Fear is a powerful emotion: strong enough that people’s fears can kill a business. But a fearless business – one where people feel confident enough to always give of their best – is unstoppable.
As Amy Edmondson says in her book, ‘The Fearless Organization,’ we now live in a knowledge economy, which is all about solving problems and being creative in a constantly changing world. And to survive in this new world, businesses need to be agile, flexible, innovative, fast and to develop new models around concepts such as co-opetition.
It seems, though, that fear is too often prevalent in companies. People are afraid of making a mistake, afraid to ask for help or more clarity on a task, and even to highlight their successes. People are afraid of judgement by their colleagues, and their managers, too. But it’s not just the more junior people that experience this – a lack of confidence often pervades companies from the very top, down.
And it seems that the pandemic, in many ways, made this worse – partly with people being afraid they would join the lengthening list of those laid off, and partly from a feeling of general despair from lockdowns and what seemed to be nonsensical government diktats being imposed in so many countries around the world.
So, with a lack of confidence throughout an organization, how can it be expected to perform in an increasingly demanding business climate: one in which many of the leaders are experiencing issues they’ve never had to face before?
In her book, Edmondson talked about the concept of Team Excellence, citing the example of Google evaluating 180 teams over some years to understand the difference between high- and low-performing teams, and established that the biggest differentiator, by a wide margin, was psychological safety. The teams where people felt it was safe to discuss things that had gone wrong, and mistakes, did so, which led to continuous improvement.
But, of course, feeling psychologically safe is not just about accepting anything that happens. Teams expect that those who, through neglect, carelessness or wilfulness, make frequent mistakes are held to account, as they drag the whole team down. It’s about respect for others, up and down the organization.
Regular readers might remember my post from a year ago, ‘The Power of Accountable Leadership,’ where I cited some statistics showing over 90% of respondents to a research project believed that one of the top leadership development needs in their organisation was the ability to hold others to account effectively, and over 80% felt they had limited to no ability to do so.
Another study, tracking companies over an 11-year period, showed the benefits of a strong culture: they averaged >4x the revenue growth, 7x the net income growth and >12x the stock price growth of those companies without such a culture.
So, the benefits to the business of a strong culture where people feel psychologically safe, and where there is accountability from top to bottom is clear.
As Zig Ziglar so famously said, “F.E.A.R. has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise – the choice is yours.” Which approach does your business encourage?
Perhaps it’s worth revisiting the 10 Principles for a Sustainably Excellent Culture – Beginning With “We” that I summarised in September last year, based on Kyle McDowell’s book, “Begin with WE.”
Building a strong and resilient culture will pay dividends and, as the old African Proverb says, “When the Roots are Deep There’s No Reason to Fear the Wind.”
A meaningful sentiment indeed, especially in these difficult times.
Following a career spanning >50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.
If you’d like to discuss your business strategy, trends, culture, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.
I’d be delighted to talk with you.
If you’d like to learn more, these related posts might be of interest:
- 10 Principles for a Sustainably Excellent Culture – Beginning With “We”
- Top 10 Things Your Business Culture Needs to Focus On for Success
- The Power of Accountable Leadership
- “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs
- The 6 Biggest Fears of CEOs
- What CEOs Need to Succeed in Today’s Changing World
- 7 Biggest CEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
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