The Role of Safety In High-Performance Cultures (Season 2021, Episode 13)

First, a definition.

Psychological Safety. That’s the common label for the kind of safety we’re speaking of today. Of course, physical safety is equally paramount. Even in the brutal training of military special forces, safety during the training is stressed. Participants may feel as though they’re going to die as they push to never-before-experienced extremes. But there’s an implicit sense that those around them won’t let them fail to the point of serious injury or death…in spite of the fact that accidents do sometimes happen. Ditto for people in the workplace. Employees must be provided a safe environment in which to perform. Else, they’re going to be fearful and unable to perform. Unless, of course, they’re professional athletes – or police officers, or firefighters, or soldiers, or any number of other occupations that have inherent and obvious risks!

Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

This explains why sometimes people don’t do anything. Or say anything. Too often apathy isn’t the result of anything more than people enduring ongoing discouragement…becoming less and less safe. It’s easier to stand still and do nothing – even if that results in some chastisement. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Why do something and risk an unfamiliar chastisement?

Frontline workers are often silenced because of fear and the reality that nobody wants to hear what they have to say anyway. So why bother?

Why bother?

Trust. That’s the real issue.

Team members don’t trust the boss. The boss doesn’t trust team members.

The group doesn’t trust the guy who is trying to assume leadership. He desperately wants to be in charge, but nobody trusts him – except to be self-serving.

People won’t be honest. Instead, they’ll be nice.

Kindness isn’t the same as being nice.

Friends and even enemies will often be nice. It’s not helpful, but they’ll be nice.

Nice is telling you how sorry they are you’re experiencing something difficult. “I’m so sorry you’re going through that,” they’ll say. Question? Is that helpful? Other than knowing somebody feels sorry for you, it’s not terribly helpful.

Kind is different. “I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time. What actions are you thinking of taking to move forward?” It’s not hateful, but it might be helpful…provoking them to think about and articulate what they might be able to do to improve things. Especially if the conversation continues with valuable back and forth…in a judgment-free zone with a clear emphasis on simply helping the person figure it out.

No dog in the hunt. Unselfish motives.

It’s hard to get. Selflessness in people willing and able to help us without trying to live our lives for us. People whose only vested interest is our very best!

Human capacity to work for one another. With one another. It’s extraordinarily high value. And too frequently hard to find and to accomplish. Because we get in the way. In a word, it’s pride that ruins things.

Years ago, as I observed people (mostly men) who clamored to be in charge, to be the boss, to be the one making the decisions, I watched the destruction of their careers, groups to which they belonged, teams of which they were a member and organizations where they operated. I observed the carnage created by their ego and pride.

The height of the progression is compassion. It seems to me that without compassion – or at least the prospect of it – we can’t experience trust. The kind of trust we need to feel and know we’re safe.

Disinterest is a universal experience. Not just our own, but the disinterest others have in us. All humans crave being heard. And seen. That doesn’t mean we’re all equal in the craving. Some crave being heard by as many people as possible. Others of us just crave being heard by one person. Instagram proves some seek to be seen by millions, which would make others of us cower because we most crave being respected by those we most love.

Trust. Our individual and collective desire to know that what we say and do won’t be held against us forever. We want to know that even if we do manage our way into the doghouse – that is, we’re accountable for our own foolishness and stupidity – BUT, we trust others to let us figure out a way out of the doghouse. Best yet, we know others will help us get out of the doghouse and move forward.

In contrast, most of us know too well how many people surround us who are anxious for us to fail. Hungry for us to get it wrong. Even excited if we’re in the doghouse. Others can figure out why. I have my theories, but they’re all boiled down to pride — the enemy of humility.

High-performance is fueled by safety, not fear.

High-performance is fostered by knowing somebody has our back, versus somebody with a knife aimed at our back.

High-performance is manifested in groups of people capable of discussion, debate, and disagreement because they seek the ideal outcome individually and collectively.

They trust one another. They lean on each other. They value one another.

Every time I’ve seen a dysfunctional or ineffective or inefficient group, team or organization I’ve seen blatant disrespect. Some or all lack trust. They certainly don’t value one another. Instead, they’re quick to judge, even quicker to assume the worst and rely on contentions to express themselves.

It’s corny perhaps, but true for groups and teams…

If my end of the boat sinks, so does yours.

Foolish people don’t think so. So they continue to listen to their pride, making everything about them. Their eagerness to put themselves forward is obvious to others. Safety, if it ever existed, erodes. Conflict often follows because pride fosters pride. “If he’s gonna try to take charge, then I’m going to fight to be in charge.”

Dejection results. Apathy soon creeps in or sweeps in. People give up. They give in. All the creativity, innovation, input, and communication stops. We shut down. We bailout. We disengage. Our ideal short-term option, in such circumstances, is to endure until we can move on. For some, getting way fast is the option. Good people are lost. Potentially good people are stymied, hindered from making the progress they desire.

Tactics don’t work. They might appear to help, but they won’t stick because they’re tactical rather than being genuine.

What matters is humility and concern. People must care. About others and about the group, team, and organization.

The hard part is influencing people to care. How can you help somebody care who doesn’t? I only know to put forth compelling reasons – arguments – that prove the value of caring. But like most things, caring is a choice. Some choose not to care. Except about themselves. I wish I could tell you I’ve discovered ways to convert such people, but I haven’t. Mostly, I’ve found it most valuable to part ways with such people. Get them off the team, out of the group or remove yourself opting to find a more suitable environment for high performance.

So I encourage you if you hold authority, or a position, or a title that makes you “the boss,” tread carefully with your authority. Step up to the leadership call knowing that being the boss and being the leadership are very different things. We may not choose our boss, we all choose who we’ll follow. We follow the people who help us feel safe. Those who make us feel safe enough to follow them, to strive to be more, to express our view of what needs to happen to improve things. Leaders who help us realize that we have an integral part to play make us feel respected, heard, seen, and valued. Bosses who impose their will at every turn discount us, tread on our dignity and weaken our confidence in them, the organization and if we’re not careful…ourselves.

To every leader I’ve ever coached I repeat a few foundational truths. Chief among them is this one.

It’s not about you. It’s about them!

Ideal leadership is selfless. It’s focused on doing whatever must be done – whatever can be done – to serve those who are looking at us to show them the way. In a single word, it’s SERVICE. Without “self” preceding the term.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Persistent Learning (Season 2021, Episode 12)

Persistence is defined as:

• continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition
• continuing to exist or endure over a prolonged period

Learning is defined as:

the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught

High-performing organizations have a superior commitment to persistent learning. A relentless pursuit to figure it out. To closely examine what went wrong, not to assess blame, but to figure out what can be learned. To closely examine what went right, not to assess honor, but to figure out what can be learned. published a report entitled, The 2021 State of Remote Work. I’d encourage you to review it and see what you can learn from it. For our purposes in today’s show, the persistent learning available due to this pandemic grows more evident every day. This is just one report, of many, that have come out of the changing nature of work and workplaces because of the pandemic. Organizations who never thought it possible to have remote work are finding that not only is it possible, in some cases, it’s vastly more efficient, resulting in happier employees. So it goes with learning. Sometimes it’s forced on us.

High-performing organizations don’t wait for external forces to impose learning. They look for opportunities at every turn asking seemingly naive questions. Questions others are too proud to ask. Or questions others may fear to ask. Persistent learning demands a fearless approach to asking questions. Intense curiosity.

The quality of our questions determines the quality of our decisions…and our actions.

Good questions push us to figure out better answers. High-performing groups and teams join forces in asking the questions. They don’t rely on any one person to bring curiosity to the challenge or opportunity. Everybody embraces curiosity. It’s contagious as collectively everybody is working to better understand.

The progression I have used for years has remained unchanged mostly because I’ve not found a better sequence to follow.

Persistent learning requires persistent humility and curiosity. It’s not a one-off, but it’s a lifetime habit.

Guage the level of curiosity among your group or team by measuring the questions that are asked before suggestions are offered. When you do, you may find that people leap straight away to a suggestion. “I think we should…” or “I’m in favor of…” That’s an indication of people who aren’t curious and may be disinterested in learning more so they can better understand.

For many teams, the lack of humility is manifested in self-centeredness. People can easily concern themselves with themselves. They know what they think should be done. They know their own opinions well and may tend to over-value their opinions as superior to all others.

If an opinion is truly high value, then rigorous questioning and discussion (even disagreement) will prove it more so. Defensiveness disrupts the process and stymies the learning. Humility affords us the opportunity to see if our opinions are right (or best), and to see how others may view them. Be courageous enough to be wrong and you’ll be more likely to be right more often (maybe). 😉

Persistent learning focuses on trying to figure out what we’ve yet to figure out…or trying to better figure things out we once thought we had figured out. It is NOT a procrastination tactic to avoid taking action. It’s NOT delaying so we can get our actions more perfect. It’s the realization (humility) that drives our curiosity to know more and to know it better so our understanding can deepen. The ultimate goal is compassion, which is basically being concerned about others! And now you may better understand why that’s important in building a high-performing team or group! It’s not about YOU. It’s about US.

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

43 Years Of City Leadership: Tom Hart, City Manager of Grand Prairie, Texas (Season 2021, Episode 11)

Tom Hart has served as Grand Prairie City Manager since 1999. Prior to that, Hart was Assistant City Manager and later City Manager in Euless for 16 years. He was one of the youngest city managers in the history of Texas when he served as City Manager in The Colony from 1978-1981. Known for his attention to world-class customer service and innovative management style, Hart created the city’s popular and successful mission to “create Raving Fans by delivering World Class Service.”

During his tenure as Grand Prairie’s City Manager, he has overseen the reconstruction of the historic Uptown Theater and construction of QuikTrip Ballpark, Verizon Theatre, the Ruthe Jackson Center and Gardens, Grand Prairie Memorial Gardens, Tony Shotwell Life Center, Prairie Paws Adoption Center, the Splash Factory, Alliance Skate Park, the Public Safety Training Center, Municipal Court House, the Public Safety Building, and Active Adult Center. Check out the parks, arts, and recreation available. Grand Prairie, Texas is a living testimony to what high-performance culture can accomplish.

Today, I join Tom in his new office at a beautiful city hall. We talk about leadership and culture, two key ingredients for Tom’s success and ongoing quest for excellence.

Dr. David Childs On Level 5 Leadership Traits – Part 1 (Season 2021, Episode 10)

Today, I’m rejoining Dr. David Childs, Ph.D. for a conversation about what Jim Collins referred to in his books as Level 5 Leadership. David is highly qualified in high-performance leadership. In 2015 he published a book, The Organization Whisperer: 12 Core Actions That Ripple Excellence Through Your Organization. I encourage you to connect with him on Linkedin. Visit his website at The Organization Whisperer.

David and I have been engaged in some ongoing email correspondence conversations about leadership for months now. Today’s show is an outgrowth of some of those as David shares with us his list of 10 traits that characterize Level 5 Leadership as he sees it. We discuss the first 5 in this conversation because those are the ones David thinks deserve the most attention. We’ll cover the remaining 5 in part two, which I promise will be shorter. 😉

Here’s his list:

  1. Inspiring Vision
  2. Integrity
  3. Lives with a positive/can-do spirit
  4. Partners with other positive excellence
  5. Measures efficiency and outcomes
  6. Synthesizes
  7. Prioritizes effectively/holistically
  8. Innovatively improves
  9. Multi-tasks with focus
  10. Completes/implements


Where Are Your Guaranteed Lifetime Benefits? (Season 2021, Episode 9)

My fatherhood when I was young. And had hair.

This photograph was taken sometime in 1982. Today’s episode is from the now unpublished archives. It was recorded on Friday, May 11, 2012. I resurrected it because recent client work went where it always seems to go sooner than later. Personal. Struggles. Sorrows. Challenges. Opportunities. It made me think about how we’re human, all of us. Sharing many similar feelings and emotions. It doesn’t matter if we’re high-performers or average-performers. That whole “check your personal problems at the door” nonsense is impractical and unrealistic. With that context, I bring you today’s show from 2012. Below are the original show notes to the episode.    -Randy


Some time ago I was listening to a businessman explain his operation. Every industry has a language all its own. This man’s industry was wealth management. During the conversation, he used this phrase, “Guaranteed lifetime benefit.”

My mind wandered.

Wealth management? I muted myself on the phone (thankfully this conversation wasn’t face-to-face) in order to avoid having my chuckle heard. It struck me funny to think about a person who might have an opposite business model, poverty management. I think I could help a lot more people manage their poverty. Of course the problem is obvious. They wouldn’t be able to pay me.

But it was the other phrase that captivated me. And lingered on days after the conversation ended.

Guaranteed Lifetime Benefit

For days I considered that phrase. I thought, “What are the guaranteed lifetime benefits in my life?”

The question morphed into perhaps a better question that serves as the headline of these show notes, “Where are my guaranteed lifetime benefits?” Where are yours?

Days later. Miles later. Sleepless nights later. I realized my first answer was right all along.

Let me know if you agree. Or not.

Camille Neyhouser: Repassionate Your Organization (Season 2021, Episode 8)

Camille Neyhouser is the Owner and Founder of Repassionate Your Organization (RYO). Camille helps organizations revolutionize their vision, employee motivation & engagement, productivity, and income. She helps leaders build/rebuild their organizations with passion, purpose & inner power.

Prior to founding her own company, Camille had a 14-year career with the most reputable international development not-for-profit organizations. She has a double Master’s Degree in International Development and a Professional Doctorate in Public Health / Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management. She did her doctoral thesis on, Building A Learning Organization By Design, Not By Accident.

She’s French by origin, but a citizen of the world having lived and traveled extensively. Today she joins us from her home in Florence, Italy.

We had a lovely conversation about her work, why she got started in this work, and some insights from her work that can propel us forward in our own journey. You’ll find value because Camille is a high-value person. Enjoy.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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