Stage Four: Challenger Safety


October 17, 2022



About This Episode

What is challenger safety? (1:12) Challenger safety is the fourth and final stage of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. Do you feel like you can be candid about change? Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better.

What does challenger safety look like across industries? (4:00) Whether you’re an executive at an up-and-coming startup in Silicon Valley, a nurse in a state hospital, or a tenured professor at a prestigious university, every job needs challenger safety.

What’s the social exchange for this stage? (8:00) When we create challenger safety, we give air cover (protection) in exchange for candor. Tim and Junior discuss why we should value candor in the workplace. After all, what’s the point of bleached, sanitized feedback?

What happens when organizations try to hide their lack of challenger safety? (16:00) Silence is expensive. When teams claim they have a speak-up culture, but do everything in their power to keep their teams quiet, their ruse quickly becomes obvious. Eventually, the candor will come out.

How do we avoid echo chambers? (20:00) If all a leader wants in a meeting is validation that they already have the best ideas, they should have a meeting with themself. Tim and Junior explain that avoiding the dangerous traps of groupthink involves harvesting the power of candid feedback.

Where does the word innovation come from? (22:00) Junior and Tim are surprised to learn that the Latin root of the word “innovate” means to renew or alter. 

What is pride of authorship? (27:00) It’s exactly what it sounds like: the sense of ownership that someone feels over their idea, solution, comment, or deliverable. It suffocates feedback and encourages echo chambers. 

Is innovation an engagement issue or a culture issue? (34:00) As the precursor to employee engagement, psychological safety creates a culture of rewarded vulnerability that allows innovation to happen.

How do I neutralize the power difference of hierarchies? (40:45) Hierarchy can easily stifle innovation. When superiority and hierarchy dominate your company culture you definitely won’t innovate.

What’s the difference between social and intellectual friction? (46:30) In these moments of collision, a leader’s task is to simultaneously increase intellectual friction and decrease social friction. High intellectual friction lets your team harness creative abrasion and constructive dissent and arrive at real innovation. 

What happens if you fail to have challenger safety? (53:40) You’ll want to hear it straight from Tim and Junior themselves. Listen to the end to find out.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode:

The Psychological Safety Behavioral Guide

LeaderFactor Note #26
HBR Article: Don’t Let Hierarchy Stifle Innovation

Podcast: Don’t Let Hierarchy Stifle Innovation

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