Many leaders experience the highs and lows of organizational change without recognizing the significance of connecting the dots for others. An organization in which communication is a one-way affair creates a trust barrier, and trust is at the heart of a healthy workplace.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but when top-down decisions do not reflect bottom-line experiences, someone has missed a vital clue. As well-vested managers default to silence, as their input is discouraged, that survival strategy causes a downward spiral in communication, leading to a toxic work environment.
Awareness Is Key
Although habits are definitively unconscious, they are not beyond our control. Such control begins with self-awareness and a clear understanding of our strengths and shortcomings. High-stakes outcomes require high-stakes deliberation; our habits bear no exception.
It is important to remember the dangers of diminishing behaviors and their significance when it comes to executing change. These have the capacity to impact psychological safety and spoil a culture of brilliance with unnecessary chaos and mistrust.
So how do you ensure that the conversations in executive meetings match the realities beyond the meeting room walls?
How do you design a road map for success — where the good, the bad and the ugly have a place to be effectively communicated?
How do you nurture a psychologically safe culture during change?
In my experience, the road map for success starts with a CAN attitude:
• Communicate your expectations. Focus on instilling inclusive habits that drive a high-trust culture.
• Assess your leadership shadow. Consider how the challenges and derailing habits of your team mirror your own. Examine your habits.
• Nurture collaboration. Promote cohesive behaviors during your daily interactions. Make sure your actions speak to a culture of trust among your team.
Derailers Of Change
In interviews with first-line managers in our work at Mind Market, we observed five diminishing habits within their current workspace:
Seemingly simple, eliminating gossip is one of the first sure-fire ways to establish a high-trust culture. It’s easy to fall into the seductive trap of gossiping when information is scarce or inconsistent. I find that many managers use gossip as a means to build rapport or relate to their team. However, gossip not only derails their career but can also destroy the foundations of a culture of trust. Oftentimes, the team will start to wonder if you gossip about them when they step out of the room. Avoid the gossip trap no matter how tempting the entourage.
Your job is not to judge, so put the gavel to rest. Judging removes your ability to listen and, in turn, creates a hostile work environment. When we’re listening to argue or outsmart the person in front of us, a destructive feedback loop is created. Team members no longer feel welcome to share openly and honestly. Most resolve to silence, some exit in silence, while others create small circles of resistance and wasted effort. Resist the urge to be the know-it-all in the room. Beware of using information to boost your need for control. Make a conscious decision to overcommunicate your listening.
We all know someone who’s consistently negative. Sometimes we are this person. It’s important to nip that negative influence in the bud. When dwelling on what is going wrong, we miss all that is going right. We lose the opportunity to focus on what is true. As a result, the team may feel drained, unmotivated and unwilling to advocate for change. Identify the root cause of negativity and recalibrate the work of high-potential employees who hold a sour taste in their mouths. Channel their energy in the right direction by engaging them in meaningful work. Escort the resolute to the exit lane. They may truly find happiness on the other side.
Misery loves company and complaining is akin to an art form. Obsessive complainers are really good at it. Not to be mistaken with “negative Newtons,” complainers have an uncanny ability to prevent team members from trusting the leader or the process. They hold back the team, preventing them from relying on their intuition or trusting the way they do things. Misery can impact morale in small yet nagging ways. Challenge the “we’re going down” mindset, focus on what is going right, celebrate small wins and fight the downer attitude with a clear path of action.
5. Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Resist the blame game. Let’s face it, it is quite tempting to pass the bug. It is also a career derailer. Blaming is not worth entertaining in the long run. Avoid pointing the finger when your team faces roadblocks. This does not mean staying silent — on the contrary, be sincere. Address accountability challenges with professionalism and respect. Equally important is taking responsibility for roadblocks and gaps that stand in the way of results. Nothing is more detrimental to your reputation than showing up as a victim and blaming your boss or others for your roadblocks.
As with everything, changing one habit takes practice and diligence. Being mindful can help elevate awareness. It surfaces those subliminal behaviors that derail our leadership effectiveness. Neglecting minor blocks is a sure way to create pitfalls in communication. The cost will weigh heavy on your team’s culture.
With clear commitment and a disciplined approach to change, better habits can be sustained in favor of desired outcomes. When promoting a high-trust culture, psychological safety becomes an inevitable vehicle for sustaining positive change.
It’s not easy to manage our own derailing habits, especially when we are encountering changes that seem mindless and time-consuming, with no end in sight. A culture of trust, however, can promote resilience and nurture breakthrough conversations that energize your team to ride through the unwavering tides of change.