Ironically, as digital transformations march towards the organizational efficiencies by implementing automation and transparency-enhancing tools, they are often plagued by severe lack of psychological safety. This is usually initiated by a large amount of changes in relatively short periods of time. Potency and the negative impact is especially high if the organization had remained operational and has a history of resisting change.
How to recognize lack of psychological safety?
Psychological safety is a long-standing accountability gap within many organizations. It often feels a little like the tree falling in the forest. If an issue of this nature is raised to an executive outside of their area, do they get involved? In most cases, it may be the proverbial hot-potato. In the meantime, your organization and transformation suffer from high turnover, on-boarding costs, and low revenue as good people exit. As the word spreads about the company culture, this also leads to failure of attracting good talent.
Usually when I see many cliquey teams engaged in a 'West Side Story'-like dialog during meetings, I know that the governance is lacking measures for promoting psychological safety to enable productive collaboration. Other symptoms involve deliberate lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities by those in the cliques, and fear of approaching such conversations on part of those considered 'outsiders'. This is an assumptions-based model that does not lead to efficiency and success. It does create morale issues, and at its worst, this disables innovation because the ideas, risks and issues do not surface. This weakens an organization from inside out.
Is there a cure for lack of psychological safety?
This post from Adam Grant summarizes it well - however I do think psychological safety is everyone's job. A good governance will provide a mechanism for everyone to include psychological safety in their day-to-day work. This is how infallible cultures are built to survive unpredictability.
Put self-aware leaders in charge. Organizations that have promoted managers based on technical or job skill, instead of leadership qualities will have some work to do. Self aware leaders with emotional intelligence will have the ability to recognize cliques and introduce inclusion within team dynamics at grass-roots level. As an example, when someone tells me that the "relationships" are key to getting work done in an organization, my red flags pop up!
Design incentive plans to promote collaboration and transparency, not just results. Collaboration is the single most effective way to ensure the most impactful and critical items gain attention. Design your initiatives to continuously improve collaboration - often we do the opposite when we require teams to share 'charge code' as currency for conversing.
Direct path to approach decision makers, regardless of a team member's place on the org chart, will ensure gate-keeping does not become an issue when someone on a team has items requiring visibility.
Without psychological safety, innovation plans for post-COVID transformations will remain just that - plans that do not execute and do not enable a transformative vision. Organizations that have seen success on their transformation journeys have done so by deeply caring about their employees and partners, while they work together to deliver results for customers. This symbiotic relationship is the secret for sustaining and scaling success post-COVID.
We can help establish and implement your post-COVID transformation towards success. Let's connect and discuss your specific transformation needs.