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

Stage Three: Contributor Safety

On this week's episode of the Culture by Design podcast, Tim and Junior continue the series with Stage 3: Contributor Safety. Why do we hate being micromanaged? And what does that have to do with psychological safety? This episode is full of moments of introspection where you can ask yourself, do I allow others to create value?

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Episode Show Notes

This series is based on Timothy R. Clark’s book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.

You can purchase your copy here: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Or download a free excerpt here: The 4 Stages Book Excerpt

Tim and Junior define contributor safety (01:00). Contributor safety satisfies our fundamental human need to create value. It's the perfect blend of autonomy and accountability, freedom and guidance.

The social exchange of contributor safety (5:00). When we create contributor safety for others, we empower them with autonomy, guidance, and encouragement in exchange for effort and results.

Why do we hate being micromanaged? (9:15). Tim and Junior explain why micromanagement gets on almost everybody's nerves and why we crave autonomy and freedom.

A leaders contribution vs. an individual's contribution (14:35). Leaders have to be willing to let go of the reins of execution and find fulfillment and value in innovation. 

The Micromanager vs. the Absentee Landlord (19:45). Micromanagers don't know when to stop offering guidance and trust their employees to do their job. Absentee Landlords aren't willing to offer guidance and direction while expecting perfect outcomes.

Contributor safety introspection questions (23:40). Junior asks a series of questions and asks listeners to crack themselves open and figure out where they fall short in the world of contributor safety.

Discovery and advocacy (27:25). But when you’re willing to ask more than you tell, you transfer those core critical thinking skills to your team instead of keeping them all for yourself. Letting go of the reins means that you transfer not only the execution aspects of the job, but also the fulfilling parts of the work at hand: outcomes, success, discovery, and deliverables can be transferred too.

Tolkien's contributions to contributor safety (39:35). Tim shares a quote from famous writer J. R. R. Tolkien.

How coaching affects contributor safety (41:00). Microcoaching and accountability are fundamental skills that any leader has to acquire in order to be successful in dynamic business environments.

The three levels of accountability (44:10). In any team, individuals may work under three different levels of accountability–task, process, and outcome. Those who work at task-level accountability need to be walked through every aspect of the job. Once a team member shows that they can complete tasks sufficiently, they graduate to process-level accountability: tasks can be strung together in a predictable, consistent process and they will still know what to do. The third level of accountability is where good employees can become influential innovators: outcome-level accountability. Here how we get our work done, how we accomplish our tasks, and how we manage projects and processes don’t matter so much. It’s all about the outcome. 

Episode Transcript

0:00:02.5 Producer: Welcome back culture by design listeners, it's Freddie, one of the producers of the podcast, and today's episode is part three in our four-part series on the four stages of psychological safety. Today we cover contributor safety, which covers the fundamental question, can I add value? This is one of our most comprehensive resources on contributor safety to date. I'm excited for you to listen. If you haven't listened to part one, inclusion safety, or part two, learner safety, you can find links to those episodes in today's show notes. And don't worry, you don't need to have listened to those two episodes in order to get value from this episode. If you'd like to jump ahead in this series or refresh inclusion safety or learner safety, you can pick up the book, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety by Dr. Clark. We'll include links to that in this episode's show notes. Thanks for listening and thank you for your reviews. Enjoy today's episode on stage three, contributor safety.

0:01:07.1 Junior: Welcome everyone to episode three of this four-part series, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety. Tim, welcome back. It's good to see you again. Hey, thanks. Looking forward to the discussion.

0:01:18.4 Tim: Today we're going to be talking about stage three, contributor safety.

0:01:22.2 Junior: If you didn't have an opportunity to watch the first two episodes of the series, we would highly encourage you to do that. And as always, if you'd like to do a deeper dive, you can read the book, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety authored by none other than Dr. Clark, who is here with us today. So Tim, let's start off today by laying some groundwork and defining stage three, helping everyone understand what it is, and then we'll get into why it's important and how to develop it. But let's start there. Let's define it.

0:01:51.4 Tim: Right. So stage three, well, we talked about stage one, inclusion safety. Stage two, learner safety. So now here we go to stage three, contributor safety. Contributor safety means that you feel safe and are given an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. Now, let me just say a little bit more about that. This stage is about creating value. This stage is about being given the opportunity to make a difference, to have what you do matter, to do meaningful work. So just think about that, Junior. How deep is the human need to do meaningful work? How deep is the human need to create value?

0:02:42.2 Tim: There's an unrelenting drive that human beings have to make a contribution, to be part of the team and to carry their weight and carry their load. That's what this stage is all about. Think about stage two. Stage two is learner safety. Okay, there's a need to learn and grow, but you're not going to be fulfilled if you're just learning and growing. You've got to do something with that. You've got to apply what you have learned and you've got to make a difference. That's what this stage is about.

0:03:16.2 Junior: And as part of the premise, that's very, very important. If that assumption isn't true, then the rest doesn't matter. No. I can't think of a single example where this hasn't been present in someone in some form or another. It's baked into us, as you say. It's hardwired. It's innate. It's inherent in our experience. And I have never seen an exception to that. And I think about my own life and when I've been most satisfied, most engaged in the times where I haven't, if that ability to make a meaningful contribution isn't there, then very difficult to be satisfied.

0:03:51.5 Tim: Yeah, you don't want to stay with it. No. A simple example would be just if you played on a team of some kind when you were young in sports. So think about this. You're on a team of any kind, basketball or soccer or whatever, and you're a member of the team and you practice, but you never get to play in a game. How do you feel? Not good. What if you went through the whole season and you went to every practice and you practiced hard and conscientiously and you never got to go out on the field and play in the game? That's not going to work. And you probably wouldn't come back next year. No. At some point, you're not going to keep doing that because you're being denied the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. Now, you may not be any good and you may realize that, but you're going to go find another avenue where you can create value, where you can matter. That's what we're talking about.

0:04:52.4 Junior: So we've talked about the social exchanges for the first two stages, and this one's a little bit different. So the social exchange for contributor safety is autonomy with guidance in exchange for results. We've talked about the other two stages being entitlements, that we're entitled to the respect of other people. If we're human, we share that common bond. As humans, we're owed an opportunity to learn as long as we engage in that learning process. But help me understand, there's something different about contributor safety.

0:05:28.1 Tim: Right. So with contributor safety, you've entered what we might call the performance zone. And what that means is that, so if you go back to that exchange, the exchange is the team, we will give you an appropriate level of autonomy and guidance and support and role clarity in exchange for what? Results. So it's at this stage that you have to deliver the goods. You have to perform. There have to be results. The nature of the exchange has changed in a fundamental way. The reciprocation is that you deliver value. And if you don't deliver value, then you are not entitled to as much autonomy. So the autonomy is never free. This is a very important concept. Sometimes people think they're entitled in organizations to autonomy. They're entitled to self-manage. They can kind of do what they want. Not true. Organizations function on the basis of the principle of shared accountability. This is how organizations run. And so your autonomy should be proportionate with your ability to create and deliver value, to contribute. So your autonomy is never free. That's just something that we need to reflect on and internalize. Junior, if you don't mind, I want to read just a quote from the book, The Four Stages, that kind of brings this all together.

0:06:55.7 Tim: Because last time, in the last episode, we talked about stage two learner safety and the human need that we have to learn and grow, and how important it is to satisfy that need. Now we're saying we're moving to contributor safety and the nature of the human need has changed. What is the need? The need is to contribute, to make a difference, to do meaningful work. Let me see if I can explain the transition from stage two learner safety to stage three contributor safety in a way that makes sense. I just want to read this quote. Contributor safety, this is from the book, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety. Contributor safety is the full activation of the social contract. Once the individual graduates from trainee status, they expect to be treated like a full fledged member of the team. And the organization expects a meaningful contribution. So there's the exchange. If learner safety is the stage of preparation, contributor safety is the stage of performance. Crossing over to contributor safety is the signal that it's go time, that the team is trusting you to perform in the role it has given you. The organization is expecting you to carry your load and perform competently.

0:08:26.8 Tim: So do you see that transition to stage three? Do you see that makes sense to people? You're going from preparation to performance. It's time to go. It's time to contribute value. It's time to make a difference.

0:08:40.5 Junior: It's no longer owed. It's earned. You got to earn it. So if you think about the social exchange, the more performance I give, the more value I create, the more autonomy I get.

0:08:52.6 Tim: That's right, you earned it.

0:08:54.2 Junior: The less value I create, the less autonomy I will have. That's right. That leads us into a fascinating part of the conversation for me, which is about this level of autonomy. And there's a spectrum of autonomy. Let's say that I'm delivering close to no value. Or let's just say that I'm in an environment in which I'm not being given autonomy, even though I've demonstrated an ability to perform. We often call that micromanagement, don't we? There's no autonomy. I want to go down this road for a second and talk about micromanagement. So what is micromanagement? It's when a manager, a leader, someone feels the need to control aspects of their employee's performance, job responsibility to an extreme degree, right? Yeah. Yeah, they're over controlling.

0:09:52.7 Tim: They're over controlling. They're over controlling. They're limiting. They're constraining. And it's unnecessary. That's why we call it micro.

0:10:00.8 Junior: Yeah. Part of the reason I wanted to start here is because it seems like we've all had experiences with micromanagement and probably on both sides. We've experienced it on the receiving end. We've experienced it on the giving end. And so we're all familiar. This is common territory for all of us. We know what it looks like.

0:10:21.2 Tim: We know. But why do we all know that? It's a great question. Because it's a pathology in the human family.

0:10:26.7 Tim: That's right. That's right. We have people that get into leadership or management roles and they hold people back unnecessarily. They're getting in the way. They're the obstacle. They are stunting the growth of the people. So I just have to smile because you said we all understand this. We do. We've all been there. We've all experienced it to some degree. To some degree.

0:10:53.4 Junior: Wow. I've yet to meet someone who hasn't. Yeah. And part of the reason that I want to bring this up is to then ask the question, if we all know what it is and we all don't like it, then two questions, I suppose. Why don't we like it? And why does it exist? Why is it so prevalent? In your opinion, what is it about micromanagement that we don't like?

0:11:20.5 Tim: We're being denied the opportunity to satisfy the need that goes with stage three contributor safety. Contributor safety satisfies that basic human need to be able to make a difference, to be able to make a meaningful contribution. You're being denied that.

0:11:36.5 Tim: Who likes that? You're trying to satisfy a basic human need and that human need is not going to go away. You're not going to be content. You're not going to be satisfied. The micromanager pats you on the head and says, I love you don't touch anything. And you're going to be satisfied with that? Never. No. You're never going to be satisfied with that. Because you have the ability to do more, the potential to do more.

0:11:58.2 Junior: It speaks to the fact that it is a universal need because it's so common and we dislike it so much and yet it's still so prevalent. And so to me, it ties back into that original logic that it's a universal need because when it does not exist, we do not like it one bit. So this need to contribute, it's baked in, it's hardwired, it's innate. And I think we can also agree that we've all felt what it feels like to achieve something and to give a meaningful contribution. We can all think sometime where we did something that was meaningful, it was worth doing, and when we finished it, we felt good. And that achievement cycle is a separate conversation, but I think that it's a relevant point. I can't think of a single time where I achieved something that I would consider meaningful, that I gave my time and attention and my energy and didn't feel satisfied after the fact. I can't think of a single time. And so these all point to the idea that this is a universal need. It's something that we all participate in. So that's micromanagement. That's on the far side of no autonomy, if we're thinking about the spectrum.

0:13:14.2 Tim: And before we move on, Junior, let's just talk a little bit about where that comes from.

0:13:17.9 Tim: So if it's so universal, if it's so pervasive, if everyone's experienced it to some degree, why? People are insecure. They want to control. There's an overabundance of ego. All these things are coming into play. And so we have this pattern. You can take any employee population at about any organization and you will find some micromanagers. Now some of them, well, there's another pattern that we should talk about. Some of the micromanagers are extremely well-intentioned, good, benevolent people. They don't understand leadership. They just don't get it. They don't understand that leadership is about leverage in the organizational sense and that they should be striving to scale, influence, and impact and become a force multiplier. But they're not getting that. And that's a tragedy because they don't understand the fundamental concept of what they do for a living. Their job, when you become a manager of people, then the nature of your contribution as an individual shifts. It shifts from direct to indirect. Now if you're an individual contributor, you're contributing directly. But as I say, when you become a manager, the nature of that contribution shifts from direct to indirect. Now you're contributing through others. There's a skill transition that needs to accompany that, but there's also a psychological and an emotional transition that needs to accompany that so that I, emotionally and psychologically, I rejoice in the success of my people.

0:15:00.1 Tim: And their success is the measure of my success. What we're saying is micromanagers often, they didn't get there. They're not there. They haven't made that transition, that psychological transition, let alone the skill transition. And so unfortunately, there are many people that occupy management roles and formal leadership roles, but they don't know how to contribute through other people. And so that accounts for the micromanagement.

0:15:31.6 Junior: And I also don't think, to be fair, that it's blatantly obvious the second that you transition as an individual contributor to a management role, it's not immediately obvious how exactly you should transition and how that will affect your behavior. And so to give those people credit that are really trying, but they're a little bit too far that direction on the autonomy side, I think about the four stages model. And for those who aren't familiar, there are two failure patterns. One is exploitation, the other is paternalism, which is a little bit of what we're talking about right here. And there are different ways that this shows up, but often that paternalism is well-intended, but we're not giving people room to do what they need to do in order to feel satisfied and meet this need.

0:16:24.2 Tim: That's right. We're not giving them the room and the space and that's what they need. So there may be some people here and there that are so risk averse or scared, frightened. Maybe they've been through a lot of trauma, who knows? And they won't gather their agency. They don't feel that sense of self-efficacy and they won't go out and try things. So they're immobilized, they're paralyzed. And there are a variety of reasons that could account for that. On the other hand, sometimes if you have been micromanaged for a long period of time, it becomes very dangerous because you develop patterns of passivity and we know that it develops patterns of dependency and learned helplessness. So there are real dangers, real significant consequences that are associated with micromanagement. It's not benign. It's not, oh, that's fine. That's just that person's style. That's just their approach, but it's no big deal. It's actually a big deal. You're holding people back.

0:17:33.1 Junior: So there's a reason that you put the qualifier with guidance inside the social exchange, autonomy with guidance in exchange for results. Why is that qualifier important and what would happen if we took it out?

0:17:46.5 Tim: Because we're not just releasing you to go do whatever. We're giving you guidance or giving you direction or giving you support or giving you parameters. And with all of that comes accountability. And so it's not just this directionless liberation. So just go, just go do what you want to do and how you want to do it. No, no, no. We have to provide guidance based on who we are, what we stand for, what our strategy is, what our values are, what our priorities are. So there's gotta be guidance and direction. That's part of the social exchange. So if you just leave people be for indefinitely, you're not doing it right. No. So that's the opposite end of the spectrum. So we have micromanagement over here and we've talked about that. And we've talked about the potential, not just adverse, but sometimes catastrophic consequences that can come from that. But at the other end of the spectrum, we have the absentee landlord. That's the way I would frame it, Junior. I love that language. If we give you unbounded autonomy and there's no guidance or even just very little guidance and support and direction, then that leader, that manager becomes an absentee landlord.

0:19:09.6 Tim: Now you're not going to feel the exact same kind of frustration that you would feel under the hand or the thumb of a micromanager, but you're going to feel frustration. It's just going to be a little bit different. Yeah. Now you've got a leaking dishwasher, pink walls and seven dogs. Okay. There you go. So you're frustrated under the regime of absentee landlord because you don't have the guidance and the direction that you need to do what, to go fulfill the need to make a meaningful contribution. But in this case, the pathology is different. You need sufficient guidance so that you can make that contribution, that you can create that value and you're not getting it. And so you're absolutely frustrated under the leadership of an absentee landlord. How does that feel? So the theme of an absentee landlord is not there, don't care. That's it. That's what it's like. Not there, don't care. And you're trying to flourish and thrive in that environment. You don't know where to go. You don't know what to do. You don't have milestones, markers, metrics, guidance, or maybe you have very little, but it's not sufficient. So there's real anxiety and angst and frustration that will accompany that experience.

0:20:38.5 Junior: I think it's an important part of the conversation because once people understand that they can move too far on the spectrum towards micromanagement, their tendency is to swing back the other way, but there's the possibility of swinging too far where now you're two hands off. We're not providing the guidance necessary. We can also point out that this could be done benevolently as well or with good intention. In an effort to not micromanage, we swing back the other way and say, well, we want to give space. I want to give autonomy. And so I think that that is appropriate motivation, but we can't forget that it is possible to move too far in the other direction where now we're not giving the guidance necessary for people to really have a good idea and solid understanding of what they need to be doing.

0:21:26.4 Tim: That's a really good point, Junior. Yeah, that's a really good point.

0:21:29.1 Junior: So let's talk about the leaders for a few minutes specifically. And I want to ask eight questions. And I think it would be appropriate for each of us to think about the answers to these questions as they relate to our own professional work. The first question, do you collaborate effectively with other members of your team? Do you respect only the high achievers and highly educated? Or do you recognize that answers and insights can come from some of the most unlikely people? Can you be genuinely happy for the success of others? Do you empower others without micromanaging them? Have you ever withheld contributor safety from someone when they have earned it? Do you freely share your experience, knowledge, and skills? Are you emotionally advanced beyond needing to hear yourself talk? Do you see the potential of others on your team? Each of those questions strikes at the heart of contributor safety. And the answers to these questions will help us understand where we are and what we might need to do to get better. Because invariably, there will be gaps in our answers to some of those questions. Can you be genuinely happy for the success of others?

0:22:43.9 Junior: Maybe we're not quite where we want to be. Maybe that's an area that we can focus on. Do you freely share your experience, knowledge, and skills? I know that that's something for me that I've had to work on because I feel like I've earned these. I've earned this knowledge. I don't want to just dole it out. But what does that do to the team? Right? What does that do to the performance of the team? It hinders it. It restrains it. And so I think each of us can't answer 100% in the affirmative to all of these questions. So I wanted to sprinkle those in because I think that they're important. We need to approach this topic. And the other stages as well with a high level of introspection and be willing to put ourselves on the table and examine our shortcomings and where we're doing really well. But I think each of us is probably not smack in the middle of the spectrum or probably leaning or have a tendency to lean one way or the other. And it's important that we think about that so that we can then go address it and become better.

0:23:47.8 Tim: That's a great question and we should ask listeners to ask this diagnostic question of themselves. So on the spectrum between micromanagement at one end and absentee landlordism, is that a word? Sure. At the other, where do you lean? So think about a midpoint on that spectrum. Do you lean towards micromanagement? Do you lean towards being an absentee landlord? Ask yourself, do you need to make adjustments? Now here's the other thing. Let's also acknowledge that you will adjust based on the individual that you are managing and the level of direction and guidance they need and the level of autonomy they are demonstrating. So it's not going to be the same for every person, right? You have to adjust, but your natural style and approach, where is it? Do you need to adjust? And then Junior, I wanted to go back to one of those questions that you just talked about and let's explore this a little bit. So one of them was, are you emotionally advanced? Would you go over that question again? Are you emotionally advanced beyond needing to hear yourself talk? It's a little poke. So let that sink in. Are you emotionally advanced beyond needing to hear yourself talk?

0:25:13.6 Tim: Now the reason I want to spend a minute on this is because here's another distinction that we could make in leadership. We spend perhaps most of our time doing a couple of different things. One is discovery, the other is advocacy. Think about this. So when you're interacting with people, you're often doing discovery, which is you're learning, you're asking questions, you're exploring, you're experimenting. So that's discovery. On the other side of the ledger, advocacy, meaning you're advocating a point of view, a decision, a course of action. Much of what we do can be put into these two buckets, discovery and advocacy. So here's another question for you for self-reflection and self-inventory. Do you lean too much on the advocacy side? And do you need to shut up? Do you need to speak less? Do you need to engage in more discovery, more leading through questions than answers? So let me give you another spectrum to think about in your mind. And the spectrum goes from tell at one end to ask at the other. So representing discovery and advocacy. So discovery would be associated with asking and telling would be associated with what, advocacy. So where are you on this?

0:26:40.9 Tim: And do you need to chill out a little bit? Do you need to lead more with discovery? Do you need to settle down on the advocacy? Why? Because if you lead through other people, if it's indirect contribution, then you're trying to draw people out. You're trying to liberate your people. You're trying to help them develop their potential and make their fullest contribution. Well doesn't that mean less advocacy and more discovery? I think so. I don't know how many leaders I've been with that they can't stop talking. They'd love to hear themselves talk. They take all the airspace and they lack the self-awareness to even understand that they need to back down, like stand down. You're a leader of other human beings. You need to adjust your pattern. So that question in particular, Junior, really gets my attention.

0:27:35.7 Junior: It gets my attention too. And it takes my mind to a follow-up question, which is if I find myself on the side of the spectrum of those two that I don't like, I'm telling a lot and I'm advocating a lot. What can I think about? What can I do? What questions can I ask so that I move down the spectrum toward the end that I want to be on? Because it doesn't seem as simple as, well, just tell less, just advocate less. What's the motivation behind my current position on the spectrum and what might I need to do that's more fundamental to help me move across? That's where my mind starts to go.

0:28:19.1 Tim: Well, I think you're right. You have to ask the why question. Why am I where I am on the spectrum? What is motivating my behavior? Can I engage in metacognition? In other words, think about my thinking, think about my behavior, reflect on why I am behaving the way I am. So we need more self-reflection.

0:28:42.3 Junior: What do you think some of the answers to those questions could be? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why might people be doing what they're doing?

0:28:50.1 Tim: I begin with, well, I was taught that way. That's the pattern that was modeled to me. That's what I've seen forever. That's how I was acculturated. That's how I was socialized. And I just haven't been reflective. I'm not very self-reflective. I just said, oh, this is how you do it? Okay. Let's perpetuate the patterns that came to me.

0:29:13.9 Junior: Would you go so far as to say that those are the default patterns?

0:29:17.5 Tim: I would say yes. Until you become reflective enough to understand what you're doing, you will likely perpetuate the patterns that you inherited. You'll just keep them going. Instead of stopping the train and working through what I would call systematic self-reflection. And that's really what it's got to be. You have to be very deliberate in this process.

0:29:43.3 Junior: You're probably not going to stumble into high discovery, high ask. Some people are probably more that way by nature, but it's probably also true that the majority of us aren't and that the default will be out of all of the motivation that we've talked about previously to fall into telling and to fall into advocacy. One of the things that I think about is that I see a lot, and maybe I felt this way too, myself is I'm in this position as leader. I need to defend this position as leader. I need to help everyone else understand why I'm here as leader. I've seen this a lot. What does that mean to that person that's behaving that way? It means that I need to have all the answers. I need to be right all the time and everyone else is subordinate. I'm here for a reason. You all need to know why. So I'm going to give you all of the answers and I'm going to keep talking so that I'm not questioned about it. And keep reinforcing that. Exactly. Because let's say that you do the opposite. If someone who's insecure about those things all of a sudden doesn't have the space to talk, it's like, well, how can I demonstrate my competence?

0:30:53.8 Junior: When that's the very reason you are in that position is to lead indirectly through other people. The expectation is not that you have all the answers. The expectation is that you find the answers through collaboration with the team, through more brains. That's right.

0:31:11.3 Tim: And today, well, I would label what you're talking about, Junior, the Imperial model of leadership. So that whole mindset, that whole paradigm is that you as the leader are the Oracle. You are the expert. You are the repository of answers. Come to me. I'll give you the answer and dispatch you. Okay. How viable is that model in a highly dynamic environment? A, from a competitive standpoint. B, how viable is that model in allowing people to satisfy their basic human need to make a meaningful contribution and to create value at capacity? Excuse me? That model is antique. It is antiquated. It is outdated. It is obsolete. Now that doesn't mean that you're not going to give sufficient guidance and direction. Remember the spectrum. We're not going to go to absentee landlordism, but to think that you have to constantly fill the airspace to reinforce your status and these artifacts that the organization has given you, title, position, and authority is nonsense. Stand down.

0:32:26.1 Junior: Oh, and history is littered with examples. We don't have to go very far to see how broken the model is.

0:32:33.8 Tim: Right. So the collaborative, inclusive, empathetic, compassionate model, it's not weak. It's not weak. It's courageous. It's strong. It's hard. It's hard. It's hard because you have to get over your own insecurities. That's not easy. This is a hard model that you want to come to mastery on this model. This is the quest of a professional lifetime. This is no easy thing.

0:33:02.8 Junior: And how many leaders can we point to that embody those adjectives that you just listed? Not many. Not many. And we have thousands of years of history to look back on, which I think is proof of just how difficult it is. And so there's something motivating about just how aspirational it is to come to mastery here. Yeah. I love that frame and that lens to look through. If there's something that you want to set on a pedestal out in the distance and work for, that would be up there. If you can do that, wow. Imagine what it would be like surrounding you. Imagine what it would be like to work with a person like that, to collaborate, be on the same team and work toward the same thing with someone who does those things and embody those characteristics.

0:33:53.8 Tim: May I share a statement? So I know that you are very fond of Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. And I became very intrigued with Tolkien when I was at Oxford and learned about the great friendship that he had with CS Lewis. But this is part of the call to adventure in the ultimate sense. And Tolkien, he makes this quote, and this is a Gandalf quote. He says, it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the sucker of those years wherein we are set up, rooting the evil in the fields that we know so that those who live after may have clean earth to till what weather they shall have is not ours to rule. But what is he saying? Live clean earth to till. So get rid of the baggage. Get rid of the patterns that have not worked. Get rid of the pathology. Come to mastery in the new, with the new model of leadership that is inclusive, that is empathetic, that is compassionate, that is courageous. And how hard is this? The ultimate call to adventure, I would say.

0:35:17.4 Junior: Yeah, I don't know if I can say anything after a Gandalf quote.

0:35:20.2 Junior: May as well wrap it up here. Thanks, everyone.

0:35:23.2 Tim: Isn't that a good one?

0:35:24.1 Junior: Oh, it's fantastic. It's incredible. It is. It is. There's a lot that I could say about that quote. It's on the short list of best of all time in my book.

0:35:36.9 Tim: It is. It's incredible. But that's what we're talking about. It's so motivating. This is stage three contributor safety. Get out of the way, but provide enough guidance. Don't be a micromanager. Don't be an absentee landlord. Realize and acknowledge that people have an unrelenting drive to be able to create value and do something that matters. So your job is to help them do that. That means that you've got to overcome a lot of the insecurities that afflict you in your own life before you're able to do that effectively. Yeah.

0:36:12.7 Junior: You got to leave the shire. You got to go on the adventure. I really liked that. Thanks for sharing that. So to bring it back to some of the practicality, I want to talk about a model that we use a lot about accountability, because I think this will help provide guidance for all those leaders who are trying to figure out, well, how much autonomy do I give? You mentioned that it's different with every individual and that you need to adapt to the person on the other side of the table. Let's talk about that for a few minutes. We've talked in the past about coaching as a lever and as a tool that each of us has to influence. So tell us a little bit about coaching and why you feel that way.

0:36:57.3 Team: Coaching is the primary skill that a leader uses to enable their people. Coaching, coaching, coaching. This is what we do. And if it's that important, then let's understand what we're trying to achieve through coaching. I can identify at least two primary objectives for coaching. So when we say, well, we need to coach our people. Yes, we do. And we're trying to enable them to make their highest and best contribution. This is what we're talking about today. Stage three contributor safety. Well, how do you do that? As a practical matter, if we deconstruct coaching as a skill, what are we trying to do? What are we trying to accomplish? I think we're trying to do two things. Number one, we're trying to transfer critical thinking skills and critical thinking responsibility. We're trying to build, we're trying to nurture critical thinking skills, and we're trying to transfer critical thinking responsibility to that person, to the coachee, to the person that you're coaching. Number two, you're trying to transfer accountability. These are the two primary objectives in coaching. Transfer critical thinking, transfer ownership, which is accountability. You got to own it and you need to be able to do the critical thinking.

0:38:18.8 Tim: Now let's just go back to what we were talking about with the tell to ask continuum, Junior. If I'm telling all the time, how much critical thinking am I transferring to the individual? Very little, because I'm doing the thinking. I've done the analysis. I've drawn the conclusions and I've said, this is what you need to go do. The person's not doing very much critical thinking. I've created a passive relationship. Now I'm breeding that dependency and that learned helplessness. I want to do the opposite. Transfer the critical thinking. You do as much of that. You carry as much of that burden as possible. I'm going to ask you questions. I'm going to facilitate that discovery process. It's joint discovery, but you're going to do most of the work. I'm asking you these questions so that you can gather data, you can synthesize, you can analyze, you can draw conclusions and you can say, well, this is what I think we should do. That's transferring critical thinking. Transferring ownership now is all about accountability. Which one do you want to jump into? Should we jump into accountability?

0:39:27.8 Junior: I'd like that. Let's do it.

0:39:29.7 Tim: Okay. Accountability. Let's think about accountability. Accountability happens at different levels. The basic level of accountability is what we call task accountability. What is a task? A task is a basic unit of work. Think about what we do in organizations and as we work together every day. We do tasks and everything is reducible to tasks. If you can do a task at standard, based on expectations, on time, and come and report back and you can do that on a consistent basis and you create a track record of performance at that level, then you've come to mastery at level one, task accountability. This is the basic level of performance. This is where every person needs to get to. There needs to be a track record. If you can't do that, then some remedial work needs to be done. That means that you're struggling with basic responsibility and follow through. Just basic.

0:40:45.6 Junior: There's no excuse to live there and stay there.

0:40:47.7 Tim: No. That's not a destination. That's no destination. Plus, let's acknowledge that if you perform at that level, if you're struggling with basic responsibility and follow through, what kind of sense of contribution are you going to have for yourself? Good point. You can't get it because the value that you're delivering is not there. This is what will happen. Typically what happens is when people struggle with basic responsibility and follow through and they keep struggling and they keep struggling and they get negative feedback and they take it personally and they're unwilling to put forth a greater effort, then what they do is they retreat to consumption for their fulfillment in life instead of contribution. I'll take a slight detour here. We did an employee survey last year with employees across many organizations and it was global. We asked them a very simple question. In life generally, do you find more personal satisfaction in contribution or consumption? Junior, you know the results to this. Do you want to talk about this?

0:42:00.8 Junior: Yeah, it blew my mind. I thought that it would lean one direction, but it did much more than lean. It was completely fallen over on the other side. I can't remember the exact number, but it was high 90s, wasn't it? Yeah, it was 98, too. Just crazy. I guess it's not crazy. But again, it speaks all the way back to that fundamental premise that we've talked about three different times today, which is that there's a universal need to contribute. 98? 98. That's not-98%. That's not 70. That's overwhelming.

0:42:37.3 Tim: Yeah. 98% of employees across the world said they find a more satisfaction in contribution than consumption. But you can see-

0:42:52.0 Junior: There's dozens of countries. It was a global-

0:42:52.0 Tim: Yeah, yeah, it was. You can see the failure pattern if you don't discipline yourself and motivate yourself to achieve level one, just the basic level of task accountability. There's the temptation to go seeking fulfillment in patterns of consumption, which can become destructive and counterproductive. That's level one. But let's keep going because as you said, Junior, we don't want to stay here. We don't want to pitch our tents here. We're not going to live here. The next level of accountability is what we would call process or project. Now let's go back to what a task is, a basic unit of work. We take tasks and we put them together in a sequence, a repeating sequence. That's a process. Or we take a group of tasks and we bundle them together and there's a start and a middle and an end. That's a project. Then we finish the project and we start another project. There are processes and there are projects where we put together tasks. This is the second level of accountability to come to mastery and being able to lead or manage a process or a project.

0:44:06.8 Tim: Little more complexity, little more breadth, little more depth. Scope of responsibility is bigger now, little more at stake. On multiple levels, this is a harder thing to do, but this is where we want to get to. Level two, project or process accountability. But we're still not done. I would argue that this still is not the destination. We need to keep going. We're going to pass through. We're going to go all the way to the top. The highest level of accountability is what we call outcome accountability. Outcome accountability means you're accountable for the outcomes. If you get to this place, it means that you've already come to mastery at task and project process accountability. We're going to focus on the outcome. The manager is going to say to the employee that's at this level, I want this outcome, make it happen. Then we're not going to spend a bunch of time going through the details of processes or projects or tasks. We will only do that by exception if there's a problem, if there's an issue, if there's a question, if there's a challenge, if there's an obstacle. Okay, we'll step back down and we can work on that together.

0:45:29.3 Tim: But the terms of engagement happen now at that high level. Make it happen. What have we done? We've injected the highest level of autonomy into the accountability. Do we see the relationship between autonomy and accountability? We've given the highest level, the maximum quantity of autonomy into the accountability. That's outcome accountability. Here's an interesting thing, Junior. If you ask most people, if you describe the three levels of accountability, task, project process, outcome, and you say, at what level of accountability would you like to be managed? What do most people say?

0:46:15.9 Junior: Outcome. Yeah, almost every time. Almost every time. Or they want to be. Or they want to be. It may not be where they are.

0:46:22.6 Tim: That's a good point. But it's by far the most attractive to them. That's certainly true. Why? Because that's where the most autonomy is, and they want that. Why do they want the autonomy? Why do human beings want autonomy? Because it gives them maximum freedom, independence, ownership, creative output. So you can see why it's naturally attractive, but to your point, they may not be there.

0:46:53.4 Junior: The ownership piece is really important because you asked at the beginning, do people want to stay at task? No, they don't want to stay at task. Why don't they want to stay at task? Because it's so small that they can't point to it and say, that's my meaningful contribution. Rarely. When they get to level three, outcome, they can point at something that's fairly big that encompasses projects and tasks and say, I did that. That sense of accomplishment exists at its maximum at outcome level accountability. So I think that that ownership piece is really important because you're taking ownership of the outcome and you're saying, because of my inputs, because of the inputs of my team or whatever the unit is, we've achieved this thing. That comes with a high degree of satisfaction. So it makes sense that people would want to end up there.

0:47:45.4 Tim: That's right. And so then let's connect critical thinking to that logic. If I transfer as much critical thinking as I can, that's another way of transferring or empowering someone with autonomy because they're doing the thinking. They have to figure out how to do something. They've got to figure it out. So you're giving them the figure it out responsibility. So there's a whole bunch of autonomy that comes with that.

0:48:15.8 Junior: It makes me think, so I have young children and one of my children, we're introducing the idea of a checklist and we're trying to move through these levels of accountability. So first is task, which would be put that toy away in that place. That's a task. There we go.

0:48:34.0 Junior: One toy in one place, right? One part of one toy in one place. That's where we start. And pretty soon it becomes this project, which is put your toys away. Now the toys are plural and there are locations and hundreds of locations, hundreds of locations. That's right. And then we get into process, right? We do that over and over again. And then we start to combine it with other things. So on the checklist we might have make your bed, put your clothes away, put the toys away, put your dishes in the sink, whatever the checklist is. And eventually we want to move to outcome and the outcome is I expect a clean room.

0:49:18.0 Tim: Right. We're not quite there, Junior. We're not quite there. It's going to take a while.

0:49:21.7 Junior: It's going to take a while. Yeah. But to your point, we drop down to where the person is and say, okay, you've demonstrated mastery of this level or this level. Now let's move, let's work together to get to this next level. And that's where I want to shift the conversation as we wrap up to the individual. Because we're not always setting the terms. We're not always on the leadership side of the equation. It could be, and we always are part of our own ladder moving up toward outcome. So if you're the one who's on the other side of this, what can you do to move up those levels of accountability? And there's a skill element. There's this accountability element. So what does it mean for you? It means get good, become skilled, become skilled so that you can do the work. You can do it effectively. You're competent. You've achieved mastery across a set of tasks. But then it has a lot to do with initiative and accountability. You're looking for the accountability. You're looking to move to that next step. You're showing movement in that direction instead of saying, project, that's good for me. I'm going to stay here forever.

0:50:36.1 Junior: And some do. And I don't know that there's anything inherently wrong with that. Maybe there is. Conversation for another time. But we want to move up. So if you find yourself, as most people do, wanting to be managed at outcome level accountability, ask yourself the question, what must be true in order for that to happen? Well, we need to have a lot of things right. We need to be doing X, Y, and Z. Let's say that you may not have the opportunity or the support as much as you would like. Be so good that you can't be ignored. Become so skilled that it's obvious that this is your contribution. So those are things that start to come to mind when I think about the individual side of the equation.

0:51:16.9 Tim: Now, some people, Junior, and I love what you said, some people still may be struggling with the motivation. Where do I find the motivation to do that? I would suggest that they think about fulfilling the basic human need that they have to contribute. Think about the 98% compared to 2%, contribution versus consumption.

0:51:37.5 Tim: The exciting part of this is that you can go fulfill that need, and that's deeply satisfying to you as a human being. And with that, I would offer this kind of corollary principle, which is don't even think about shortcuts. There are no shortcuts. There's no backdoor. There's no workaround. Don't even think about it. Find the price, pay the price, whatever it is, because that is going to lead you to a much more fulfilling life. There's no such thing as shortcuts. Now there will be that temptation. Don't fall for it. You've got to put in the time, you've got to put in the effort, you've got to develop the discipline, and as you do, the fulfillment that you experience will be greater and greater. You're satisfying that basic human need to make a contribution, to create value, to make a difference, to have your life matter. That need is incredibly deep. So go for that. That's the journey. That is. You'll stumble. You'll fall down along the way. You'll make mistakes. That's okay. Keep going. Keep after it.

0:52:55.9 Junior: Yep. So think about those three. We talked about three different spectrums today. We talked about tell to ask. We talked about, well, maybe there were four, contribution, consumption. We talked about advocacy and discovery, and we talked about autonomy to micromanagement or absentee landlord to micromanagement. We did four. We talked about that's a lot. We talked about a few today. We talked about those eight introspective questions. I would encourage us all to reflect on those four spectrums and where we fall, where the gaps are, and then go attack those with some energy, understanding that it matters and that that's the pursuit, as Tim mentioned, of a professional lifetime. So if you liked today's episode, please share and subscribe if you're not already. And then there are two resources that I want to mention. Leader Factor Note 24, that we talk about how to enable contributor safety, and then the behavioral guide as a downloadable resource with more than 120 behaviors to support each of the four stages. So those will be available as links in the show notes from today's episode. And I would also encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter if you haven't already. That's been going for a very long time.

0:54:16.5 Junior: We send it out every Wednesday. So if you have not subscribed to the newsletter, they are value packed and come out every Wednesday. So with that, we'll go ahead and wrap up today's episode. Thank you for spending your attention with us today. We appreciate it very much. So to all you listeners, thank you. We wish you the best. Have a wonderful day. And we'll be back next week with the concluding episode of this series, Stage 4, Challenger Safety, the culminating stage, the stage of innovation. It's going to be a good conversation.

0:54:48.4 Tim: Yeah, it is. Thanks, Junior. Thanks, everyone. Bye bye. Thanks for joining me today on the Culture by Design podcast. Be sure to subscribe and listen to new episodes every week. And if you'd like to see more of the work we're doing, go to leaderfactor.com.

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Episode Transcript

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