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A Culture of Trust with Stephan Wiedner

George Grombacher March 2, 2023

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A Culture of Trust with Stephan Wiedner

LifeBlood: We talked about creating a culture of trust in your workplace, how to have an environment where people are comfortable expressing their honest thoughts and opinions without fear, how to develop psychology cal safety in a company, and the business case for doing it, with Stephan Wiedner, CEO of Noomii and Zarango, and psychological safety trainer.  

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Stephan Wiedner

Stephan Wiedner

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
weapon this George G in the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Stephen wiener. Stephen, are you ready to do this?

Stephan Wiedner 0:08
I’m ready to do this. George, thank you for having me.

george grombacher 0:11
I’m excited to have you on let’s go. Stephen is the CEO of And so He’s a psychological safety training and high performance leadership expert, Stephen, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Stephan Wiedner 0:29
Well, I’m, like many people, I’m married, I got kids, that’s my number one in my life, you know, I, I work to provide for them. But of course, my work is more than just punching the clock. I also do really meaningful work. And I love working with people, I love working with organizations, to have them feel like they can show up at work. And and if you’re running an organization, you create an environment where folks can show up, be their best and have a voice at work. I think that’s really, really critical. People think it’s something like 70% of folks show up at work and don’t feel like their voice matters. And that sucks, because I know that affects your ability to really lean in, do good work, do work that’s meaningful, and effects change.

george grombacher 1:16
Amen. So what is psychological safety training?

Stephan Wiedner 1:21
Well, let’s start with psychological safety. What is it? The clinical definition, I guess, if you want to use any Edmondson definition, she’s the woman out of Harvard, who’s really pioneering research on psychological safety. Her definition is that it’s a belief that within your work environment, you can speak up, say what’s on your mind express concerns, even admit mistakes, without any fear of reprimand. So there’s no perceived social consequence for speaking up. And you know, you and I can, everyone can likely relate to being in a classroom and hesitating to stick your hand up and say, excuse me, I have a question. And why would we hesitate? We hesitate? Because we don’t want to seem like we’re stupid, or we haven’t done our homework, or however people might perceive us. That’s the social consequence. We’re talking about here. It’s pretty subtle. So it’s not necessarily hey, if I speak up here, I’m going to get fired. That might be one of the consequences, but probably a much more subtle consequences, one where you just think people might think you’re dumb, or maybe you’re oppositional or you see what I mean by how it affects us.

george grombacher 2:30
100% How long have you been doing that? How long have you been doing this work?

Stephan Wiedner 2:34
Yeah, so I got introduced to the concept in 2019, when I read Amy Edmondson ‘s book, The fearless organization, and I’ve really jumped in ever since then. And I mean, yeah, I guess I’ve been, I’ve learned about the concept, psychological safety. At that time, however, I was likely doing work in and around that already, right, trying to create environments where people could thrive and be excited to show up at work. And when I got that definition and read book, it really kind of crystallized a lot of the work that we’ve been doing. Up until that point, when I realized, up until that point, we were doing a lot of coaching a lot of one on one coaching for senior leaders and middle managers and various people within an organization. And almost every time those leaders were trying to learn how to delegate better or have better executive presence, or, you know, whatever words we use to describe it, ultimately, what they are trying to do is be a better manager, foster more teamwork within their work environment. And so when I came across the word psychological safety was like, ah, that’s what they’re all trying to to

george grombacher 3:37
hit the nail on the head. Well, I don’t know if there’s too many. I mean, certainly timely, with everything that’s going on with Kancil culture, and I mean, aggressions micro, macro, actual aggression, all all of these things. And our fear of, of speaking up for everything you’ve been talking about, I think is pervasive that we’re in our own echo chambers. And so it seems like there are just so many different applications for this, this this work or so many different things that point to how important this is.

Stephan Wiedner 4:17
I can’t agree more. Every major headline you read in the news likely has some connection to psychological safety, right? Whether it’s Elon Musk, firing people at Twitter, to tensions between countries that are war, and everything else. They psychological safety touches all of us all the time, even when we’re not necessarily aware of it.

george grombacher 4:47
And you do work all over all over the world, North America.

Stephan Wiedner 4:55
Our work is predominantly in English speaking countries in and mostly in In North America, but we do some work in the UK and India in Australia. So it, it varies, but again, most of it 80% is in North America. So

george grombacher 5:11
as you are talking with would be with prospective clients or you’re talking to your existing clients, are they just? Or do do people recognize the timeliness of this that they fit, like many of us feel like we’re walking on eggshells, and that this is necessary?

Stephan Wiedner 5:32
I think so absolutely. A lot of people are familiar with the concept, but not necessarily the, the, the name of it, the label of it. And so a lot of organizations will talk about, say trust, or they’ll talk about trying to be or being an anti racist organization. You know, these are some other words and language that I’m hearing in the in the workplace. But I think what happened with COVID is that we had this increasing or this huge volume of people who are suddenly working from home. And that created a massive blur between what used to be two separate concepts work life and home life. And they they just became totally blurred. And we started to also recognize the value in the in the need for mental health, because so many people were stuck in a 400 square foot, apartment, the, you know, navel gazing all bloody day and couldn’t leave. If so, mental health became a massive concern. And so I think a lot of organizations are starting to wake up. Well, they woke up, they really started realize that we need to have some really important conversations that in the past, what we would have considered taboo or not appropriate for the workplace.

george grombacher 6:54
Is your work for lack of a better term agnostic. Are, don’t I, my guess is that you are not advocating for one thing over another, you’re not saying well, we all better put masks on or we nobody should wear a mask, it’s let’s have the ability to express our opinions, whatever they might be.

Stephan Wiedner 7:16
I think that’s a good way of putting it, George Yeah, I would say our perspective is to be agnostic. What we recognize is that there’s always multiple perspectives on any particular issue. And what’s important is that those perspectives are heard and understood and appreciated. So what we see in the workplace is that many managers or leaders are concerned that by giving or expressing curiosity around the opposing point of view, that we have to somehow agree with it. And that’s not necessarily what we’re advocating with advocating for here, we’re advocating for that open dialogue so that everyone feels like they can express their perspective. So that there’s a mutual understanding, not necessarily mutual agreement.

george grombacher 8:10
That’s certainly a really, really important thing, right, their mutual understanding, we’re not striving for everybody to think the same thing, because that would suck.

Stephan Wiedner 8:19
That would suck. It’s not it’s not the end goal.

george grombacher 8:24
Yeah. So want

Stephan Wiedner 8:25
to maintain diversity, right? We want to maintain diversity of thought and opinion and, and be able to coexist with multiple different perspectives not always necessarily agree.

george grombacher 8:40
So how does it start? I imagine it starts the leader of the organization, or the C suite, whoever’s running the show, creating the vision, creating the agenda needs to be on board with us.

Stephan Wiedner 8:52
That I would say is the, that’s the ideal scenario, that you have someone like the CEO, really owning the project, right, and being able to put some funds behind it and model the behaviors that they want to see, et cetera. So that’s, that’s an ideal scenario. And I would say that, especially for listeners who are not at the C suite, right, that your middle manager or even frontline worker, or wherever you exist within the organization, I have also seen success where it starts, organically some other origin within the organization doesn’t have to be at the top because there are lots of what we call internally as like rogue managers, who they just want the best for themselves and their team and are willing to create an environment of psychological safety within their team, and then defend that team or stand up for that team externally to the rest of the organization. And ideally, when you can start to create pockets of psychological safety, it will spread organically throughout the organization. I think of psychological safe li as closely relating to culture, and culture is often perceived as this like, large amorphous thing that, you know, it’s there. And yet, you can’t necessarily touch it or feel it and, and change it all that easily. So I think of culture as like your weather system. So imagine a map of the United States or North America, and across that large geographic space, you’re going to have pockets of hot weather and rain and sun and you know, all the different weather systems occurring at the same time, but in different areas. And I see psychological safety as like the climate in a particular city, or state or region versus culture, which is the entire weather system. And so what we can try to do is affect the local temperature, like the temperature in your team, and that’s where you start. So start there, and go out, ideally, organically from there, where suddenly other teams are gonna go look at what those folks are doing. Maybe we can do some of that ourselves.

george grombacher 11:06
That makes a ton of sense, it’d be great if, if an organization with 100,000 employees just the CEO, said, we’re doing this, and it just naturally just went down to all of them, but more. But it’s certainly possible that within each unit of business or within each region, that that you could do what you just described. So I think that using culture as a whether is a great to great sort of analogy or metaphor,

Stephan Wiedner 11:32
I think what you want to look for in that particular scenario, just to sort of sum it up is look for those ambassadors, like the psychological safety ambassadors, and they could be managers, they could be an HR, who knows where they are, but there’s likely to be some people who are like, I think that’s awesome, I want to be a champion for that initiative. And, and give them the resources and the, the time to be able to invest in embracing that concept internally, and see how it unfolds naturally, as opposed to stuffing it down. Right, like trying to impose it from the top down.

george grombacher 12:09
So what is what is, uh, what is a perfect scenario? We, we, we need training. So I need competency on how to do this. Is it also it’s is it also structure of different meetings kind of walked me through that?

Stephan Wiedner 12:27
Well, I would say that there’s no like single formula, George, it’s not like you can go out and buy a psychological safety. And now you have it it. First of all, it changes like a weather system, right? One day, it might be sunny and warm. But guess what, you wake up the next morning, and there’s a bit of a chill in the air, because of something that someone said, so. So it’s an amorphous thing. And I would say that, in order to foster psychological safety, first thing you need to do is tune into it and make it a priority. And then secondly, I think you want to look at systemic change. So you want to look at everything from, you know, the meetings, you conduct or to your compensation policies, because you might have compensation structures, and bonus structures that are really counterproductive when it when it comes to psychological safety. And you want to look at your technical system. So include your it, people and your systems people like what kind of software are we using to facilitate discussion between different silos and different departments? And, and okay, we have the technology, but now how do we use it properly. So now we start getting into some training. And so maybe you need some training on how to use software, or how to do project management. For us. The specific training that we focus on, which is by no means the be all end all of fostering psychological safety in an organization, the training we focus on is the interpersonal skills of managers. And it’s one thing to say, Oh, I’m really sorry, your dog died. And, man, I’m really sorry, your dog died. Right? It’s the same words, but the way you said and, and so we focus on making sure that managers have that curiosity, too. Because our definition of psychological safety is it’s the courage to speak up and the confidence to know you’ll be heard. So we’re training managers, and making sure people have the courage to speak up. And when they do, you’re really acknowledging it, you’re celebrating it, you’re letting them know they’ve been heard and understood and appreciated. So that the next time when you ask them, they’re gonna speak up again.

george grombacher 14:46
I love it. confidence, courage to speak up confidence to know that you’ll be heard. So, strikes me that that engagement could be just years years long as you dive into every single aspect of an organization. Or it can be more limited if an organization has fewer resources, but they still want to do this?

Stephan Wiedner 15:09
Well, I think that you’re right. It can be a long initiative, right? Like, how long is a? How long? How much time and resources do you want to throw at it. And I think you want to try to at least build up the competency internally as much as possible. So we’re not always trying to work with organizations forever, we kind of want to work ourselves out of a job. And, and so I think having a limited amount of resources should not be a reason not to strive toward building psychological safety in your organization. I think it’s a worthy goal for any and every organization. And we also know this to be true, that psychological safety, why is it important? I don’t think we really answered that question in the first place, George. And psychological safety is important because it links, it’s directly linked to high performance. So we know that the best teams have the highest degree of psychological safety. And the worst teams have the lowest degree of psychological safety. And just, I think, for the average listener, you could probably all relate to being on a team where it just feels awesome. You know, you feel like you can give your best. And then other teams where you have to really bite your lip. And, you know, be careful and mindful about what you say, and when you say it, because there isn’t that degree of psychological safety. And that doesn’t feel awesome. And so, you know, it’s all about high performance, and in particular, high performance and innovation, because that’s how teams learn. teams learn by sharing information, right? If we’re going to solve a complex problem, we can’t do so unless we hear from all the different perspectives in the room. And, sure, it takes time to hear all those different perspectives. But having them allows better decisions to be made, which then ultimately saves us time. So it’s an initiative worthy of, of, of some effort and some time and whatever limited resources you might have.

george grombacher 17:17
Yeah, it does sound like there’s a there’s a very clear business case for it. We started off talking about how a lot of the reasons that people don’t raise their hand, even when When, when, when I was a kid in class, right? I’m like, Oh, I think I know the answer. But I’m not sure I don’t want to say it sounds stupid. So I’m not going to say anything. And that, if that unfolds, and I’m working in our organization, and we’re trying to be innovative, well, if I’m sitting on my hands, because I’m nervous that, you know, people are gonna make me look bad, or I’m gonna look stupid, there’s no way that I’m ever going to raise my hand and get my idea out there. So that’s, for sure going to be limited.

Stephan Wiedner 17:56
And what you’re pointing to there to George’s some degree, how we’re socialized and how we’re brought up and maybe the culture that we live in, because while I’ve done a very limited amount of work in, say, Japan, my understanding about the Japanese culture is one, you do not speak up, especially if it’s to someone who’s an elder or senior who is respected. It’s just not something you do in your culture, or maybe as a young female, you are socialized different than the young boys, in your household or in your community. So we need to unpack that, like, how does that affect how people show up and speak up and when they speak up and making sure that they feel safe? Because I think every individual has their own perceptions about how safe it is to speak up in the room. It’s not a it’s not a valid, so that it’s not a quality of the space that you’re in, right? Because if it was, then everybody would feel the same way. But they don’t. Everyone has a different perception there. So there’s a lot to unpack when you start to open up the conversations around psychological safety and how everybody perceives it differently.

george grombacher 19:10
Yeah, I love it. That makes a ton of sense. Well, Stephen, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you? And your companies?

Stephan Wiedner 19:19
Yeah, for sure. Well, first of all, I’m always I’m reasonably active on LinkedIn. So I’d love for people to hook up and connect with me there. So it’s forward slash i n Ford slash S, we’d enter s is my first initial and we’d near my last name, or just search for my full name there, and you’ll find me and then alternatively, what I’d love to do George is help people if you’re a manager, or even a team member, if you want to assess the psychological safety in your team, we can do that. So we have a very simple assessment that we use. It’s called the fearless organization scan, which we’re partners of, and we’d love to have folks with reach out and get a free assessment of their team. The URL for that is Sarang ZA are a forward slash free psi. Psi stands for psychological safety index. So check it out, fill out the form. And let’s get you started by measuring the psychological safety and he

george grombacher 20:22
loved it. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, just definitely appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas. Go to zero psi ZARA Psi. And take advantage of that psychological safety assessment. Find out how your team is doing you could find Stefan on LinkedIn. It’s Ste pH ANW, i e, d n er, and I’ll list all the other ways in the in the notes of the show. Thanks. Good, Stephen.

Stephan Wiedner 21:00
Thank you, George was a real pleasure.

george grombacher 21:02
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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