“Caring encompasses not only the tasks we need to accomplish, but also
the people involved and the future we strive for.”
- The importance of caring in the workplace
- Fostering a culture of continuous learning
- Creating a psychologically safe environment
The following article is based on our interview with Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, on The Caring CEO podcast. Her specialty is psychological safety and she is currently rated the #1 management expert globally on Thinkers50.
We gained many valuable insights when Graeme Cowan, WeCARE365’s co-founder, interviewed Amy for the The Caring CEO podcast.
Caring in the workplace
For Amy, caring in the workplace involves being passionate about the collective purpose of our work. It encompasses not only the tasks we need to accomplish but also the people involved and the future we strive for. When considering the concept of a learning organisation and the influence of senior leaders, it begins with their genuine enthusiasm for the upcoming work and their willingness to be open and transparent about the challenges we may face.
Failure rather than Mistakes
Amy believes that effective leadership involves supporting individuals in overcoming obstacles they encounter. When leaders exhibit both enthusiasm and honesty, they demonstrate a deep understanding of the challenges ahead and why it is important to remain excited despite them. This type of leadership fosters a culture of continuous learning within an organisation.
While mistakes are a part of this process, they do not equate to failure, as she prefers to focus on failure rather than mistakes. Mistakes can occur even when there is a solid understanding of what needs to be done, but, for some reason, it is not executed properly. Although this is not ideal, it should not lead to blame or shame. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity for growth and learning. Failure, on the other hand, encompasses a broader range of experiences. Amy categorises failures into three types:
Intelligent Failures should be celebrated
Basic failures occur when a mistake is made due to not utilising existing knowledge, leading to failure, whether big or small. Our responsibility is to quickly learn from these failures. On the other hand, complex failures involve multiple factors aligning to create significant failures, such as a breakdown in the supply chain. They can also be smaller failures resulting from a series of minor mishaps, like forgetting your phone and being late for a meeting. We don’t celebrate either type of failure, as our focus is on learning from them and creating a psychologically safe environment for growth. However, there is another category called intelligent failures, which are the unintended outcomes of experiments conducted during innovation or problem-solving attempts. These failures are not mistakes but rather the result of well-thought-out experiments that didn’t succeed. We should genuinely celebrate these failures, as they are where progress and innovation originate.
Experimenting and Failing and Learning
The hypothesis is that we should encourage everyone to adopt a scientific mindset, where they feel more comfortable thinking like scientists. While there is no certainty about what will work, there is a belief that this approach can be effective. However, it is important that these efforts be directed towards meaningful goals. Random experimentation without a clear connection to valuable objectives is not productive. It requires thoughtful consideration, hypothesis formulation, and keeping the scope of experimentation focused on what is necessary to achieve learning and potentially make progress.
Lead like a Scientist
Instead of setting targets and having all the answers, leading like a scientist involves creating an environment where people can experiment and learn. As a leader, your role is to help individuals understand and interpret the results. While you may have more experience and knowledge to navigate unexpected or undesired outcomes, it requires a different mindset. Rather than providing all the answers and detailed plans, leaders should focus on facilitating hypothesis formulation, data collection, and sense-making. Unfortunately, many managers are still stuck in an outdated industrial-era model that assumes plans will be executed exactly as initially conceived, without accounting for environmental changes.
To learn more about overcoming this, explore our WeCARE Psych Safety training, helping managers to build more psychologically safe teams.
You may also be interested in our WeCARE Manager training to build mentally healthy teams: https://wecare365.com.au/wecare-manager/
To learn more about WeCARE365 and The Caring CEO, visit us here: https://wecare365.com.au/
We create simple skill-building programs that help managers lead mentally healthy teams. We believe that the #1 priority for every leader and team is to be more caring and mentally healthy and to enjoy growing together. In the very best teams, people care about each other, have each other’s backs, and enjoy each other’s company. We know the best learning solutions are those that ‘everybody gets’, which are easy to roll out, promote, and provide ongoing practical support. If you would like to see a demo, please book here.