132. Lean Into Failure: How to Make Mistakes That Work | Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication...

132. Lean Into Failure: How to Make Mistakes That Work | Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication...
  • Psychological safety is the belief that one can speak up candidly with interpersonally risky content without fear of negative consequences.
  • It is not about being comfortable or not having high standards, but rather creating a learning environment where everyone's voice is welcome.
  • To build psychological safety, leaders should:
    • Make early and frequent references to the nature of the work and why it requires open communication.
    • Demonstrate genuine curiosity by asking questions and listening attentively.
    • Master the pause and respond productively to bad news.
    • Acknowledge and express gratitude when people act vulnerably or share mistakes.
  • How leaders respond to vulnerability and mistakes is critical in fostering psychological safety.

Leader's Role in Creating a Safe Environment (00:05:36)

  • Status and power differences can make it difficult to speak up candidly.
  • A study of intensive care units showed that those with a flat psychological safety pattern had an 18% improvement in morbidity and mortality compared to those with a hierarchical pattern.
  • Leaders can create a psychologically safe environment by acknowledging, rewarding, and being open to those with less power.

Empowering Every Team Member (00:08:27)

  • Team members can contribute to psychological safety by asking thoughtful questions, listening carefully to responses, and being appreciative of others' contributions.
  • Psychological safety is not something that can be achieved once and for all, but rather something that must be worked on continuously by all team members.
  • Feeling psychologically safe includes feeling okay making mistakes and admitting them.

Understanding Failure (00:10:46)

  • Psychological safety is about feeling comfortable admitting mistakes, not necessarily feeling happier about making them.
  • Mistakes are deviations from known practices that will achieve the desired results, while failures are unpredictable negative outcomes in new territory.
  • There are three archetypes of failure:
    • Basic failures: caused by a single mistake, mostly avoidable.
    • Complex failures: caused by multiple factors coming together in an unfortunate way, not avoidable by any single factor alone.
    • Intelligent failures: undesired results of thoughtful exploration into new territory, necessary to gain knowledge and make progress.
  • Leaders should communicate about failures and mistakes in a way that encourages learning and resilience.

Communicating About Failure (00:14:07)

  • Leaders should emphasize the importance of context when discussing failure.
  • Two dimensions of context:
    • Uncertainty: Is there a clear path to success or is experimentation necessary?
    • Stakes: How significant are the potential consequences of failure?
  • Leaders should encourage appropriate risk-taking based on the context.
  • Failure can be a valuable learning opportunity if approached correctly.
  • The author's former company held "Failure Fridays" where employees could share their failures and learn from each other.
  • The purpose of Failure Fridays was to encourage bold experimentation and innovation.
  • Failures were celebrated as learning opportunities rather than punished.
  • The company's motto was "scary fun," which emphasized the importance of embracing uncertainty and taking risks.

Unequal Opportunity to Fail (00:18:34)

  • Not everyone has the same opportunity to fail.
  • Underrepresented minorities, especially those in senior positions, may feel additional pressure to succeed due to the fear of reflecting poorly on their identity group.
  • This can lead to increased risk aversion and less innovation.
  • Call attention to the problem of unequal opportunity to fail.
  • Commit to creating an environment where people from underrepresented groups have an equal opportunity to shine.
  • Celebrate intelligent failures from underrepresented groups.
  • Work to make intelligent failures less rare in leadership positions.

The Final Three Questions (00:20:39)

  • Amy admits that she doesn't have a healthy response to failures, whether they are intelligent failures or basic failures caused by her own mistakes.
  • She tends to ruminate rather than reflect on her failures and has to constantly catch and correct herself.
  • Amy admires Nikolai Tangen, the head of the Norwegian growth fund, for his exceptional communication skills.
  • She highlights his ability to ask good questions and create a platform for leaders and CEOs to share their wisdom and messages effectively through his podcast.
  • Clarity: Take the time to think through and be clear about the message you want to convey.
  • Caring: Remind yourself that you genuinely care about the audience, the work, and the goals you're trying to achieve.
  • Commitment: Bring passion and enthusiasm to your communication to convey your dedication and commitment to the subject matter.

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