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How to Build Challenger Safety

Can you be candid about change at work? Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It allows us to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation or the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation. As the highest level of psychological safety, it matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk associated with challenging the status quo. 

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How to Build The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

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Episode Show Notes

Can you be candid about change at work? Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It allows us to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation or the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation. As the highest level of psychological safety, it matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk associated with challenging the status quo. 

Listen in as hosts Tim and Junior discuss how to build Stage 4: Challenger Safety individually, within a team, and throughout an organization.

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Episode Transcript

0:00:08.9 Junior: Welcome back, everyone, to The Leader Factor. I'm Junior, back with my co-host, Dr. Tim Clark, and today we're going to be discussing the fourth of the four stages of psychological safety.

0:00:18.4 Tim: Finally.

0:00:18.5 Junior: Challenger safety.

0:00:19.7 Tim: Can't wait.

0:00:21.1 Junior: This gets people fired up.

0:00:22.1 Tim: Oh.

0:00:22.9 Junior: You talk to a lot of executives.

0:00:23.6 Tim: It gets me fired up. Yeah.

0:00:24.6 Junior: What do they think about challenger safety? 

0:00:25.7 Tim: Well, it's the key to their success. They have to be able to create the conditions that prevail for stage four challenger safety, or they're not gonna make it. Because they understand that if they want to create an incubator of innovation, you gotta get there.

0:00:43.0 Junior: A lot of people's ears perk up when they hear challenger safety and innovation. It's when we mention innovation that people start listening.

0:00:51.4 Tim: Yeah, I'm all about that.

0:00:52.9 Junior: Especially the operators out there. They're thinking, well, what does innovation have to do with psychological safety? I thought that psychological safety was kind of a soft topic.

0:01:03.0 Tim: Oh.

0:01:04.5 Junior: And we're here to say, no, absolutely not. This is the very soil in which you will reap the innovation that you so desire...

0:01:15.9 Tim: That's true.

0:01:17.3 Junior: If the conditions are right. So if we look at the model, we're moving now all the way to here, challenger safety. And respect has gone up, permission has gone up, and we have crossed a very important barrier. We call it the innovation threshold. This is the distance between contributor safety and challenger safety. This is where we move from execution to innovation. So describe this threshold for us.

0:01:47.0 Tim: Well, Junior, let's think about it this way. If we think about the nature of innovation, innovation requires deviation from the status quo. How often? So for you viewers, listeners, think about this question. How often does innovation require deviation from the status quo? 50% of the time, 75% of the time? No, it's 100% of the time. So anytime there's innovation, whether it's incremental, it could be some like incremental marginal gain, or maybe it's a big breakthrough, it doesn't matter what it is, it always requires deviation from the status quo. There's got to be some constructive dissent. There's got to be some creative abrasion. Someone's gotta challenge the way we do things in order to create innovation. If that's true, then we are going to be very concerned about the conditions that we need to foster to allow that to happen behaviorally with the members of the team or the members of the organization. That's the culture that we have to have to create an incubator of innovation.

0:03:04.3 Junior: Part of the assumption in everything that you just said and in what I've said so far is that innovation is a social outcome to a large degree.

0:03:13.9 Tim: It is.

0:03:14.0 Junior: It is.

0:03:15.2 Tim: Well, it's a social process and a social outcome.

0:03:19.2 Junior: Yeah. So let's go back for the fourth and final time to the threat detection slide that you've probably all come to know and love. Threat detection as it relates to human interaction. We're going into an environment. We're scanning it. We're looking at everybody who's there. We're thinking about our past experience outside of that environment, inside of that environment, because both influence. And we're trying to decide, is it safe, is it not safe, as it relates to each of the four stages? And in stage four, when we're doing this threat detection, we're saying, what behaviors fall into that category? Anything that is deviant. I guess deviant is...

0:03:57.0 Tim: No, it's really true though.

0:04:00.1 Junior: It's true.

0:04:00.1 Tim: Yeah.

0:04:01.2 Junior: In a literal sense.

0:04:02.2 Tim: It truly is because we're trying to normalize that behavior. So we're thinking about any kind of challenging of the status quo. Can we do that? Is it safe to do that? Am I going to get chopped off at the knees? What's gonna happen? Right? 

0:04:22.7 Junior: Yeah. So if we perceive that there is punished vulnerability in that environment, we are gonna move into a fear response that's survival oriented. We are not going to challenge the status quo. We are going to keep our hand down and we are going to keep our mouths shut. On the other hand, if we perceive that the environment is safe through viewing the rewarded vulnerability of other people's behavior and my own behavior, I'm going to offer a performance response, which will add value to whatever situation it is that we're in. So when we come down and we look at the model again, this is the crucial difference between contributor and challenger safety, is if I perceive that the environment will reward deviation from the status quo. If I don't, then we can still execute. We can still create value today. I can still do my job, but the deviation required for innovation will not be there. Now...

0:05:27.4 Tim: Well, Junior, we need to talk a little bit about the nature of vulnerability and how it changes when we move up to stage four.

0:05:38.2 Junior: That's exactly where I was gonna go.

0:05:40.2 Tim: Oh, okay.

0:05:41.3 Junior: This is perfect.

0:05:41.6 Tim: Okay. So that's the segue. People often... I'll ask people, so what are you worried about? What is keeping you from challenging the status quo? And they'll say, well, I'm worried about retaliation. I'm worried about retribution. But what kind? Break that down. What does the retaliation and the retribution look like? They're worried about their reputations. They're worried about their personal standing. They're worried about upward mobility potential. They're worried about their jobs. That's what's on the line. So the nature of vulnerability for stage four is...

0:06:31.7 Junior: It's peak.

0:06:32.8 Tim: Yeah, you're at the peak.

0:06:35.4 Junior: We talk about the ladder of vulnerability. You may have either taken the ladder of vulnerability assessment or maybe you've seen the e-book. Maybe you've heard this term. We've used it a lot. If you look at the model, and if you take some liberties, you turn it 45 degrees, it kinda looks like a ladder. We call it the ladder of vulnerability, that your vulnerability increases as you move this way. So think about each stage as a rung in that ladder. You're at stage four, you're on the highest rung. If you fall off the ladder, that presents the greatest threat to you. So you're going to be a little bit more apprehensive the higher up the ladder than you would lower down the ladder.

0:07:17.9 Tim: Maybe a lot.

0:07:18.7 Junior: Maybe a lot. So when you reach stage four and what's on the line, it's not just, oh, you know, the punishment on the end of a question. Maybe we could deal with that. But when it comes to your livelihood, when it comes to your political standing, when it comes to any number of risks, we might say it's not worth it. Even if there's a perceived 2% chance that this goes the wrong way, I'm gonna keep my hand down.

0:07:51.3 Tim: As someone said to me, Junior, the other day, you're messing with my rice bowl.

0:07:55.5 Junior: Yeah. [chuckle]

0:07:56.3 Tim: Right, that's what this is about.

0:07:56.4 Junior: Hands off.

0:07:58.2 Tim: So when we're talking about challenging the status quo, people are thinking about their rice bowls.

0:08:03.4 Junior: They are. What's the definition of challenger safety? To be clear, challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. And we do know that this is a basic human need. Why? Because we've asked a lot of people. We've done a lot of homework, a lot of research, and a lot of quantitative analysis. You feel safe to speak up and challenge the status quo when you think there's a need or opportunity to improve. Humans fundamentally want to improve the situation.

0:08:34.7 Tim: They wanna make things better.

0:08:35.3 Junior: They do. And that's what we mean by innovation. Innovation isn't once in a hundred year, we invent the light bulb or the jet engine. It happens every day and it's incremental. And if you look at it as improvement, I think it opens the aperture and you say, oh, well, a lot of things fall into the category of innovation. But also their change, there're changes to the way that things are today. So if we look at the social exchange, this is where it starts to get even more interesting. Air cover in exchange for candor. What do you mean by air cover? 

0:09:16.6 Tim: Air cover means protection. So if I'm going out on a limb, if I'm taking the risk, if I'm engaging in that vulnerable behavior to challenge the status quo, I want some kind of reassurance that I'll be protected in that behavior. So air cover in exchange for candor. What's candor? Candor is my willingness to challenge the status quo. It's my willingness to take on the way we do things. So that's the reciprocal relationship between me and the leader, between me and the team, between me and the organization. I need air cover and I need the confidence that it will be there when I challenge the status quo. Otherwise, no deal.

0:10:08.3 Junior: Yeah. And candor is ingredient for what? Innovation.

0:10:14.4 Tim: That's right.

0:10:16.6 Junior: Why? Because it's reality. It's feedback. It's unvarnished information. It's the truth. That's what we need in order to innovate.

0:10:28.5 Tim: Or it could be just a contrary opinion that we don't... We don't know if it'll work, but I'm gonna put it out there. Let's think about it.

0:10:36.1 Junior: Absolutely. So a couple of definitions for innovation, a new idea, method, or device. So innovation, you know, another word that's close to innovation? Novelty. I love this tie. Why? Because for the most part, do humans love or hate novelty? We hate novelty. We don't like new things.

0:11:01.0 Tim: Oh, because we don't like change.

0:11:04.0 Junior: We like stability. We like predictability.

0:11:06.8 Tim: Yeah, predictability.

0:11:08.3 Junior: Right? 

0:11:08.7 Tim: Yeah.

0:11:09.9 Junior: We have evolved to become novelty averse. We don't wanna take a risk...

0:11:17.1 Tim: Risk averse.

0:11:17.4 Junior: Unless there's a big payout that has some level of certainty that we're comfortable with. But for the most part, we don't like that. For the most part, we preserve status quo. It makes me think about the mug experiment. Once this is mine, I value it more.

0:11:36.5 Tim: Kahneman's experience, yeah.

0:11:37.4 Junior: I would pay, you know, let's say 20 bucks for this. But once it's mine, it's...

0:11:43.4 Tim: It's worth...

0:11:44.4 Junior: It's worth $40, right? 

0:11:44.9 Tim: $40 now. Yeah.

0:11:47.6 Junior: And I don't want that to go away.

0:11:47.7 Tim: Yeah.

0:11:47.9 Junior: So I've seen this in my own behavior. If I look just on balance, what's my knee jerk reaction to someone saying like, "Hey, I think we should do this differently."? It's like, well, like I know what this is. And that probably has a whole bunch of work attached to it. It probably has a whole bunch of friction. It probably has a whole bunch of negotiation attached to it. There's all this stuff that like maybe I don't want to deal with. Now, I think largely I've been able to overcome that, but still like the knee jerk reaction to novelty is like, maybe not. We want some variation in life, but we also don't love novelty. So here's another way to look at this. So the Latin from innovation is innovat, which means altered or renewed. So...

0:12:45.4 Tim: Fascinating.

0:12:46.0 Junior: This is fascinating. Altered or renewed. Not from nothing, right? Not net new, it's derivative.

0:12:57.5 Tim: It's derivative.

0:12:57.6 Junior: It's incremental.

0:12:57.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:12:58.7 Junior: So it means that we take something that exists and we tweak it. And that rarely happens in isolation. It's a collaborative process. But this fundamental logic can't be overstated. Organizations live and die by what? Competitive advantage, right? That competitive advantage is not, well, depending on where you are, it's very durable or not, but it is not permanent. We know that.

0:13:26.5 Tim: Yeah.

0:13:27.2 Junior: So if competitive advantage is achievable but not permanent, and it is based on innovation, and innovation is based on deviation from the status quo, we know that...

0:13:39.7 Tim: We've got work to do.

0:13:41.9 Junior: Any competitive advantage we hope to achieve will be based on a deviation from the status quo.

0:13:47.5 Tim: That's right.

0:13:48.4 Junior: And if we have an aversion to novelty and we constantly punish any deviation from the status quo...

0:13:56.7 Tim: We're in a deficit position.

0:13:56.8 Junior: We can no longer achieve durable competitive advantage.

0:14:00.5 Tim: So the only source of sustainable competitive advantage goes back to culture because everything else is on an amortization schedule.

0:14:09.7 Junior: Exactly.

0:14:10.6 Tim: The ice is melting. What's the rate of the melt? It's all melting, right? All of your sources of competitive advantage are melting. Some are melting fast, some are melting slow. So it takes us back. So if we know that innovation is the lifeblood of growth, which it is, which we need to be able to continue, it takes us back to the culture, specifically psychological safety, more specifically, stage four challenger safety, where we establish, we normalize constructive dissent. We normalize challenging the status quo.

0:14:49.0 Junior: So here's another piece of the argument to psychological safety and innovation. So we're talking about the mechanism of psychological safety being rewarded or punished vulnerability. Are we likely to get more deviation from the status quo if we reward it or we punish it? If we reward it, we'll get more of it.

0:15:10.7 Tim: That's right.

0:15:10.8 Junior: If we punish it, we'll get less of it. Now, is the punishment and the reward for deviation from the status quo more technical or cultural? Cultural.

0:15:22.0 Tim: Yeah, it's cultural.

0:15:23.9 Junior: By a mile. So if you walk through all of those steps of logic, you find that your cultural inputs translate all the way through your competitive advantage. I can't see a chain in that logic that's deficient or even non-obvious. Each of those seems to be fairly obvious to me. So if you have aspiration to build a durable organization, good longevity, good innovation, high-performing teams, you can't get around the fact that there's a cultural element that you have to come to terms with. Because what's the alternative? Let's say we're gonna ignore the cultural element, right? We're gonna focus exclusively on the technical. Well, what are you sacrificing? You're sacrificing ideation, you're sacrificing curiosity, you're sacrificing discretionary effort, you're sacrificing every input for predictable innovation. And you may only be able to coerce a little piece of innovation here...

0:16:32.4 Tim: Here or there.

0:16:32.5 Junior: Or there.

0:16:33.3 Tim: That's about it.

0:16:34.3 Junior: But it's not gonna be enough for you to stick around very long.

0:16:37.3 Tim: No.

0:16:38.3 Junior: Right? And this is true for organizations of any sort, in any industry. This is true of governments and civilizations. You see that things live and die based on this fundamental mechanism of reward and punishment.

0:16:52.8 Tim: So what that comes back to is the basic way that we interact on the team, in tech team, cross-functional team, whatever it is, but it comes back to the actual way that we interact. So we, Junior, we did a Harvard Business Review article last year, and the chief finding as it relates to stage four challenger safety and creating innovation was this, when it comes to innovation, the quality of interaction regulates the speed of discovery. And we landed on it, there's no way around that. The quality of interaction regulates the speed of discovery. How important is that? 

0:17:45.0 Junior: Ultimately.

0:17:47.1 Tim: It's the valve that turns on or off the innovation. Comes back to the norms that govern the way we're interacting.

0:17:58.2 Junior: It's all important. So what are those norms that should govern the way we interact? If we look at this slide, here's what we want to achieve. Cultural flatness, creative abrasion, tolerance for candor, and constructive dissent. So what should we try to get rid of? Everything that fights against these things, right? 

0:18:18.1 Tim: Those things. Yeah.

0:18:20.1 Junior: If we can't have creative abrasion, what are the norms that are producing that outcome? Go kill those. If we have intolerance for candor, let's get rid of that. If people don't feel safe to dissent, you gotta get rid of that. If we are terribly hierarchical, we gotta get rid of that too. Especially culturally.

0:18:39.7 Tim: The authority bias.

0:18:41.5 Junior: Yeah. We're not gonna like flatten the entire organization. We understand that. There's a chain of command. But culturally, we can become quite flat. And that... I mean, maybe that's a distinction that you could enlighten us a bit over here. Cultural flatness.

0:18:57.1 Tim: Well, yeah, cultural flatness is massively important. In organizations, large complex organizations, we have hierarchies and we need hierarchies, we need a division of labor, we need roles and responsibilities, we have all of that, we need all of that. But what develops culturally is what we call an authority bias, so we over-value opinions from the top, we undervalue opinions from the bottom, this becomes a massive problem when we're trying to innovate, so we need cultural flatness. If we establish cultural flatness, what does that mean? That means that we become more agnostic to title and position in authority, we are able to create an idea meritocracy, where we can debate issues on their merits. Once we get to that, then we're neutralizing the liability of the hierarchy, Junior, and that's when we have the opportunity to create a true incubator of innovation.

0:20:06.7 Junior: Let's talk about this next slide. This is one that seems to grab the attention of a lot of people, this idea.

0:20:15.7 Tim: Yeah.

0:20:17.5 Junior: The idea is that there are two types of friction, intellectual friction and social friction, these are different, a lot of people might say, well, we don't want friction, and they conflate these two things. They think they're the same.

0:20:34.5 Tim: Yeah. It's all friction.

0:20:35.6 Junior: No, no. Different. Intellectual friction, we're debating ideas on their merits, right? This isn't an interpersonal argument, it's argumentation that's based on something.

0:20:48.5 Tim: Ideas, logic, data.

0:20:51.1 Junior: Exactly. Social friction is different, that is interpersonal conflict, that's... You and I have a problem, and many people have not figured out, it's hard to do, and not that you just figure it out once, it's an ongoing effort of separating those two things, right? We're going to decrease the social friction over here, and we're going to increase the intellectual friction over here, we're gonna be able to have had hitting dialogue about the issues, about the data that we're looking at. I may have a contrarian point of view, you may be ready to die on a hill about this thing, and we can talk about that without it becoming a personal issue, it's a skill and it's an organizational skill.

0:21:38.3 Tim: Yeah. Well, let me point out, Junior, that the intellectual friction and the social friction are mortal enemies, it's not that they just don't like each other, they're mortal enemies, and it's very natural when the intellectual friction rises... Now, by the way, let me also say this, the intellectual friction is our raw material for innovation, for solving difficult problems, creating new solutions, making breakthroughs, the intellectual friction is what we use, there's no other raw material, this is our raw material, but as that rises, there's a tendency for that social friction to rise at the same time. Why? Because we're human. And so what do we do? We get defensive. We take things personally. We're touchy, we're territorial. At some point, if that social friction is allowed to rise along with the intellectual friction, it will shut it down, and we come to impasse, logger heads. We're not going anywhere. So the teams that come to mastery here, it's incredible. They keep the social friction down while the intellectual friction goes to high levels, that's the defining characteristic of a team that creates an incubator of innovation.

0:23:12.7 Junior: I think probably everyone listening has been in environment where social friction was high, and hopefully people have also been in an environment where intellectual friction was high and social was low, and had been able to experience that and see that and come out of a meeting where like, whoa, that was... It was a hard-hitting meeting, but we're all still good, right? 

0:23:39.5 Tim: And look what we accomplished.

0:23:41.8 Junior: Yeah, look at the raw material that we have for innovation, maybe we walk out of that meeting with a new idea that we're going to test a path forward, and then hopefully that will eventually contribute to our competitive advantage.

0:23:54.7 Tim: That's right.

0:23:55.5 Junior: I've seen this happen too many times to ignore the fact that this is an absolute pattern, that when social friction goes up, it has an antagonistic relationship to intellectual friction, and that intellectual friction will go down. All right, so let's move into the behaviors, how do we move from theory to practice regarding stage four challenger safety, respond constructively to dissent and bad news, this is one of my favorite behaviors from the behavioral guide, I think that if there's a single mechanism by which a leader could destroy challenger safety or increase it? , I think that this could be it. Think about what's going on here. If somebody comes to you and has a dissenting point of view or they bring really bad news, you have some options available to you, you can immediately spiral and go into havoc mode where everything is on fire. Everything is horrible. This is gonna be awful, I can't believe you brought that to me, and we just allow it to blow up the world.

0:25:06.0 Junior: Alternatively, we could respond constructively and say, thank you for bringing that to my attention. And I didn't know that. I appreciate you bringing that. What do you think about it? And delay the impulse or get rid of it entirely to go into havoc mode. So this one I've seen leaders do really well, I've seen leaders do really poorly, and what I have seen as a pattern, is if you respond destructively to dissent and bad news, you stop getting it, but that doesn't mean that it goes away.

0:25:39.1 Tim: Junior, I wanna point out though here that even if you give an indifferent response, kind of a lukewarm response, it softly sensors your team. Your emotional response to bad news and dissent are crucial. You're setting the tone and everyone is watching. These are critical cues that people are following, so even, not that you're even shutting someone down, but even the soft, even the indifferent response is destructive.

0:26:19.6 Junior: Yeah. So you have to take incredible care to respond appropriately with the right emotions, with the right body language and ensure that that is pegged out...

0:26:29.5 Tim: That's right.

0:26:29.8 Junior: On the side of reward, is not something that's going to happen by default. Okay, so let's move to the next one. Reward shots on goal. Reward shots on goal. Why is this one important for challenger safety? It means that...

0:26:47.0 Tim: By the way, what's a shot on goal? 

0:26:49.8 Junior: A shot on goal...

0:26:50.0 Tim: No, some people may not know where that comes from.

0:26:53.3 Junior: Yeah. We have a huge number of UK listeners. Everybody in the UK knows.

0:26:58.6 Tim: They know.

0:27:00.7 Junior: They know. [chuckle] This comes from football or soccer, depending on where you're listening, and in soccer, if you kick the ball and it's within the frame of the goal, that's a shot on goal, it doesn't mean that it's gonna go in, right, but it's on goal.

0:27:16.8 Tim: It could go in.

0:27:17.4 Junior: It could go in. It may get blocked, right? But it could go in.

0:27:20.7 Tim: You're on target.

0:27:20.9 Junior: You're on target, but there may be something that gets in the way. So reward shots on goal. We chose this one carefully, the words are purposeful, it's not just reward shots, because those shots are of varying quality. A shot on goal means that there's some good potential, that it's gonna be good if it's just flying out there and we have no chance of it being productive at all, we're not saying just take infinite shots all the time, just, that's the best. But on goal. It's an important qualifier, I think. What do you think, do you think the on goal is an important qualifier? 

0:28:06.8 Tim: Yeah, I do, but sometimes we don't even know if it has potential at the beginning, and so I think we have to be very open-minded initially, and we have to allow people to put their contrary points of view on the table, their divergent thinking on the table, and let's give it some consideration.

0:28:26.1 Junior: Yeah. Maybe on goal isn't the perfect phrase, maybe something else would be better, let us know if there's something better. Here are some quotes for you. Wayne Gretzky, you can't score if you don't shoot. That's about as straight forward as it gets. I love that one. Michael Jordan, the more shots you take, the more likely you are to score. Okay, fair.

0:28:47.2 Tim: I feel that these athletes are saying the same thing.

0:28:49.9 Junior: Yeah, well, here's Messi.

0:28:50.0 Tim: Okay, what does Messi say? 

0:28:52.1 Junior: If you're not taking shots, you're not going to score, it's simple math.


0:28:56.0 Tim: These are penetrating glimpses into the obvious. They're all saying the same thing, which is, you gotta go for it, you gotta try.

0:29:04.6 Junior: Yeah. And these are not three people who are random, who know nothing and they're all taking shots. They're the best.

0:29:12.4 Tim: These are three GOATs in their respective sports.

0:29:16.8 Junior: Yeah. So I think that... I throw that in humorously, but also it's true. That's why it's funny. I think that if you take that seriously, you have to come away and say, well, am I taking shots, right? Am I taking shots, do I take...

0:29:34.7 Tim: Am I challenging the status quo? 

0:29:36.3 Junior: Enough shots, right? Are we as an organization taking enough shots? Well, if we're not taking shots, then we're not going to score, if we're not putting forward ideas and challenging the status quo, we're not going to innovate, so do we even have enough volume of deviation? Do we have enough ideation? Do we have enough curiosity? Those are all shots. And if we don't have enough of those, well, certainly we're not gonna have the volume for innovation that we're probably going to need.

0:30:03.8 Tim: Junior, that reminds me of, there was a chemist, his name was Linus Pauling, and he won the Nobel Prize twice, twice. And when he talks, he talked a lot about ideation and brainstorming, and he said it's about volume, initially, you've just gotta get the ideas out there, don't critique. Don't judge those yet. Just get them out there. That's what we're talking about.

0:30:32.2 Junior: Yeah, there is an element of volume. You're making me rethink mid-episode, we should change that behavior in the behavioral guide, maybe we should. Maybe this is our own shot on goal, live.

0:30:43.5 Tim: Rewarding shots. Maybe it could be.

0:30:46.7 Junior: Maybe. We always learn in these episodes. Okay, quote from Henry Ford, failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligent.

0:30:56.1 Tim: I love that.

0:30:58.2 Junior: And I think that that has a lot to do with taking shots, because you learn from your shots and you learn, well, this was wide left in this scenario, this is what happened, this is what we can do to tune it up, I'm sure each of those athletes afterwards is saying, hey, here's what we can try again next time.

0:31:17.5 Tim: More intelligently.

0:31:19.2 Junior: More intelligently. Last. Ironically, weigh in last.

0:31:26.6 Tim: Weigh in last. Oh, this is hugely important.

0:31:30.5 Junior: Tell me why.

0:31:31.3 Tim: If you have positional power, I'll never forget being in San Francisco working with a technology company and a team was in the room to present findings and recommendations after six months worth of work on a major strategic priority, they were so excited to be there, they had worked so hard for six months, and they presented their research and their recommendations, and then it was time to debrief and discuss, and the CEO weighed in right off the bat, said some negative things, meeting was over. Meeting was over, no one said anything, and there were the other members of the executive team in the room, they didn't say anything. Why? Because they had been preempted. That's like CEO class course 101. Don't ever weigh in first, don't do that. Do you understand that you dictate the dynamics in the room? Do you understand that you hold positional power? Do you understand that you will censor the team, that you will shut it down, that you will commandeer the meeting by doing that? 

0:33:03.9 Junior: I think that this is one of the biggest levers that any manager could pull at any given time, is weighing in last. I think that this could affect your leadership in double digit percentage points, in a day. I think that you could become significantly higher quality as a leader if you did this one thing. If you think about the ripple effects of this behavior, they are so far reaching, they are culturally so impactful that I really do believe that, not least because I've seen it in my own leadership, I've seen the difference. My tendency is to weigh in early, I like to get in there, I like to...

0:33:43.4 Tim: You wanna get in there, scrum.

0:33:44.8 Junior: It's like, let's go, you know? 

0:33:45.9 Tim: Yeah, let's do it.

0:33:47.5 Junior: That is my inclination. And so over time, I've been able to see, and other people have told me too, hey, that's the tendency. Okay, if that's the tendency and that's working against me, let's try and not do that. And so the times that I have gone in and said, hey, like, knock it off, just wait, wait, go last.

0:34:10.3 Tim: Or at least Junior brings back the distinction between inquiry and advocacy.

0:34:15.7 Junior: Certainly.

0:34:16.5 Tim: So then weigh in with your inquiry.

0:34:19.6 Junior: Yeah. Ask a question.

0:34:21.5 Tim: Ask more good questions. Let's continue an exploration and discovery.

0:34:27.1 Junior: I know for me, I've had more productive meetings when I've done that better, it's all I know, and I've seen that through experiences like the one that you had in meetings that are sometimes high power meetings with clients and people in positional power with a lot of authority, and they dictate the trajectory of the entire conversation in the first 10 seconds, by jumping in or by not, by letting people jump in, and that is a... It's a piece of your role that you cannot get rid of, it's just true, that if you hold positional power, that will work against you in a scenario in which we're trying to collaborate an idea.

0:35:12.3 Tim: So you have to overcome the liabilities of your role.

0:35:15.9 Junior: Exactly. They're inherent. They're baked in, you're not gonna get away from them, no matter who you are, so you have to actively solve for those liabilities.

0:35:26.0 Tim: That's right.

0:35:28.0 Junior: So, is that all we have? That's all we have, challenger safety from theory to practice, respond constructively to dissent and bad news, reward shots. And weigh in last. I've had a great conversation talking about challenger safety, it's one of the areas that gets people most excited, and we've seen that time and time again in our client work, and we've seen it bear fruit in our client work when organizations have been able to move the needle, when they get their PS index scores back and challenger safety is low, and we have intervention and we program and we train based on everything we see in the data, and they get higher challenger safety scores subsequently. They can tell us about the effects that they see day-to-day in a practical way in the ideation, the curiosity, the innovation that happens, and I think that that is so tightly correlated to their performance in the market. I absolutely do, over a long enough time horizon, these things affect your competitive advantage in really, really important ways. So I don't think that we can overstate the social exchange for stage four air cover in exchange for candor, so as you go out and as you manage, as you lead, as you interact with other people, it's ultimately important that you give air cover in exchange for people's candor. What do you think as we wrap up challenger safety? 

0:36:54.6 Tim: I wanna restate the research finding that when it comes to innovation, the quality of our interaction regulates the speed of discovery, so if we wanna go all the way and create this incubator of innovation, we've gotta focus on the behaviors that will nurture stage four challenger safety.

0:37:15.7 Junior: Fantastic. Thank you everybody for your listenership, this has been quite a series, I've really enjoyed recording, I've learned a lot. Hopefully, you all have learned a lot. If you wouldn't mind putting your favorite piece of today's episode or of the series as a whole, that would be very helpful for us to see what worked and what made sense to you, if you have any episode suggestions, anything that you would like to see us talk about, anything in the format that you like, you didn't like, we want feedback, and we're really excited about this new medium because we're already getting a lot more feedback.

0:37:52.9 Tim: Yeah, we are.

0:37:53.7 Junior: It's fun to be able to engage with all of you this way. There are a few downloadables available for you, we've got the complete guide to psychological safety, if you want a fairly comprehensive guide of the things that we've talked about today, go ahead and download that, that will be linked. We've also got the behavioral guide available for you along with whatever else we referenced throughout these four episodes, and the book of course. If you haven't read the book, the four stages of psychological safety, written by Dr. Clark, highly recommend that you do that. If you already have, share one with a friend, share this episode, if you liked it, leave us a review and we will see you in the next episode. Bye bye everyone, take care.


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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

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