Ideas and Insights


Psychological safety is the response that you get

Paul O’Neill and Tim Dalmau recently wrote a paper that outlined the processes that occur inside a person when they feel psychological safety. As a follow-up paper they look at all the forces that can operate in group settings to make individuals unsafe, the process behind it and what we can do about it as leaders.

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Unconscious bias: how to become more aware of personal bias.

The perception of one’s age, gender, gender identity, physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, weight, and many other characteristics are subject to bias by the [erceiver. None of us are immune to having biases, both consciously and unconsciously. In workplaces, it is everywhere but can be particularly impactful with respect to recruitment, and in performance management.

Unconscious or implicit bias is an automatic reaction we have towards other people. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. These attitudes and stereotypes can negatively impact our understanding, actions, and decision-making. They can lead to instinctive assumptions such as a nurse must be a woman, or an engineer must be a man, that men are more credible leaders or those of another race or skin-tone are untrustworthy. In extreme cases it leads to reactions such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ social movement driven by the perceived bias against black people in the US that they are more likely than not to be criminals. In many cases it is so deeply woven into our cultural fabric that it is hard to be aware of it.

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When safety is lost

In this paper Paul O’Neill and Tim Dalmau explore the tricky area of psychological safety and the power of learned patterns of response and the power of filters. This paper is the first of two. Another paper will follow on how we can get rid of these limitations and how those in power can get their outcomes without triggering fear responses.

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How am I being experienced as a leader?

If you ask five different people if they think they are likely to be good leader, then you will get five different answers.  But those different answers will tend to settle out into two different groups; those who assume there are those who innately know how to lead and those who believe good leaders can be trained. It is the old nurture versus nature question in another guise and it inevitably misses a core point.

Such a question often arises at that stage in a leader’s career when they are presented with an increasing number of situations (read subordinates and team behaviors) where they don’t seem to be able to either change the individual’s behavior or remove some pattern of unhelpful group dynamics.

Such contemplations inevitably are framed on the assumption that there are some who innately know how to lead and there are others who have grown to become effective leaders. Such people worry if they are not in the first group, then what are the chances of them joining the second group someday and dealing successfully with troublesome individuals and groups.

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