That's a wonderful idea. We've also got asking for help, admitting what you don't know, pointing out a past mistake of yours and expressing your uncertainty, these are all things that run counter to some of the expectations that we have of people in those roles, we expect. Sometimes that they show up with certainty, that there is perfection, that there's omniscient, that they don't need help. And so how does that make you feel about asking questions or pointing out your mistakes or expressing some uncertainty, it's uncomfortable, but if that's modeled from the top down, it becomes much easier.

0:32:16.2 Tim: Junior... Let me add that not only should the CEO or the leader model vulnerability, but we would take it a step further and say that you have a first mover obligation, a good point. So not just do it, but you need to do it first, you have a first mover obligation, why? Because you're setting the tone, you're establishing the prevailing Norm in the room, and so you have an obligation to do that, not just do it, but do it first.

0:32:51.0 Junior: Especially when you're in a new situation. Or you have new team members, I would pay extra attention to that. You never know where people are coming from, and it's important that they feel comfortable by seeing you go first. Yeah, next we have stimulate inquiry before advocacy. So I wanna spend a little bit of time on this one because I think each of us could improve here, think about your ratio, inquiry versus advocacy when you're engaging with other people. How much are you advocating and how much are you inquiring? How much are you advocating for your own position versus exploring and discovering the position of other people if you advocate too soon, what are you doing, you're censoring everybody on the team, if you show up too early with a point of view that's to Starch, they're not going to engage and push back, you're censoring the team, and maybe you're doing this unwittingly, maybe it's just natural to go first and give your point of view pitch in your two cents, but you have to understand that it comes with different weight, given your position, and so if you go in there and do that too soon...

0:34:01.4 Junior: It can be a problem.

0:34:02.4 Tim: Yeah, Junior, I would even go so far as to say that, yes, we will give you a pass at the beginning for jumping in too soon and softly sensor in your team, but you can't keep doing that and you're not going to continue to get a pass because if you're the CEO or the leader in the room, you have an obligation, you can't be culturally tone, death, that's not going to be okay. The second time and a third time. And so on, You don't get a pass for that, you've gotta be able to read the room very carefully and set the appropriate tone, so yeah, we'll give you a little bit of time, but you can't go in there and just start advocating... Now, this is a hard one, because leaders are deeply and strongly socialized with a bias to advocate, advocate, advocate advocate, and I want to convince others, I want to influence others of my point of view, but if you jump in, you've missed... If you don't begin with inquiry and you're not stimulating discovery throughout the room, then this is where we get into trouble and you may arrive... You may arrive at the wrong conclusion, as one CEO said, My job is not to be right at the beginning of the meeting, it's to be right at the end of the meeting.

0:35:31.7 Tim: Oh, I love that. So keep that in mind. That's fantastic.

0:35:35.8 Junior: Next reward challenges to the status quo. This one's very important, and the team will pick up on this very quickly, the first person who Ventures a guess or decides to raise their hand and ask a question, those people are going to be observed very closely, and they're going to be watched to see what happens to them, after they do that, after they venture a guess and raise their hand if that guest... If that comment, if that observation, if that challenge is punished, Hey, don't... We can't talk about that right now. Or did you think enough about that before you raise your hand, or anything that could be much softer than that even will punish enough that the team picks up on it and they won't do the same thing moving forward.

0:36:28.6 Tim: Maybe they're just softly rebuffed by being ignored by junior, it's not that someone's telling you that you're wrong or that you made a stupid comment, or something like that, they can be very subtle, mild forms of rejection. I think.

0:36:47.2 Junior: It could be like, Yeah, I guess. I guess it...

0:36:50.4 Tim: Just a tone of voice.

0:36:51.9 Junior: Yeah, sure. Thanks. Good comment. Yeah, moving off.

0:36:56.4 Tim: Right, moving on. Right, okay.

0:36:58.8 Junior: You have a sentence in here... Thank you, I may have missed something. Let's explore your perspective, that's an example of rewarding the vulnerability and the challenging to the status quo, and if you get to the point where punishing becomes normalized, that's where you're gonna really break that feedback loop and the feedback that you would want to get that perhaps isn't so shiny. Perhaps some of it's negative, perhaps you're gonna get some bad news, those are things that you want on your table as a leader, but those things will not be on your table If you punish vulnerability enough over time.

0:37:36.5 Tim: Junior, I think we have to go back and just kind of recap what is the premise of this recommendation to stimulate inquiry before advocacy the premises that you need non-linear divergent lateral thinking in the room, you need intellectual friction in the room, and so you need to... Welcome that, encourage that. So there's got to be time and space and safety for the inquiry, we'll get to the advocacy, don't worry about that, but let's spend sufficient time on the inquiry, and so often we just don't do that.

0:38:19.2 Junior: It's a good point. Next, we have push back with humor and enthusiasm, right here, I've been thinking about posture... Is your posture offensive or defensive if you're going to push back, is it out of a position of defensiveness, do you feel like you're getting backed into a corner and you need to fight your way out, or is it humorous and enthusiastic, that orientation, as we talked about body language a little bit earlier is very important, and you need to pay so much attention to that when you push back, don't just pull out your clause and bury your teeth, it's important that your softer... That you're more tactful. And I love the word enthusiasm. Enthusiasm goes a long way with people. And I would like to become better at this. Maybe enthusiasm is something that I can develop a little bit more. In times where you feel like you don't wanna be enthusiastic, I think each of us runs into those situations, there's just so much to do, there are so many problems, but that enthusiasm and that offensive posture like, Hey, we can figure this out together. That goes a long way.

0:39:29.1 Tim: I think Junior, you have to watch people... Some people are very talented at being able to disagree with a smile, you... It's a skill, you might call it a talent and you may say, Well, they just know how to do that, but I think it's a learn-able skill as well. I know this executive, and he'll say, with a big smile on his face, Hey, can I arm wrestle you about that? Can we arm wrestle on this one and everybody smiles and everybody... Some people laugh, but yet it's this Armin, isn't it? It's disarming. And then the person says, Well, of course.

0:40:05.7 Junior: Yeah. Next, we have buffer, strong personalities, different people process differently, and some people are going to engage right away, they're going to be very active, offensive, enthusiastic, and others might take a little bit more time, they might be a little more quiet, and it's important that we... I don't wanna say the word mediate that maybe buffer is the right word, those strong personalities and defuse potential issues by diffusing them up front, you could say as we discuss this issue, don't take more than your fair share of air time. I want each of you to ensure equal participation and setting the expectation at the beginning that that's how we're going to run this meeting. This one is an interesting one to me.

0:40:57.8 Tim: Well, Junior in every room, if you have a normal distribution of human beings and you're going to have some introverts and you're going to have some extroverts, how do they behave differently in a meeting, in many ways, perhaps a fundamental way is that the introverts... They prefer to process privately and quietly, and sometimes they need more time, the extroverts tend to prefer to process verbally and publicly, think about the difference in the way that these people process. How do you allow both camps to flourish and thrive in the room, and to be able to make their full contribution in the room, you can't let the extroverts take over, you can't let them come and deer the room, so you have to be diplomatic and careful in the way you do it, but you're going to have to buffer sometimes the strong personalities in the extrovert.

0:41:58.1 Junior: And a quick tip on this one, one of the things that I've seen work pretty well is sending out agendas before the meeting for some of those people who process in quiet or take a little bit longer, wanna be methodical and take their time, that can be very helpful so that people come to the meeting having had time to think about whatever is going to be talked about, and you often get better information that way anyway. Instead of just knee-jerk reactions from people that wanna jump in right away.

0:42:24.6 Tim: Junior, it reminds me, sometimes you're in a room with people and some people cannot tolerate the silence, and they've not been acculturated in an environment where we do tolerate to silence, and there is a period, sometimes short periods of time. For incubation? For reflection, yeah, I can think of a certain CEO who tries to create that environment where we can tolerate short silences, the way as we're thinking through things, as we're analyzing, we're reflecting, we're examining. And so what the CEO will do is he'll just simply, as people want to jump in and dive in, because they can't tolerate the silent, you'll just hold up his hand like this, signaling to everyone, hang on. I'm gonna take a little bit of time. And so there's kind of a tacit rule that there are points in the meeting where we take a little bit of time for reflection, don't jump in and take away the silence, I don't take that away. You don't need... We're gonna tolerate the silence, some people... Haven't learned to do that. So that's something that can be very, very effective.

0:43:42.7 Junior: Or like that point. It leads right into the next one, which is listen and pause, and you mentioned that you don't need to have all the answers all the time right away, and letting people see you process issues is a valuable thing that is not rapid fire every time, but that... Okay. This one's gonna take me a second. Let's think about this. And just sit there. I know that Elon Musk gets talked about a lot, but I've watched enough of his interviews to be able to notice a pattern when he's asked a good question, they'll just sit there and think, they'll just sit there before he responds, and I'll just wait, and I'll just process, and you can see you... You turn in the gears, and I think that there's something to be learned from that, that it's okay, did you sit there? And if you're gonna take your time and energy and just talk, then let it be intentional, think for a second before the word is... You start flying out. I think most of us could probably improve there, and the last one, give highly targeted praise and recognition to help us on this one.

0:44:43.3 Tim: Often leaders give in discriminant praise, uncritical praise, fulsome praise. They're spraying it, junior they're spraying it. And in a lot of ways, that's not a bad thing because praise is not a finite resource and we do need to be generous with it, I'm simply making the suggestion that we add some precision to it, that it becomes more targeted, and I think the best way to do that is that when you pray someone in the room, you tell them why... So for example, instead of saying, Well, I appreciate that insight. Then the leader could say, I appreciate that insight. Because you're helping us understand, you're helping us identify other areas of risk that perhaps we haven't paid attention to, so you're giving the praise, but you're explaining why you're doing it... That makes it so much more valuable. So the suggestion again is make the praise targeted by adding the why, explain why you're giving it... It becomes much more powerful. Agreed.

0:45:57.3 Junior: So those are the 10. We made it through them... Let's go through them real quickly. I'm just gonna wrap it a fire and so that you can remember these, assign someone else to conduct the meeting, don't sit at the head of the table, create warmth and informality model acts of vulnerability, stimulate inquiry before advocacy, reward challenges to the status quo. Push back with humor and enthusiasm, but for strong personalities, listen and pause, give highly targeted praise and recognition if you work on each of these things, even a few that you feel like are highly leveraged because of your role in your context. Things will get better, you will get better information, you'll have more ideas, you'll have better collaboration, and you'll have a more enjoyable experience, humans do better together when these things exist, and I think that it will be better for everyone involved if we can improve here as we talked about at the beginning, there's going to be some liability that comes with your role, and that's going to be true for almost all of us, we need to recognize that, observe that and be aware enough to figure out where we need to strategically place these behaviors to get better outcomes for ourselves, for our teams and for our organizations, and I will also double click on the point that these are universally applicable, you can put these into practice anywhere you have humans.

0:47:18.8 Junior: So try it with your friends, try it with your families, try it with your significant other, just people generally respond to these things, because hierarchy is a part of life, we're attuned to those power dynamics, and it's important that we do everything in our power to make those hierarchies, at least culturally flat. So Tim, I've really appreciated this conversation with you today...

0:47:41.9 Tim: Yeah, thank you.

0:47:42.7 Junior: I think... Really interesting things to think about for me. I know that there's a lot that I can go and do. Any final comments before we wrap up?

0:47:50.8 Tim: I got a couple of thoughts as we wrap up today, first of all, please be aware that if you're in the room with the leader of the CEO, silence is safe for the people in the room, but silence is expensive if you're the CEO... So there's a tension state there, silence is safe for the people in the room, but silence is expensive for the CEO, and then the last thing I'll say is that the higher the arena of power, if you're in the room with the CEO, that's the highest arena of power, the higher the arena of power, the deeper the potential humiliation if things go south. So think about that, think about the vulnerability that people feel when they're in the room with you as the leader, and that will help you appreciate the difficulty or the challenge that people are up against and what you can do to make that a great experience. So just have a greater appreciation for what people are doing when they're in the room there with you. Very helpful.

0:48:56.2 Junior: Thank you. So in today's show notes, we're gonna put a few things... They will include a link to the article in Harvard Business Review. We're also going to put the four stages behavioral guide, so we talk about 10 behaviors today, if you want 130 some odd more, go and download the four stages behavioral guides. It's a free resource that will give you even more tactical tools and behaviors to go and implement, and then I did mention earlier in the episode or another episode, Why some leaders are afraid of psychological safety. We would encourage you to go check that one out. So thank you everyone for spending your time with us today, your attention, we appreciate you, and all that you do, we're here to support, and as always, you can reach out to us at, we appreciate your likes. You're reviewing your shares. So if you like today's episode and know that someone else might, please go ahead and share, give them a tag, make sure they see it, it helps us get this content out into the world, and as we all know, the world desperately needs it, so with that, we will catch you in the next episode.

0:49:56.3 Junior: Thank you, everyone.

0:50:09.0 Producer: Hey culture by design listeners. You made it to the end of today's episode thank you again for listening and for making culture something that you do by design and not by default if you've enjoyed today's episode please be so kind to leave us a review it helps us reach a wider audience and accomplish our mission of influencing the world for good at scale today's episode show notes and other relevant resources related to today's topic can be found at and with that we'll see you next episode.

Show Notes

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.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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.

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.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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.

Recent Episodes

The Dangers of Contingent Self-Esteem

April 15, 2024

Leadership is an Invitation

April 8, 2024

Do Little Things For a Long Time

April 1, 2024