I know it’s easier said than done but it sure is up a committed leader’s alley. A fearless organisation is one that provides psychological safety, encourages open communication, and makes it safe for all employees to fail. Of course, I don’t mean failing deliberately but doing one’s best while embracing failures as and when it comes by reframing them as learning opportunities.
If it sounds too ideal, let me assure you, it’s not. Most companies don’t really look at day-to-day operations this way. I believe it’s the most practical way to set an organisation up for success. A lot, however, depends on the top boss(es) who needs to step into leadership and be facilitating this change. And that means be open to learn new ideas, insights, and strategies from not just experts but his/her own team! The best way to do that is by asking them for inputs, actively listen, and admit that you don’t have all the answers.
It goes without saying, getting people to share their thoughts and ideas openly is a challenging pursuit. You can’t want into a cabin and ask for ideas. (It’s weird and just too much pressure!) Instead get into the habit of routinely asking thought provoking questions that allow them enough time and space to reflect and think creatively. This simple act can establish a culture of participation and adding knowledge share sessions, workshops, and creative focus groups to the mix further enhances the whole experience.
While the above supercharges the way everyone communicates and innovates in an organisation, nothing comes closer to enhancing psychological safety than how a leader responds to big, fat, massive, and ugly screw-ups. And they happen all the time. In fact, a true test of a leader is how they respond to such situations. I know some companies throw parties to celebrate them, literally, while others sack their teams.
While the latter might give you a sense of satisfaction and control in the short term in the long haul, however, it’s a waste of talent, a missed opportunity to reframe failures into learning opportunities and reshaping culture. At the end of the day, if the people at workplace don’t feel safe being themselves, you’re doing a shoddy job as a leader.
Set them free — let them screw things up but most importantly, lean on them for ideas, insights, and initiatives and see the magic unfolding. It’s a leap of faith and impractical for most companies but it’s the most effective way to operate today and onwards. And you wouldn’t know if it works unless you try.