Research Backed Approaches to Leadership and Team Dynamics with Dr. Will Ramey, The Leadership Dr.
Leading by example includes acknowledging that you are not perfect. Leaders that build inclusion and model psychological safety will set the conditions for psychological safety to emerge within their team. I share one of my own bouts with perfectionism and share three ways you can start to model psychological safety for your team. Let’s jump in!
Perfection can be the enemy
We have all heard a variation of the quote “perfectionism is the enemy of…progress, good, creativity.” I personally like Mark Twain’s summation, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Perfectionism can drive you to achieve great accomplishments, but it can also paralyze progress for you and your team.
The world of work is changing, so must how we lead. A leader cannot be an omnipotent being that has all the answers all the time. Believe me, you will burn yourself out and ruin relationships striving for perfection. Early in my career I thought I needed all the answers before I could lead. During a training exercise when I was learning to lead in the Army, we were on our objective. I was put in charge of the operation. Things were going well. We were on our objective a little longer than planned. I wanted to ensure everything was done just right! Then the simulated artillery fire came in. The scenario started to change, and I wasn’t prepared for it. Perfectionism drove me to feel the need to have everything done right. I wasn’t listening to my team or accepting their ideas on trying different approaches. Our team got stuck on the objective, we couldn’t adapt quickly because I thought I needed to complete the first mission perfectly…or so I thought.
I realized then what I really needed was to access the collective knowledge of my team. I needed to have relationships with my team members and understand their needs. We needed to be able to continuously try, assess, adjust, and execute. If my team was only moving forward once something was completed perfectly, we would fail. Embracing this idea meant I needed to take down the façade of perfection and model psychological safety.
How to Model Psychological Safety
Leaders who model psychological safety in their own behavior create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. By being vulnerable, showing empathy, and actively listening to team members, leaders can build trust, open communication, and create an environment where everyone feels heard.
But how do you model psychological safety in your own behavior? Here are three tips to get you started:
- Be a role model for your team by being open and transparent in your own behavior. Share your own vulnerabilities and mistakes and show that it’s okay to not have all the answers.
- Show empathy and actively listen to your team members to create a sense of trust and understanding. When team members feel that their ideas and concerns are being heard, they will be more likely to share them.
- Encourage feedback by being out and about with your team. Be curious and open to learning from them, then actively seek out feedback from your team members. Show your team that you value their input and are willing to make changes based on their feedback.
For a deeper dive into creating psychological safety check out the book The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson
It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress
You don’t need to be perfect. Start modeling psychological safety in your team. By being a role model for openness, empathy, and feedback, you’ll create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, leading to increased engagement, reduced turnover, and improved team performance.
Remember that leading by example and modeling psychological safety is not only beneficial for your team, but also for you. You can open yourself up to learn and grow from the feedback and ideas of the team.
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