Self Awareness, Leadership and Organizational Success
As I wrote in part 1, as leaders become more attuned to their strengths and weaknesses and the impact they are having on others, while also considering the influence of context, they'll be more able to change their behavior in the moment and optimize their effectiveness.
Being aware of their strengths and weaknesses can help them focus their efforts and energy.
Staying tuned in to their impact on others, in particular emotions and how they display these, can help leaders stay connected with how their approach might be affecting engagement, relationships and trust.
Speaking of trust, I concluded in part 2 that self-awareness helps build trust in teams.
Trust and psychological safety in teams is the foundation for all of the other elements of high performance. And better performance means greater contribution to organisational success. (See part 2 for a brief explanation of the difference between trust and psychological safety).
Which leads us into the topic for this final piece: the contribution of leadership self-awareness to organisational success.
The relationship is indirect, but still important. The leaders of the organisation together play a critical role in creating the culture of the organisation. The combined and cumulative effects of their varied styles, preferences, attitudes (for example towards failure and errors, conflict, engagement and learning) and of how they work together as a leadership team, permeate throughout the organisation.
Individual leaders need to be aware of both how they ‘show up’ with the teams reporting in to them, as this contributes to the culture of these teams, and also how they ‘show up’ in the context of their role within the leadership team.
And the leadership team as a whole needs to be aware of how it ‘shows up’ to the organisation. The leaders together can help create a culture of psychological safety so that it becomes possible to learn from failures and errors as well as successes, ultimately boosting organisational performance.
Edmondson’s research shows that psychological safety is a key part of what differentiates performance in workplaces ranging from hospitals and government agencies to financial institutions. Google conducted their own (now very well-known and widely quoted) large-scale research project into what makes teams great, which they code-named: Project Aristotle. Of the five factors Google identified as contributing to team success, psychological safety was top, helping teams perform and innovate (Duhigg, 2016; Google).
Knowledge and innovation can flourish in a psychologically safe culture, because it feels safe for people to contribute their ideas (Edmondson, 2019). Yet a 2017 Gallup poll found only 3 in 10 employees strongly agreed with the statement that their opinions count at work.
If this shifted to 6 in 10 employees, this could lead to 27% reduction in turnover, 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.
As Edmondson (2019) puts it: “Imagine what could be accomplished if the norm became one where employees felt their opinions counted in the workplace. I call that a fearless organization.”
I’ll finish by sharing these top tips for building a psychologically safe culture which values self-awareness, a growth mindset and ‘black box thinking’:
- Make activities that build self-awareness a priority – both at an individual, team level and leadership level
- Examine how the organisation’s leadership conceptualises failure – aim for a shift from viewing it as embarrassing and to be avoided, to educative and the path to improvement
- Ask questions about whether the organisation’s systems and structures are set up to systematically elicit ideas and concerns
Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. The New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html Accessed 10 February 2020.
Edmondson, A. (2019). The fearless organization. Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Gallup. (2017). State of the American Workplace Report. Gallup: Washington. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx Accessed 11 February 2020.
Google, Understand team effectiveness, re:Work. https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/understanding-team-effectiveness/steps/introduction/ Accessed 10 February 2020.