Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

Pt.2 Beyond the Office: Psychological Safety in Personal Relationships

Tim and Junior will pick it up right where they left off and start by discussing contributor safety as it relates to our personal lives. They will continue with practical examples, and you’ll even get introduced to the LIVE model, an acronym to help you recognize and reward vulnerability around you. If you missed last week’s episode, you may consider starting there, because this conversation begins right where that one ends.

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Episode Show Notes

This episode is part two of our two-part mini-series on Psychological Safety in Personal Relationships. Tim and Junior will pick it up right where they left off and start by discussing contributor safety as it relates to our personal lives. They will continue with practical examples, and you’ll even get introduced to the LIVE model, an acronym to help you recognize and reward vulnerability around you. If you missed last week’s episode, you may consider starting there, because this conversation begins right where that one ends.

(0:01:00) Contributor safety–How do we improve? Junior starts the episode with a question: Do you grant others maximum autonomy to contribute in their own way as they demonstrate their ability to deliver results? The level of autonomy that people have should be appropriate to their role and to their performance.

(0:16:27) Challenger safety–How do we improve? Challenger safety is the culminating stage of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. Junior asks the question: Do you consistently invite others to challenge the status quo in order to make things better?

(0:27:20) Your two choices: Change your behavior or change your belief about the behavior. Which is easier? Definitely the latter. But which has a profound impact on the cultures you participate in? Absolutely the former.

(0:33:02) The L.I.V.E. Model. Do you look for, identify, validate, and encourage acts of vulnerability in your everyday life? Tim and Junior explain that this is the mechanism for creating healthy, deep, and resilient relationships.

(0:39:19) Trust and psychological safety. You can’t trust someone who’s unpredictable, and you can’t trust someone’s reaction if it’s not predictable. The same is true for rewarding vulnerability. If you’re not 1000 percent sure that you’ll be met with warmth, you won’t engage in vulnerable ways.

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The L.I.V.E Model

Episode Transcript


0:00:02.4 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddie, the producer of the podcast. Today's episode is part two in our two-part mini-series on Psychological Safety in Personal Relationships. Today, Tim and Junior will pick it up right where they left off and start by discussing contributor safety as it relates to our personal lives. They will continue with practical examples, and you'll even get introduced to the live model, an acronym to help you recognize and reward vulnerability around you. If you missed last week's episode, you may consider starting there, because this conversation begins right where that one ends. As always, you can find the episode show notes at If you find today's episode helpful, please share it with a friend and leave us a review. Enjoy today's episode on part two of Psychological Safety in Personal Relationships.


0:01:00.6 Junior: Let's jump in to Contributor Safety, and let's begin with this question. Do you grant others maximum autonomy to contribute in their own way as they demonstrate their ability to deliver results? So one note to make as we move into stage three is that we're now in what we call the performance zone. So Tim, can you help us understand that distinction? 

0:01:25.0 Tim: Sure. I think it's just a natural sequence. So for example, if you think about learning, learning is the preparation stage. Contribution is the performance stage. So learning always precedes by definition, performance and contribution. You can't contribute, you can't add value, you can't make a difference, if you haven't first learned something. So preparation precedes performance, that's just the natural sequence in life in general, anywhere, anytime. And so that's the way that we look at it. Once you get to stage three, it's the performance zone. Now, of course, learning doesn't ever stop, we keep learning but at some point, you take what you've learned and you contribute, that's what we're saying.

0:02:14.2 Junior: So stages one and two are owed to you, another way to put it. Stages three and four are not owed, they're earned. And so I think that that's an interesting distinction. Once we move into stage three, you'll see this in the social exchange, it's a little bit different than the other two. So the social exchange for stage three is Autonomy with guidance in exchange for results. So that's the exchange of the two parties, "I give you autonomy and I give you guidance, and you give results." If you remember the social exchange for stage one, all you have to do is be human and not present people with harm, and we're obligated to include you. And if you think about the social exchange for stage two, we give you encouragement to learn, and all you have to do is engage in the learning process. You don't earn that opportunity. But here, inside contributor safety, we're at this performance level where now we need results.

0:03:13.0 Junior: We live in a world where results are needed and we're going to give that autonomy to you in proportion to the results that you give us. So if you would like more autonomy, then the performance has to go up inside that exchange, and that occurs on a spectrum. We'll give you a little bit of autonomy, see what happens with that. If we get a little bit of results, awesome, we'll increase the measure of autonomy. But you aren't owed a full measure of autonomy at the get-go. And I think that that's something that people miss often.

0:03:43.7 Tim: It's not an entitlement. There needs to be real clarity about this. As you said, Junior, when you go to stage three, you're crossing a threshold and you're moving into, as you framed it, the performance zone. And again, autonomy is given in proportion to what you're able to do and contribute so that that autonomy is never free. Sometimes people get it mixed up and they think, "Oh, well, you're entitled to autonomy." No, you're not. Autonomy must be earned on the basis of performance and results. So we're going to give you the autonomy that is appropriate based on your knowledge, experience, skills, motivation, track record. And that makes sense, right? Because say you're in a family, say you're with your friends, say you're a member of a team, maybe you're contributing as a member of a performing arts and maybe you're part of a play or some kind of performance. How does that happen? It happens through mutual accountability. That means that the level of autonomy that people have is appropriate to their role and to their performance. And that is as it should be. That's the way that we're able to perform, whether it's a family, whether it's a team, whatever the unit is, it relies on that principle.

0:05:19.3 Junior: So let's talk about the application of stage three to personal relationships. And this is where things get interesting. It may be less obvious than the other two at first blush, but let's get into some of the acts of vulnerability that occur inside stage three. And I think you'll be able to see the parallel. So here's a list. Accepting a challenging assignment, accepting praise or recognition, asking for a specific opportunity or experience, asking for resources, asking for more autonomy, asking for more responsibility, asking for more time, clarifying expectations, communicating bad news, handing over control, holding someone accountable, letting go to allow another person to reach their potential. Restraining from offering unnecessary feedback. Taking time to celebrate achievement.

0:06:10.1 Tim: Wow.

0:06:10.4 Junior: How about that list? 

0:06:12.5 Tim: And you're not done, are you? 

0:06:13.5 Junior: No, not done.

0:06:15.3 Tim: Again, that's another very rich list, but there's a lot more.

0:06:20.3 Junior: There is so much more.

0:06:21.3 Tim: Incredible.

0:06:21.4 Junior: So think about the application of these behaviors in your personal life. Do they apply? Do you see these behaviors happening? I see these happening all over the place. How about taking time to celebrate achievement? Are we doing that? How about letting go to allow another person to reach their potential? Has that happened to you? I see this more frequently than I would like. Restraining from offering unnecessary feedback. How about that one? Let's talk about that one for a second. And I think this one's particularly interesting. Many of us feel like we always need to put in our two cents, and I'm often guilty of this. "I want to weigh in, I want to be part of the conversation. I want to give my point of view." But how often does it hinder the conversation or the development of the person on the other side of the conversation by just constantly giving your point of view? We tie that back to the social exchange, is that helping people move up the ladder in autonomy? Is that enabling critical thinking? Is that giving space to problem solve? Probably not. So that's just one example of where we could potentially hamstring the development of someone by weighing in too early. Very interesting.

0:07:40.9 Tim: Yeah. It goes back to listening. How are you listening? If you think that it's... You've got always got to add your two cents, you've always got to add value. You're actually adding too much value, it's just getting in the way. So one kind of listening is, "I'm listening to respond and I'm anxious and I'm formulating my response." We know that. And the other kind of listening is to listen for comprehension. It's egoless listening. I like that term, egoless listening. That's a different kind of listening. "I am focused on your development, your growth, your contribution. I'm validating you in the process." I'm going, "I'm listening with a different intent." So isn't it interesting, Junior, that in each of these stages, there's a skill side and there's a will side. I find this fascinating. In each stage we've got to bring skill to it and there does need to be skill development, but there does need to be will. In other words, the motivation and the desire and the intent has to be there.

0:08:53.8 Tim: And we have to work on both sides of that to bring it together. And when the skill and the will come together in a beautiful way, then we are able to create and nurture psychological safety in that stage. And you come away from that interaction and you feel good and you feel that influence, that interaction was positive, it was uplifting, it was building. You come away from it feeling that way. So that's something that we need to be looking for.

0:09:25.4 Junior: Well, the skill and will piece is so insightful. And I think about will as it relates to stage three in a question that I might naturally ask would be, do you find yourself wanting to give people more autonomy? That's an interesting question, because if you don't, why not? Does every person desire that more people have more autonomy? No. Some people, if they had it their way, would restrict the autonomy of others. And why might you want that? Because you want control. Why would you want the control? And you can kind of go down this vein of poor motivation in understanding that, "Well, I just might want to make myself feel better about my own contribution, about my own competence or expertise. I may not want to be outshined. I might want to keep things close to me, because I want everything to be attributable to me. I might not want to give credit, I might not want... " And we have these things, these perverse incentives or poor motivation. And so that is a pretty penetrating question. Do you want other people around you to have more autonomy? I hope so.

0:10:40.9 Tim: Can I give you an example, Junior? 

0:10:42.4 Junior: Yeah.

0:10:43.9 Tim: This example comes to mind. It's a fascinating example. After my first year of college, so this goes back a number of years, of course. I went with a friend, actually two friends, and we went four-wheeling. We took a jeep, and we went with my friend's dad. And so we're 18 and 19 years old. We've been driving for two or three years, we can all drive. We're competent drivers. We went to a wilderness area, where we could do some Jeeping. It wasn't difficult Jeeping, it wasn't the Jeep Safari really hard stuff that you do, [chuckle] by the way. It was pretty mild, pretty tame. Anyway, we went for two days and we camped. And not once did my friend's father let any of us drive for two days. We're 18 and 19 years old. We've been driving for a while. We're college students. And I went under the impression that we'd all get a chance to do a little Jeeping, have a little fun. He wouldn't let any of us touch the wheel.

0:11:56.2 Junior: Wow.

0:11:56.3 Tim: Okay. So this raises a question, what is the contribution culture in your family? How do you approach... Think back on your own childhood, were you given jobs to do on your own, after you were instructed in doing that job, and you were showed how to do it? Did your parents stress the transfer of responsibility and ownership? Did you follow instructions in a kind of a rote, systematic check-the-box way? Or were you given the opportunity and latitude and some leeway to figure things out and exercise your own judgment? What was the culture of contribution? This is a very important, valuable question. And what do you do when you're with your friends, when you're at school, when you are with a team, when you are with a social group, when you are with a voluntary association or organization, what do you do? What kind of culture of contribution do you try to establish? This is what we're talking about. What are the norms? Is there a lot of psychological safety for stage three contributor safety or not? Do people err on the side of giving you more autonomy or less autonomy? 

0:13:21.9 Junior: Part of the question that I think needs to be asked here is why do we keep talking about autonomy? Why is that part of the social exchange? Why is it fundamental to this stage? And the premise of the entire conversation is that people want to contribute. Humans having a need to contribute. Once they learn, the next natural step is that they want to apply what they've learned. In general, every human shares this. To go back to the Jeeping example, there's a billboard near our office and it sits right next to a power sports dealer that sells motorcycles and four-wheelers and things of that nature. And it says, "No one likes to be a passenger." And I thought about that, "No one likes to be a passenger." That resonated with me. So you're on this Jeep trip and you got sick of being a passenger. You're like, "Let me get in there."

0:14:20.4 Tim: Yeah, after about an hour.

0:14:21.5 Junior: Yeah, about an hour, two days later. Yeah. You wanted to grab the wheel, you wanted to be in control and you wanted to apply those skills. You wanted to engage in what was in front of you. And if you don't have an opportunity to do that, man, it will stifle your growth. You're not going to be stimulated. You're going to be unhappy and you'll just become stagnant, that's not good for anyone.

0:14:47.4 Tim: No, it's not.

0:14:48.9 Junior: And so that's the inevitable end though of those around us that don't have the opportunity to contribute. And that could be something that we are supporting either inadvertently or explicitly because of some pathology, some perverse incentives or some things that we need to figure out. And so it is a human need, just like the need to belong, the need to learn, you have a need to contribute and that's fundamental to the human experience and it's the next thing in order of operations after learning.

0:15:22.9 Tim: That's true. I'll give you one more illustration, one more example. And this is from a family context. We had a daughter, and this just illustrates how early the need for contribution and autonomy presents itself, manifests itself, that inherent need. We had a daughter, as soon as she was able to speak, as soon as she learned the words, she would say, "Me do it." And she would say that all the time about different things that she was doing during the day. And if you try to intervene or get in the way or help her, she would push you aside and say, "Me do it." Isn't that interesting that at two years old, that deeply seated, inherent need to contribute and have an appropriate level of autonomy is presenting itself, that's amazing.

0:16:15.4 Junior: That's amazing. Case in point, that's not learned behavior at that point.

0:16:20.4 Tim: No, no, no. "Me do it."

0:16:22.1 Junior: Yeah, that's fascinating. Thank you for sharing that.

0:16:24.6 Tim: We need a bumper sticker that says that, "Me do it".


0:16:27.5 Junior: We do. I would buy it. I'd put it on my car. Okay. Stage four, Challenger Safety. This is the culminating stage. So we're going to go through this stage and then we're going to share a practical tool that each of us can use to apply some of the principles that we're talking about today. So hang with us. The question we ask in challenger safety is this. Do you consistently invite others to challenge the status quo in order to make things better? And are you personally prepared to be wrong based on the humility and learning mindset you have developed? So the crux of the issue here, do you consistently invite others to challenge the status quo? Is that an invitation? Is that your orientation? And then the social exchange for stage four, air cover in exchange for candor. You give candor, you give your opinion, and we protect you in your giving of your opinion. Talk to us about this stage, Tim.

0:17:24.6 Tim: This is one that is vital for growth, for change, for improvement, for innovation, for advancing anything that you're doing, anything. Getting better, how do you get better? So let's go back to a fundamental principle. Fundamental principle is this, "Innovation requires deviation." You cannot innovate unless you first deviate from the status quo. You have to upend, you have to disrupt the status quo. Well, what does that require? That requires that someone has to challenge it. So there's a constructive and productive form of dissent that we need to protect and not only protect, encourage, invite, and then when someone demonstrates that we need to protect them in that behavior, as you said, provide air cover. That's the protection.

0:18:22.2 Tim: Now, some people are risk-averse and they may not be experienced in challenging the status quo. It may not be the culture that they've ever lived in. And so they may be deeply socialized to comply, to take things as they are. If they can get all the way to stage four, Challenger Safety, and they can learn to engage in that behavior, it's liberating. It unleashes their full potential. The creative output can't all come to the surface until there's permission for that. There's encouragement for that. And that behavior is consistently rewarded, not punished. And of course, Junior, we've talked about this before, the nature of vulnerability really shifts.

0:19:14.4 Tim: It really changes when you get to stage four, because people are thinking about, "Well, hang on, if I challenge the status quo, what's at stake?" My reputation is at stake. Our relationship is at stake. Opportunities are at stake. Love and support may be at stake. And so for many people in many situations, there's greater risk that surrounds challenging the status quo. But think about how important this is outside of work. Inside of work, it's easy, we talk about innovation, we talk about continuous improvement, we talk about competitive advantage. We talk about getting better and the need to get better always. That's easy. Well, what about outside of work, in a family relationship, with your friends, at school, at church, at your voluntary association? Are you just going to stay in a state of equilibrium? Is there not a need to improve? How about just looking at your relationships? So this really does come into play, doesn't it? 

0:20:19.9 Junior: Absolutely. And the point about deviation really hits me, because what is the inevitable end, if there is no deviation, that the status quo will remain the status quo forever. That's the logic, and it's very straightforward. Unless there's change, unless there's deviation, then we will remain the same. So let's talk about some of these acts of vulnerability for stage four. Again, another list. Admitting that it's time to change, asking a question, a penetrating question, maybe. Asking for permission, permission to experiment. Challenging the way things are done, doing something that is unpopular, disagreeing with someone in power, expressing doubt about a current approach. Offering an opinion based on gut instinct. Playing devil's advocate, revealing a mistake made in the past, trying something new. So those are just a few. And the personal application is so obvious to me. But I want to make the point that often when we talk about challenging the status quo, the first thing people think of are monumental changes.

0:21:23.4 Junior: Big, big challenges like fundamental change. And it may not be. In a personal relationship it may be that we want things to be slightly more orderly. We might want to improve the way that we do the laundry. The food might need more salt. We might think that something someone said hurt a little bit and we want to correct that. And if those things don't happen, then the corrections don't happen, then those things will remain the same. And often people will become discouraged and quiet and they'll suffer in silence and their relationship will deteriorate and they'll just have to put up with it. And where does that lead? Does that lead to a vibrant relationship? No. Does that lead to both parties being happy and fulfilled? No, it doesn't. And so you mentioned the risk of loss. People's perception of that risk is heightened because when you say, "Well, we might risk the relationship itself." In a professional setting, I've seen in the past, where someone might present some real candor and say, "Well, it's in the best interest of the business. And so if you don't like me for it, whatever, at least I get to go home at 5:00. I don't have to deal with you later.

0:22:40.0 Junior: Conversely, you may be in a situation where there's no escaping that, there's no leaving at 5:00 o'clock. It's a relationship that is more permanent, it's more personal, it's more intimate and yet, we still need that type of deviation. And so think about what this means in the exchange, this is what makes it actionable for me. Air cover in exchange for candor, so if I'm met with candor from someone, what do I need to give? Air cover? What does air cover look like? It's acknowledgement of what the person's saying. We'll go through the tool a little bit later, but it's, "I'm protecting you in this feedback." And here's where it gets really interesting I think in personal relationships, at work, the majority of the time, probably safe to say that the candor isn't pointed directly at you, it's pointed at some initiative or the entity itself or the direction we're headed.

0:23:44.4 Tim: Some decision.

0:23:46.0 Junior: Yeah. But in your personal life, more often than not, it's directed at you. And that's why this is so dicey a lot of the time, is you need to be able to acknowledge that and say, "Okay, this piece of feedback is about me." You may not like that. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to get right into defense, to get combative, to dismiss it or deflect it entirely, to ignore it. But it takes some wherewithal, some real character to square up to the feedback, protect the person giving it, even though it's a criticism of you.

0:24:25.2 Tim: I think it's the biggest test.

0:24:27.1 Junior: It's the biggest test that we'll talk about today.

0:24:29.0 Tim: It is the biggest test.

0:24:31.2 Junior: But that is what will enable your progress more than anything else, myself included. And it is a challenge to me, too, to do this better, to do this more often, to square up and protect the person giving the candor. And it won't always be about you and it won't always be pokey, but when it is, that's when it really matters, because if you dismiss, you deflect, you push back, you combat, then what does that tell the person giving the candor? "Okay, this person doesn't want the feedback. It's not... This isn't going to work." And so what happens to their propensity to give you future feedback, it goes down. So what happens to your performance over time? It goes down, because no one's willing to give you any feedback, because they know the predictable end, which is that nothing will change. So think about how dangerous that becomes.

0:25:28.5 Junior: And this has been borne out so many times throughout history, as people ascend hierarchies, and the feedback goes down, no one wants to say anything, they're in a position of power and very quickly they find themselves inside an echo chamber. They cannot see the forest from the trees and they are blind to so much of what is immediately obvious to other people. So when we lose this mechanism, it's one of the most dangerous things that we could ever do, both in a personal capacity and a professional capacity. So we need to protect that candor. I can't emphasize that enough.

0:26:01.9 Tim: Here's a diagnostic question. If you're wondering how well you're doing with stage four, Challenger Safety, in promoting it, in protecting it, in sustaining it, here's a question for you. Just think about this, "When do you feel irritated, when you're interacting? When do you get annoyed? When do you get defensive? When do you get touchy or territorial? When do you take things personally?" The answer or answers to those questions is going to give you a clue about how well you're doing with stage four, Challenger Safety, and promoting it and maintaining the conditions that would allow stage four, Challenger Safety, to flourish. When do you get angry? When do you lose your cool? Ask yourself those questions. When do you feel triggered? That's a word people like to use more and more these days. What's the answer? Because chances are that your emotional response is shutting people down to some extent.

0:27:20.8 Tim: It's limiting challenger safety. It may be just shutting it down. And what we're saying is that nurturing that challenger safety is going to be the key for your own personal improvement and for the strengthening of the relationship. So the symptoms that you need to be tracking to the source, you can begin with symptoms, are the times when you are tipped over emotionally. When you have a reaction, follow that to the source. So start with those symptoms, work backwards, go back to what initiated that reaction, and then ask yourself, "Okay, why did that happen? What am I doing?" And do you need to make some changes? Because you're not going to improve, if we're justifying and rationalizing our own behavior, we're not improving it. You can't do those two things at the same time. You're either changing your behavior or you're rationalizing your behavior. As we say, Junior, you only get two choices. You can change your behavior or you can change your belief that you need to change your behavior. That's all you got, you got those two choices.

0:28:38.6 Junior: And one of them is easier.

0:28:41.0 Tim: Yeah, which one's easier? 

0:28:43.6 Junior: Yeah, changing your beliefs about your behavior is far, far easier than changing your behavior, which is so much of why we are the way we are and why the world is the way the world is. But it it takes some real courage.

0:28:56.3 Tim: Yeah, beware of soothing stories that you tell yourself, because then you're right back to where you were. And there's no change, there's no improvement, there's no progress. Stage four in personal relationships outside of work is very challenging. But this is where the return on investment is massive.

0:29:19.9 Junior: One of the sayings that you often bring up is "The quality of interaction regulates the speed of discovery." And I've been thinking about that as we've discussed stage four. And what do we want to discover in our personal relationships and what is our aim? We want to discover what we can do better. We want to discover the way that we can improve. At least that's the hope, I would hope that that's our aim. And if the quality of interaction goes up, if we're oiling the gears with this type of air cover, this type of protection in candor, then our speed of discovery will increase and will improve faster. And so if that's our aim, I think that that's a really interesting thing to think about. And that's probably my last thought as it relates to stage four. And it relates to the other stages as well, we've alluded to it.

0:30:16.5 Junior: But your intent, your whole orientation toward the interaction is what will dictate so much of this, because we will make mistakes, but people will give you a lot of room, if they see that you're trying, if they see that your intent is there. And the whole orientation has to be symbiotic. It has to be, "I want what's best for you and for me through our collaboration and the improvement of our relationship." And it comes with the understanding that relationships fall into the category of infinite games, not finite games. What's the purpose of an infinite game? It's to perpetuate the game. It's to continue playing the game. It doesn't end. You don't win relationships, you get better and you continue the relationships, you keep playing the game. And so if you approach it with that orientation, I think some of these things will naturally fall into place. Whereas, if you believe that this is something to win, then that will inform your behavior, that will show up very quickly, and then the other person will recede. So not what we want. Any last thoughts about stage four, Challenger Safety, Tim, before we move on to the ladder and the Live Model? 

0:31:31.2 Tim: Yes. One related thought, and that is, and we talk about this a lot, Junior, but "fear breaks the feedback loop". This is something that we all need to think about. It's true in the workplace, it's true outside the workplace. It's true at home, it's true at school, it's true in any social gathering, any social collective, "Fear breaks the feedback loop". Think about how devastating that is. Think about how costly that is. Think about how expensive fear is. Fear is expensive. And so if you're using fear in your relationships, you may be doing it out of your own insecurity and your desire to control. But ultimately, and it may not be now, it may be down the road, but ultimately you will bear the costs of that. You are breaking the feedback loop. You stop getting the feedback that you need, the input that you need, the counsel that you need, and you begin to suffer the effects of isolation. You become willfully blind and eventually there's a compounding effect, the consequences will accrue over time. So I think that's one way to summarize the power of stage four, Challenger Safety, by understanding the full cost of not having it based on that principle, that "Fear breaks the feedback loop".

0:33:02.4 Junior: So that is stage four, Challenger Safety. Let's dive into a practical tool. We know the areas that need work. We've talked about each of the four stages. Now let's dive into application. We have a model that is based on the acronym, LIVE. We call it the Live Model. And the L in LIVE stands for Look, what are we looking for? We're looking for acts of vulnerability. The mechanism on which all of this hinges is whether vulnerability is punished or rewarded. And so this tool is aimed at rewarding vulnerability. In order to reward vulnerability, we first have to look for it. So we're going to look for act of vulnerability and those happen all day, every day. Someone introduces themselves, an act of vulnerability; someone asks a question, vulnerable; someone shares a preference, vulnerable; someone shares their opinion, that's an act of vulnerability. So we're looking around and then we see those things, we identify them and we say, "Oh, there's one, that was an act of vulnerability."

0:34:04.5 Tim: So that's step two, right, Junior? 

0:34:07.8 Junior: Exactly. That's the I in LIVE, Identify. When someone asks a sincere question, identify that and recognize that. Here's how that might play out. If you asked me a sincere question, I might say, "Hey, I realize that was probably a big jump for you to tell me that, especially considering our history." Think about this in your personal relationships, and obviously this applies more broadly, but that's what we're talking about today, is personal relationships. So we're looking around, think about your relationships. Have a few names in your brain, people you interact with all the time. Think about them and your interactions every day. And look, look at those interactions, look at what they're doing, and then identify those acts of vulnerability. What's the V in LIVE, Tim? 

0:34:48.9 Tim: It's to Validate. So we look, we identify the acts of vulnerability, real time, when they happen. And then the V is to Validate. We validate the person that is engaging in that act of vulnerability so they feel seen and heard and understood. We're validating them as a human being in that very act.

0:35:13.7 Tim: So here's some language along the lines of validate. "Hey, it was so helpful for me to see your point of view and I probably would've missed that if you hadn't said anything." That's one of the ways that validation can look in a real interaction. So we say, "Hey, realize that was a big jump for you, that was vulnerable." And then, "It was very helpful for me that you did that. I appreciate that, I would've missed something." And then the E in LIVE is Encourage. We want to encourage that act so that it happens again. "Hey, please keep sharing those types of things with me. I really do appreciate it. I don't know what I don't know, and I really value your point of view." So let's say that I do those three things, I say those three things using the LIVE Model. What do you think the likelihood is of that person giving me feedback of that nature in the future? 

0:36:02.6 Junior: It's high because they came to me with something, it's vulnerable. They're like, "Hey, Junior, this is not going very well. Or I don't like the way that you did this thing. And I'm like, "Okay, hey, thank you for telling me that. That helped me see this, I'd appreciate if you could do that in the future, because I'm trying to get better. And any feedback that you bring, like that helps, so thank you for doing that." And the person bringing the feedback's like, "Okay, alright." So like, "This is how this is going to go. Right on. Awesome." And then how likely is that person to then engage with you the same way, when you have a piece of feedback for them and you can see how this compounds over time in these personal relationships. And if a group of people or two people can engage with each other using that mechanism, it's going to be so much better for everyone involved.

0:36:54.3 Junior: Now, we're not going to bat 1000. I'm not going to do that perfectly every time someone comes with feedback. But the closer I stay to that LIVE model, the better. And it's so simple. That's why I love this model so much, the acronym, LIVE. Just think about that and hopefully it's hard for you to forget. In case it's easy to forget, we'll go ahead and put the model in the show notes, too. You can download it and put it on your desk. Put it somewhere that you see it as a reminder. This has been, I was going to say, terribly helpful. I think that's what I mean. It's been terribly helpful in the best way. Sometimes it hurts, but it's been amazing.

0:37:30.3 Tim: Yeah, let's just go back through the steps again, Junior, just for people. So L, look, look around. Look at the interactions, look at the social dynamics around you. Then identify. Identify an act of vulnerability that should be rewarded. And you'll notice that they're happening all the time all around you, but the trick here is to identify them in the moment, real time without a lag. So that's step two. And then we go to V for validate. We're going to validate that person so they feel seen, heard, and understood. And then finally encourage. We want to encourage them to engage in these vulnerable activities, these vulnerable behaviors in the future, keep doing this. Let's make this a norm. Let's make this a pattern. Let's make this consistent. And if you do that, as you said, Junior, for others, you're giving them evidence. You're giving them a dataset that says, "Oh, if I engage in this vulnerable behavior again, there's a high probability that I will be rewarded for doing that. I'm going to do that." So that risk-reward calculation becomes easy for them, because it's been normalized. It's a norm, it's a prevailing norm in your relationship. And if that can be the case, think about where that relationship will go. It becomes healthy, it becomes strong, it becomes resilient. This is what you want in that relationship. It becomes deeply satisfying, the compensation that you derive from that relationship becomes amazing.

0:39:19.1 Junior: I think about the beginning of our conversation today and talking about trust, and a huge element of trust, as I see it, is predictability. You can't trust someone who's unpredictable, and you can't trust someone's reaction, if it's not predictable. So think about that as it relates to rewarding vulnerability. If you want someone to trust you, you want to trust someone, then this needs to be predictable. They need to know with a high degree of confidence that, "I already know what's going to happen, if I bring this piece of feedback, I already know, because it's happened 1000 times and 999 of those times, it's gone this way." And if you don't have that, let's say, that your batting average isn't as good, that will be difficult and that will bear out in your relationships. And so we need to move that ratio as far as we can to rewarding that vulnerability every time.

0:40:16.1 Junior: Sometimes it will be easy, sometimes it will be very, very, very difficult, and there will be a tremendous amount of incentive to not do it for whatever reason. And so when we find ourselves in that situation, when push comes to shove and we have to stomach some really serious feedback, we need to think about the consequences and what's at stake in that relationship and just generally. So the last thing we want to share with you as a practical tool is the ladder of vulnerability. I've found this to be incredibly useful in some of my own personal relationships. People perceive vulnerability differently. What you think is vulnerable is not what other people think is vulnerable and vice versa. Making a mistake might be the end of the world for you, for someone else might not be that big of a deal. For you, sharing personal information might come very naturally but for the person next to you, that's their hardest thing.

0:41:08.1 Junior: And so the way that we tune our interactions should not... Well, first of all, I guess the assumption is that we should tune it. And that's the first thing I'll say, is that different people are different. They perceive the world differently because of all of their software, because of that socialization, their lived experience. And so you can't treat everyone the same way, this will show up differently depending on who's in front of you. Part of what the ladder does is show you what's vulnerable for them, so that you have more tools. This isn't something that you need to go do with everybody, but if there's a key relationship or two that you really want to improve, that you think would benefit from something like this, we'll put that down in the show notes for free, so that you can do that. You'll get a readout of your own ladder.

0:41:52.4 Junior: The other person can do their ladder and get a readout, and you can compare them, and you can have a conversation about that. "Hey, here's what's vulnerable for me. Hey, here's what's vulnerable for me. It would be helpful, if you could help me with this and vice versa." Those types of conversations are some of the most useful. By nature, they're vulnerable. But that's part of the upside of that conversation in and of itself, is just going through that process. And so hopefully through this discussion, we've been able to communicate the application of psychological safety beyond the office. This is something that pertains to all of us, anywhere there are humans, there is culture, and the culture's dictated by psychological safety. We want these relationships to be high quality for the people we are engaging with and for us, we ourselves, want healthy relationships.

0:42:42.7 Junior: It's how we all thrive. It's how we all progress, learn, feel a sense of belonging, so on and so forth through the four stages. This has been truly a pleasure, Tim, to have this conversation with you. I've had some light-bulb aha moments myself. I hope that you've taken away some things, too. And I hope that all of our listeners have taken us up on that invitation at the very beginning to be very introspective, to analyze their own behavior, their own relationships, and see if there are some things that we can tune up.

0:43:12.6 Tim: As a friend of mine said, Junior, or likes to say, "A life is about relationships, so if you're not doing relationships right, you're not doing life right." There's a lot of truth to that, and that will take you back to psychological safety every time.

0:43:29.4 Junior: With that everyone, we're going to wrap up. Thank you so much for your time and attention. We appreciate your listenership and we're very grateful for all of you, for the work that you do in the world. What you do is important, and we are here to support you. You can always reach out to us We appreciate your likes, your reviews, and your shares. If you found today's episode valuable, please send it to someone you know, that you think would also find it valuable. This helps us get the word of psychological safety out to the world, which as you know, is in dire need of it. So take care everyone. We will see you in the next episode. Bye-bye.


0:44:11.6 Producer: Hey, culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode And if you've found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about Leader Factor and what we do, then please visit us 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 or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design, not by default.


Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

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

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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