At some point, we have all known a “yes” person – maybe it was a classmate, teammate, or coworker who quickly agreed with everything the teacher, coach, or boss suggested. And while their motivation may have seemed self-serving – a better grade, more playing time, or a promotion – it’s quite possible they were just a people pleaser.
Having a team of people who are happy to just go along for the ride might seem gratifying as a leader, but always insisting on your own way can lead to an unproductive team dynamic where others can’t do their best work.
Leadership is about more than simply being in control. Strong leaders motivate their team through influence rather than orders, and consistently invite diverse viewpoints.
By setting a positive example of being open to input, you can begin to foster a psychologically safe team environment where all employees comfortably voice their opinions – even if they don’t agree with leadership. It takes a little letting go, but you’ll quickly see positive changes in your team.
Generating Diverse Ideas
Your team is composed of talented people who not only bring different skills and experience to the table, but also unique perspectives. Effective leaders recognize the value of different opinions, and create a climate that encourages collaboration and invites new ways of thinking. Harvard Business Review refers to this capability as “inclusive leadership, and recognizes its impact on organizational performance.
You never know where the next big idea will come from – but when the floor is open for everyone to respectfully voice their thoughts and opinions without fear, it can spark a creative fuse and fuel exciting innovation.
Silos are Broken Down
In large organizations, it is typical to see silos form. Maybe management seems to favor a commercial function (and its profits) over a back office support function, and this perceived favoritism is felt within the ranks. Lines become drawn when one group seems to have more influence with leadership than another.
For cross-functional leaders, listening to one audience while ignoring another can cause mini silos to form, which can boil up to workplace conflict that is difficult to remedy.
Making sure voices from all teams are encouraged and heard fosters trust in leadership and among co-workers, breaking down the silos and building a culture of psychological safety with a healthy approach to conflict.
Teams Question the Status Quo
One of the greatest rewards of a psychologically safe environment is seeing employees begin to challenge your company’s conventions. So while it may not be easy or come naturally, give your employees permission to raise objections, forge complaints, and meet difficult conversations head on.
Start by asking questions and promoting collaboration. This simple act shows employees that you value their opinion and want to hear their perspective. And when they tell you, remember that challenging your point of view is not the same as undermining your authority.
In too many company cultures, fear prevents employees from calling out issues. When topics are avoided and things are left unsaid, problems have the potential to escalate into full-scale disasters.
At the end of the day, you still call the shots. But shifting from control to influence means recognizing that others may have a solution that you would never have thought of on your own – and remaining open to consider it.
Employees Will Share More Overall
Leaders who invite different perspectives are reinforcing to their team the idea that they will listen to employees. Organizations can offer benefits from 401K to unlimited vacation and free lunch, but none of that replaces the basic human need to be recognized and heard.
While it may start with challenging convention, employees who feel psychologically safe may eventually feel more comfortable having deep conversations about high-stakes issues such as stress, low engagement, and job dissatisfaction. This gives leaders a tool to face these problems head on, hopefully increasing employee retention and improving engagement in the process.
Show Your Team You Trust Them
When leaders want to control everything or only listen to people who echo their own views, they demonstrate a lack of trust while missing an opportunity to leverage differences of opinion into opportunity.
By loosening your grip on the steering wheel and letting others contribute to the trip plan, you build an environment where your team can thrive. It may feel gutsy, but it is well worth the risk.
For help learning to let go and other strategies to build a psychologically safe workplace, explore Birkman’s High-Performing Teams Program.