Employee safety is being redefined. We write volumes of standard operating procedures about it. We measure it, regulate it, and insure against its risks. In the U.S. alone, organizations funnel billions into creating workplaces and environments in which employees are safe to bring their best talents. But physical safety, and added creature-comfort perks like stocked snack bars, open-air offices, and foosball tables, only do so much. They don’t adequately address an employee’s state of mind. They all but ignore employees’ psychological safety.

Meet Tim

Timothy R. Clark is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a leadership consulting and training organization that works with executive teams around the world. An Oxford-trained social scientist and sought-after international authority on organizational change, Dr. Clark is the author of five books on leadership, including his newest release, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.


Timestamped Overview

The following is a timestamped overview of our conversation:

  • 06:00 Psychological safety crucial for team performance and innovation.
  • 08:58 Creating a secure and inclusive work environment.
  • 10:41 Inclusion safety is a human right.
  • 14:26 Leadership is about inclusion, empowerment, not pushing down.
  • 19:45 Encouraging learner safety in the learning process.
  • 20:53 Many students drop out due to emotional struggles.
  • 25:03 Encourages students to embrace failure, detaches fear.
  • 28:01 Safe contribution: learning, applying, making a difference.
  • 32:34 Learn to set and achieve the right goals.
  • 36:36 Innovate, handle challenges, lead with emotional capacity.
  • 40:11 Emotional response signals, patrol respect boundaries, manage collaboration.
  • 43:33 Develop emotional intelligence, poise, and facilitate innovation.

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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:
Employee safety is being redefined. We write VOMS as standard operating procedures about it. We measure it, regulate it, and assure against its risks. In US alone, organizations funnel billions into creating workplaces and environments in which employees are safe to bring their best talents. But physical safety and added creature comfort perks, like stocked snack bars, open air offices, and foosball tables only do so much. They don’t adequately address an employee’s state of mind. They all but ignore employees’ psychological safety. Today, my guest, Timothy Clark, and I discuss topics such as The 4 stages of psychological safety, why our employees need to feel accepted before they’ll feel safe to contribute and be heard, How any worker can learn regardless of aptitude given the right environment? Four words every leader needs to live by.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:53]:
No cover, no candor amongst meta topics. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Moving Forward Leadership podcast, episode 128, the importance of psychological safety with Timothy Clark.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:10]:
Welcome to this episode of Moving Forward Leadership. Stick around and learn how to achieve, excel, and become a leader that people willingly follow. Lead, don’t boss. And now here’s the host of our show, chief leadership officer Scott McCarthy.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:37]:
Welcome 1. Welcome all. It is your chief leadership officer, Scott McCarthy. It’s so great to have you here today. And if this is your 1st time tuning into the Moving Forward Leadership podcast, This is where we talk about the 3 domains of leadership, and that’s leading yourself, leading your people, and leading your organization. Why? So you can achieve what you want to achieve, so that you can establish that high performing team, and so that you can increase your organization’s output, whatever that is. And Here at the Moving Forward Leadership podcast, I go out and grab world class guests like Tim Clark and couple them with my 20 years of military experience to bring you shows like this one, psychological safety and the four stages of it. It is a fantastic, Fantastic interview today, folks.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:33]:
There are so many moments in this Interview. And in the book that I read that Tim Graciously gave me, I went, wow. Some things that you know, but you just don’t know why you know them or why it’s important. Well, today, it’s going to come clear to you. So let’s talk about Tim, shall we? Tim is the founder and CEO of Leaderfactor, a leadership consulting and training organization that works with executive teams around the world. He’s an Oxford Oxford trained social scientist and sought after international authority on organizational change. He’s the author of 5 books on leadership, and this one is his newest release, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety. We go into Deep conversation about things that are gonna make your people feel safe so that in the end, they can help bring organizational change that will push you and your organization further, faster, and in the right direction.

Scott McCarthy [00:03:40]:
So, so many great things in here. And I’m at the point now where you know what? It’s time for me to shut up. Right? Get to the goods. So why don’t you sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation all around the importance of psychological safety with Tim Clark. Tim, welcome to the Moving Forward Leadership podcast. It’s so great to have you here finally.

Tim Clark [00:04:13]:
Thanks, Scott. Good to be with you.

Scott McCarthy [00:04:16]:
So we’re talking about your 5th book. 5th. Yeah. That’s that’s a lot. I’m on 0. So congratulations to you, and that’s no small feat. But before we dive into the nuts and bolts of book, I always like to know what the inspiration of the book. What’s be you know, what what got you up one day and say, hey.

Scott McCarthy [00:04:37]:
I’m gonna write a book, and I’m gonna write about it, psycho the importance of psychological, safety Right. Within the workplace. So why don’t we start there?

Tim Clark [00:04:48]:
Right. I think the the deep why, Scott, is that well, I I’ve been working in the area of organizational culture for 25 years, but I think the reason that I did a deep dive into psychological safety is because Psychological safety is the heart of culture, and whenever we find a a team or an Organization that’s not performing well, if the strategy is good, if they have resources, if they have smart people. So if they have all of the other things that you would normally need to be successful and they’re still not successful, we always end up pointing our finger at culture. Culture is the biggest obstacle that we have, especially with innovation. But culture is still broad. Right? If we think about culture, it’s still broad, and so that doesn’t really it’s not really helpful if you just say, well, your culture is getting in the way. Your culture is an obstacle. What is it about culture that’s getting in the way? And if you break that down, it takes you every time, it takes you to psychological safety.

Tim Clark [00:06:00]:
Psychological safety is really that that formidable barrier that doesn’t it prevents teams And organizations from being inclusive, from executing well, and certainly from innovating well. And so what I found is that there’s more depth to this concept and that leaders need to understand that they can do everything right, But if they don’t create and nurture and sustain psychological safety, the team’s not gonna gel, And they’re not gonna be able to perform the way that they could that they could perform. It’s one of those things that You can’t say, well, I’ve I’ve got I’m doing all these other things right, but I’m not doing psychological safety right. If you don’t do that right, Then your team is not going to perform well. So it’s this indispensable element and I kept running Back into it with our client organizations, and the research now has caught up with our intuition To help us understand that psychological safety is absolutely essential for performance. So that’s why. That’s that’s why I got into it, and it’s gonna become even more important as we get into this new decade. Right? So, so I’ll I’ll just make a comment about millennials.

Tim Clark [00:07:27]:
So millennials are pouring into the workforce, And they have different expectations. They have higher expectations about culture in particular. And what they’re saying by and large is that they assume that psychological safety will be there as a as a term of employment, Really? And if it’s not there, a lot of them are calling time out and saying, hang on a second. I didn’t sign up for this. I came to learn and grow and contribute, and if I can’t do that, then I have to go. And with a lot of the technology companies that we’re working with, this is happening over and over again. If you don’t have psychological safety, You will bleed out your top talent. So that’s why we’re here.

Tim Clark [00:08:19]:
That’s why we that’s why I tackled this This topic, Scott, it’s that important.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:26]:
No. It makes it I I completely agree with you. It makes complete sense. And Just a couple of added bits. You know, you say it’s gonna be so important for the next decade, and it’s true. With all the different movements that have popped up now, we’re currently recording in the middle of June, and Black Lives Matter is really hot right now. If you if we talk about a year ago or so, it was the Me Too movement and so on and so forth. So that whole psychological safety Aspect is definitely important.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:58]:
If you go even further with with the global pandemic that we’re we’re in the middle of right now, People are gonna need to feel secure and safe within within your organization, and and you have to get the people together. You have to get them all on the same page, and you have to have your people, feel that they can speak up, that they can right. They have the ability to speak up, not be judged or criticized for speaking up and and voicing whatever concerns they have. So as I’ve gone through the book, I kinda really felt like I was like, wow. This is kinda like Maslow’s hierarchy needs, but done in a overlay of leadership and organizational theory and stuff like that. Mhmm. So your your title of the book is the 4 stages. And within there, the 4 sections of book refers to the 4 stages.

Scott McCarthy [00:09:46]:
So for the listener there, What are these 4 stages, and can you, you know, give a brief overview of them so that they have an understanding of what they are?

Tim Clark [00:09:55]:
Right. Let’s go through those. So the first stage of psychological safety is what we call inclusion safety. This is the foundation. Inclusion safety means that you feel included, accepted, that you belong, that you’re part of the team. And as you said, Scott, this this follows the 4 stages follows the pattern of basic human needs. So if you watch any any person and even watch yourself as you go in if you go into a new social unit or team or organization, What’s the first thing you’re worried about? You’re worried about whether you fit in. So that’s why we begin here with inclusion safety.

Tim Clark [00:10:41]:
Now inclusion safety is also, as you just said, Scott, it’s very much related to The social movements that we have going on in our societies today. Inclusion safety, as I say in the book, It’s actually a human right. It’s not something that that you earn, it’s something that you’re owed. And the reason that that is true is because For human beings, if you’re human and you’re harmless, then we really have a moral obligation to invite you into our society. There’s no way we can justify excluding you. So the principle that I talk about in the book Is that worth precedes worthiness? And what that means is that your inherent worth as a human being, we have to acknowledge that As the as the first point, we’ll get to discussions about worthiness and performance later, But the first position is that you have inherent worth, therefore, I’m obligated to invite you into my society. So this is what inclusion safety is all about. Now think about how hard, how difficult it is to do this.

Tim Clark [00:11:51]:
Think about how organizations And human beings as a species have struggled with this. Right?

Scott McCarthy [00:11:59]:

Tim Clark [00:12:00]:
What we’ve what we’ve done, Scott, in many organizations Since the industrial revolution, we’ve normalized a lot of very unacceptable behavior. In in in many organizations that we’ve worked with, The organizations have normalized harassment. They’ve normalized bullying. They’ve normalized public shaming behavior. And these are all things where people got used to it because the leaders set the norms for these patterns of behavior, and over time, People accepted that. And then those norms were perpetuated by other leaders, And it kept on going. This happens in many organizations. And so, for example, you look at the Eruption of moral outrage that has recently surrounded the the death of George Floyd.

Tim Clark [00:12:54]:
Well, this goes back to the same issue of inclusion safety. So right? Race relations are just one aspect of the the difficulty, the fault lines that we have, the differences that we have, And yet, it’s we cannot justify not being inclusive. And so what we do as humans Is we govern ourselves based on what I call in the book, junk theories of superiority. Right? So I’m a better race than you. I’m a better gender than you. I’ve got more money than you. I’m better educated than you. I’ve got better friends than you.

Tim Clark [00:13:38]:
It goes on and on and on. But these are all these are all illegitimate junk theories of superiority. And people cling to these because they wanna be important, they wanna matter. And what what we end up doing so often is Trying to elevate ourselves by subordinating others. Well, that’s unfortunately, that’s not the way to do it. It never solves the problem. It never works. And all of those all of those Theories are are patently false.

Tim Clark [00:14:13]:
So that’s just stage 1. So stage 1 says that we have a moral obligation To be inclusive, and that’s our foundation. Then we go to stage 2. Stage 2 is what we call learner safety.

Scott McCarthy [00:14:26]:
If before we dive into stage 2, if I can just jump back, I love the aspect of You talk about if you if you don’t have inclusion safety actually, I wanna make 2 points about this. But the first one being if you don’t have it and you’re not being inclusive, I’m better than you because of x. I’m better than you because of y. Leaders pushing people down to bring themselves up, And and that’s one of the things I basically preach against here in moving forward leadership. Leadership is not is not pushing people down, but rather Building them up to, in turn, help you achieve whatever it is you need to achieve because that’s why that’s how it goes. You have a team. You have a team of people that you employ in some kind of manner, and they go out and achieve things on your behalf. So it’s it’s Absolutely crucial for leaders to, you know, empower the people, bring them up.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:22]:
And just because you have, you know, You have more education. Yeah. For example, for myself, I’m gonna receive my 2nd master’s soon. You know, it’s a fair bit of education. That’s that’s a that’s a lot of time in school, but doesn’t mean I have the best answers. Doesn’t mean squat, right, as a leader. So leaders need to get past themselves, Drop those egos and and listen to their people, empower their people to bring this stuff to the forefront.

Tim Clark [00:15:48]:

Scott McCarthy [00:15:48]:
And the second Yeah.

Tim Clark [00:15:50]:
Go ahead.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:50]:
And the second thing I wanna say is right at the beginning, you talked about how, especially millennials, if they don’t feel inclusion safe, they they basically bounce And it goes right back to the beginning when you what you said in your opening was that a lot of organizations lose their top people. Well, it’s because the top people don’t feel included within the organization for one reason or another. If they felt included, they wouldn’t be bouncing out. They would be staying because They felt they felt at home. They felt like it was a family. They felt, you know, safe there, whatever safe means to them. So I really enjoyed this part of the book.

Tim Clark [00:16:27]:
Let me let me add to to what you’re saying, Scott. I agree with you. So one of the junk theories of superiority in organizations, and this is probably extremely relevant for your listeners, is that if you possess title, position, and authority, Right. Mhmm. That those are that’s a justification for your, your superiority. Well, title position and authority, anything associated with rank, those are simply artifacts that the organization gives you to do your job. And in large complex organizations, we need hierarchy. We need a division of labor.

Tim Clark [00:17:07]:
We need roles and responsibilities. So those are things that we need, but in in no way makes you superior or more important than anyone else. And so What psychological safety what we do with psychological safety is that allows us to create a culturally flat organization. How many times have I seen managers walk in the room and ice the team, ice them into silence? Right? They have a chilling effect.

Scott McCarthy [00:17:38]:

Tim Clark [00:17:39]:
Because they’re pushing the fear button. Well, that’s that’s a complete abdication of leadership. One of the first things that I say in the book is, if if we if we go watch a team, Interact with a team. If there’s a prevalence of fear on a team, that’s the first sign of weak leadership. That means that team is not being led Or let led well. We know that. Because the the leader is using fear As a replacement for leadership, which is a cop out. So, if you ever see A leader that’s hiding behind title position and authority, they don’t understand what they do for a living.

Tim Clark [00:18:24]:
They don’t understand the essence of leadership. The best synonym for leadership in the English language is influence. And and, of course, we mean positive influence. Right? Productive Positive influence. So Mhmm. We wanna create a culture in which people are agnostic To your title, your position, and your authority where we can debate issues on their merits and we don’t really care Where you are in the hierarchy or, for that matter, even if you’re an independent contractor or perhaps you’re a freelancer, Because we’re now getting configurations of teams where we have people with all different kinds of employment status as well. So really, that shouldn’t even matter either. Or if you’re remote or physically co located, these are the These are the configurations that we’re gonna see more and more as we get into this decade.

Tim Clark [00:19:23]:
So we have to neutralize The influence, the power, and the impact of title, position, and authority so that we can really solve problems and collaborate together.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:36]:
Ultimately, it boils down to everybody’s a human being. Treat everybody with respect. Right?

Tim Clark [00:19:41]:
That’s it.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:41]:
Awesome. Alright. Let’s move on to I believe it’s learner safety.

Tim Clark [00:19:45]:
Learner safety, stage 2. Learner safety means that you can engage in the learning process, the discovery process, Which means what? Asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting, Making mistakes without, again, without fear that you’ll be punished or marginalized or embarrassed in some way. Now you’ll notice that learn learning requires a little bit more personal vulnerability. Right? You gotta you’re exposing yourself as you learn. There’s some risk associated with learning, and so you need to feel the safety to do that. So the the exchange, the social exchange in stage 2 is that so if if, Scott, if you’re my boss, Then what I would hope that I get from you is encouragement to learn in exchange for engagement in the learning process. So that’s what happens in stage 2. And we all bring some level of inhibition and fear to the learning process.

Tim Clark [00:20:53]:
So for example, in the book, I give a case study that’s fascinating. So in the United States, for example, every 26 seconds, A student drops out of high school. Now that’s a tragedy. If we dig into that to understand what’s going on, we realize that in most cases, these are students that that have the ability to do the academic work. Very So very few of them have legitimate learning disabilities that that would not allow them to do the work. So why are they dropping out? They’re dropping out because they are emotionally bruised, they have lost confidence, they don’t have support, And they call it quits. Here’s what we know about learning. Learning is a process that is both intellectual and emotional.

Tim Clark [00:21:48]:
Those 2 tracks are interwoven. You can’t separate the 2. You can’t be a a Purely rational processing unit. That’s not what humans are. Humans learn when they learn it’s intellectual and emotional and there has to be support for that. Well, adults are no different than high school kids. They’re learning. They’re vulnerable.

Tim Clark [00:22:14]:
When they learn, there’s an intellectual track and an emotional track And they need support in that process. If they are harshly corrected, if they are mocked in that process, They will shut down. And what happens is and we’ve all experienced this. Right? If someone pushes the fear button As you’re trying to learn, then you you will that what that does is it triggers what we call the self censoring instinct. And when that self censoring instinct is activated, we retreat, we withdraw into a mode of personal self Risk management. We have to. That’s a very natural thing to do because we’re adaptable we’re adaptable creatures. So that’s that’s stage 2, Scott, learner safety.

Tim Clark [00:23:06]:
That that is the next level after inclusion safety.

Scott McCarthy [00:23:10]:
I think probably the most important part about that is the ability and, you know, permission, Authority for people to go out and try something and fail. How many times do we hear of of people going and trying something, failing at it, only be reprimanded, Disciplined, you know, weak performance, whatever, but they’re like, no. I’m trying something new. We’re let’s try something new. Let’s find a way to be different. Didn’t work out okay, but we learned something for that. But instead, their supervisor goes the opposite direction of of embracing it to completely, con not con owning it and the opposite, you know, being against it. And then what happens is the employees get gun shot.

Scott McCarthy [00:23:54]:
Like, well, last time I tried something new, it failed. I I got reprimanded. I was like, heck no. I’m not gonna do that. I’m just gonna follow along and do Exactly what I’m being told to do and not really put my hand up and bring up new ideas or anything. So can you talk a little bit more importance of enabling Failure and how leaders can can support people, you know, working through a failure. Because sometimes the employee themselves get Bombed out. Right? They’re like, oh, crap.

Scott McCarthy [00:24:20]:
This didn’t work out. I failed that I suck. But no. You know? As long as you learn something from it, it’s all good.

Tim Clark [00:24:26]:
Yeah. Yeah. In the book, I give a case study about a high school calculus teacher And he’s gotta be one of the best in the world. And I spent a lot of I spent time in his classroom. I spent time interviewing him. I spent time interviewing his students. And what he does, Scott, And you you may remember this. He is able to create learner safety in his classroom, And what this does is it separates fear from mistakes and failure.

Tim Clark [00:25:03]:
He separates those 2. He disconnects those 2. So when the students make mistakes, when they fail, Say they fail on a test or an assignment and they make mistakes, there is no there is no fear that comes with that. Because if you think about it, there’s no necessary relationship between fear and failure. They don’t naturally necessarily go together. And so what he’s done is he’s pulled those apart, so the students in fact, he said to me, he said, Tim, he said, Failure isn’t the exception. It’s the expectation. I expect the the the the students to fail.

Tim Clark [00:25:49]:
That’s the learning process. So we’re gonna go through a series of failures together and we’re gonna love doing it, And it’s gonna be an adventure, and it’s going to be exciting. That’s how he is able to characterize failure And and have the the students interpret failure in its classroom. They know they’re gonna fail. And when they fail, it doesn’t bother them Because they realize it’s a step forward. That’s how they learn. It’s experimental and experiential. But as you said, Scott, in many organizations With adults, we don’t do that very well.

Tim Clark [00:26:26]:
There’s automatically fear associated with failure and mistakes. And so what it what does it do? It shuts people down. So think about think about the the tax that we impose On our organizations, when people feel a deep sense of fear associated with failure, We we we’re not able to engage them at the levels that that are possible because they are they’re shut down. Right. So you can see the importance of learner safety in a in an organization of any kind.

Scott McCarthy [00:27:05]:
Yeah. No. It’s so true. And then it goes back to it always felt like as I went through the whole book, it felt like, okay. If you don’t have 1, you snowball back down. Right? So if suddenly if someone doesn’t have learner safety, I e, they try something, they fail at it, they get reprimanded, and, also, they then that challenges the inclusion safety because they get to turn, well, am I actually you know, is this am I being included here? Am I That’s

Tim Clark [00:27:28]:

Scott McCarthy [00:27:29]:
Right? You know? That’s right. Do I actually You’ll actually belong, blah, blah, blah. And then then it’s like, no. Okay. I’m out. I found somewhere else where they actually embrace what I what I’m trying to do. So It’s definitely needed for leader leaders to understand that one can truly quickly snowball down from 1 to the next to the next and all the way That’s right. Oh, alright.

Scott McCarthy [00:27:50]:
Let’s move on. Let’s, contributor safety. So exactly what do you mean by that? How can leaders ensure that they have, and their organization that enables this.

Tim Clark [00:28:01]:
Right. So stage 3 is, as you say, contributor safety. Contributor safety means that you can take what you’ve learned, take the skills and the knowledge and the experience, And now you can go use it. You can go apply it. That’s exactly what contributor safety is. It’s the ability To contribute as a full member of the team without, again, the fear of retribution, without the fear of embarrassment, To make a difference, to participate in that value creating process, that process of solving problems, of Coming up with solutions. And and by the way, again, this goes this is this is consistent with the pattern of basic human needs. So we wanna be included first, we want to learn and grow, and then we want to apply, we want To use what we have learned.

Tim Clark [00:28:58]:
So that’s that’s what contributor safety is all about. It’s about using, Applying what we have learned. And most human beings have a very deep, instinctual need To make a difference. They want to make a difference wherever they are. They want to be useful. They want to make a difference. They want to matter. They want to contribute.

Tim Clark [00:29:23]:
And and so it naturally follows as the 3rd stage.

Scott McCarthy [00:29:29]:
Yeah. I love that last bit of, You know, people wanna make a difference, especially for leaders out there, especially the audience who’s listening here because they’re hungry. They they don’t wanna be those bosses. They don’t wanna be the boss that they had that they absolutely despised. Right? They’re like, wow. I’m a leader now. I have all the examples of how I don’t want to be, And what we’re talking about now is how you should be in in enabling people for that you know, the learner safety, the contributor safety of enabling your people to come up and bring up those ideas and say, hey. This is what I learned, or this is what I I I believe we can do here.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:06]:
And much like as we discussed earlier, as the leader, you don’t have all the answers. You shouldn’t have all the answers. If you think you have all the answers, you’re doing something wrong. And I actually did I actually did a talk where a a talk where I say leaders should be more focused on questions than answers. Enable your people that bring the answers forward, but you focus on the questions. How can we do this better? What is the next stage? Where do we need to go? You know, how can this be more effective? How can we be more efficient? And let your people come forward with those answers. And this is the whole contributor piece. Right?

Tim Clark [00:30:40]:
It is, Scott. And what you’re talking about is is it’s such a pattern that remains, it lingers in many organizations and We really need to overcome it. It’s really the imperial model of leadership which is something that We’ve inherited from the industrial revolution and even beyond that, it’s this leader as oracle. I am the repository of all answers. Come to me, I will give you the answer and dispatch you. That is absolutely ridiculous In this decade and in this century. Because we live we we live and work in Hyper competitive environments, unforgiving environments, incredibly fast paced markets, There’s no one that has all the answers. That that is a complete myth.

Tim Clark [00:31:35]:
And so as you said, Scott, the leader The leader becomes an enabler, a facilitator, a collaborator, a learning partner. This is the role of the leader. Now the leader also provides the vision and guidance and encouragement, Of course. But the the notion that the leader has all the answers is absurd.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:01]:

Tim Clark [00:32:02]:
So that it’s just it’s it’s You’re not you’re not gonna get anywhere, get given the agility and the adaptability that organizations need to have today. Now I That model is obsolete.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:15]:
Yeah. It’s it it’s long gone, and, unfortunately unfortunately, Leaders leaders or bosses or, you know, senior management have not necessarily adapted and shifted with that change quickly.

Tim Clark [00:32:28]:

Scott McCarthy [00:32:28]:
And, hence, we are here we are today. Right?

Tim Clark [00:32:31]:
That’s right. That’s right.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:32]:
Keep keeps us employed. Mhmm. So

Tim Clark [00:32:33]:
That’s right.

Scott McCarthy [00:32:34]:
Maybe we shouldn’t complain too much, but at the same time, it’s tough to see. Sometimes you have goals, but you know what? You have a hard time reaching them, and you just can’t figure out why. Why is it that you can’t achieve those things that you want to achieve? Maybe it’s dedication. Maybe it’s motivation. Maybe you haven’t picked the right goals. So this is where I was not too long ago, and then I realized something. I’ve been developing the Power Goals program my entire life, and here it is now for you where you can learn how to pick the right goals, Figure out how to achieve those goals, how to stay on track, but most importantly, how to get back on track when you get off. So are you ready? Are ready to up your game and achieve those things that you’ve been meaning to achieve for so long now? Simply go to moving for leadership.com forward slash power, and learn more about the power goals program and achieve everything that you’ve been wanting to achieve.

Scott McCarthy [00:33:42]:
And now back to the show. Alright. Let’s move on to the 4th one. The 4th one is challenger safety, and this one’s super interesting. I I I really enjoyed the concept behind this because I fully agree with it, And it’s kinda what we it kinda dovetails into what we were just talking about in that leaders will have all the answers. Yeah. But they need to have the ability to ask the questions. So let’s go down challenger safety, shall we?

Tim Clark [00:34:10]:
Let’s do it. Challenger safety is the culmination. It’s stage 4, the last stage and it’s the highest level of psychological safety. And what it means is that you can challenge the status quo Without fear of, again, jeopardizing your personal standing and reputation. Now think about what this means though. So it’s one thing to be included. It’s another to To feel safe to learn, it’s another to feel safe to contribute. But what we’re talking about here Is feeling safe to challenge the way things are done.

Tim Clark [00:34:51]:
That is a tall order. That is that’s another level. Right? We’re saying that the organization and the leadership will tolerate my dissent, My disagreement, my pushback, that’s what this is all about. Now why is this so important? Because This is where we innovate. Crossing over to challenger safety, that is the threshold to innovation. So think about innovation for a minute. Innovation, the very depth the innovation by its very nature is is disruptive Of the status quo. It means that we are changing the way we do things.

Tim Clark [00:35:33]:
We’re disrupting the way we do things, and we’re gonna figure out how to do them better. Well, how does that work unless people feel free and able to challenge the status quo? You can’t really do that. So you can see how important challenger safety is, and yet this is this is an enormous Challenge for leaders to be able to cultivate and sustain a culture with challenger safety because they themselves, They have to have exceptional emotional intelligence. They have to have their ego needs completely regulated. They have to show some humility. They have to be collaborators. They have to be able to withstand Challenge. Right? So they have to nurture this environment where there’s constructive descent, Where there’s creative abrasion, where where ideas are colliding and rubbing against each other.

Tim Clark [00:36:36]:
Because After all, that’s the way that we solve problems. That’s how we come up with solutions. That’s how we innovate. But so But the the the hard question here is, Scott, do you as a leader, can you handle that? Can you accommodate that? Do you have the emotional and the moral capacity To to nurture an environment where this is taking place, where are you personally secure enough to deal with this, to have Debates where we discuss issues on their merits and we don’t really care about title or position or authority, we’re trying to figure out The best way to do things. This will this will challenge leaders to the wall. It will take you This will this will challenge you. This will test you as a leader as you have never been tested before. So you think you may be an effective leader? Let’s see how well you can lead innovation.

Tim Clark [00:37:39]:
Let’s see if you can really Nurture, challenge your safety. In my mind, that’s the ultimate test.

Scott McCarthy [00:37:47]:
That’s that’s awesome. One thing that I really liked that you put was the constructive descent. I I I really like that. Now for a leader out there, there’s a fine line between that and and potentially, you know, insubordination, I’ll use as a as a term, being being nonconstructive but being, you know, challenging for the sake of being challenging. So for the leader out there, how can they, determine the difference between the 2? And the 2nd part of that question is, how can they prepare their team to bring forward the constructive dissent, not necessarily just the dissent?

Tim Clark [00:38:28]:
Yeah. The way that I would answer that question, Scott, is I would Frame it in this way for your listeners. So everyone, I want you to think about Your stewardship as a leader this way, you have 22 jobs that you have to do simultaneously On your team, you need to increase the intellectual friction of your team. And that’s what, as Scott, you’re saying, that’s the Constructive descent. That’s the creative abrasion. So we need intellectual friction to go to very high levels. But at the same time, we need social friction to go down. Here’s what happens on teams.

Tim Clark [00:39:14]:
If the intellectual friction goes up and the social friction goes up at the same time, at some point, the social friction We’ll shut down the intellectual friction, and we will not be having productive debate anymore. It’s shut down. The social friction shut it down because people are not getting along anymore. So the world class leader is able to push the intellectual friction up and, at the same time, push the social friction down. Now, how do you do that? You do that by modeling exceptional emotional intelligence. That means that You allow the challenge. You allow the descent. You handle that emotionally Because your people are waiting to see how you respond to challenge and even bad news.

Tim Clark [00:40:11]:
That’s the way that the the way that you respond emotionally to descent and bad news, those are the most important signals that you give out to the team to say to the team, it’s okay, or it’s not okay to engage this way. So you you’ve got to be able to tolerate that and handle that emotionally. You’ve gotta model that. Number 2, You’ve gotta patrol the boundaries of respect. So whether you are challenging or being challenged, You have to make sure that people are respecting each other. As soon as the debate becomes personal, Then we start to get off we we start to get off track. Right? The the so as soon as we become personal, then the social friction Rises, and you cannot allow that to happen. And so your job as the leader is to manage The collaboration, the quality of the collaboration, and you can’t let it get personal.

Tim Clark [00:41:19]:
So that’s why I say you patrol the the boundaries of to ensure that people are respecting each other as the intellectual friction goes very, very high. That’s the only way you can maintain that because it gets it gets to be very hard hitting dialogue. And We’ve got ideas and opinions colliding and human beings are sensitive, and it takes quite a skilled leader to keep that going in a productive way.

Scott McCarthy [00:41:48]:
And it basically or it rolls right back to where we started this whole conversation of inclusion. Right? Because if the per if the people don’t feel in included in the ability to, you know, bring these challenges forward, then Everything just snowballs right back down the hill again. And in in the book, you have a nice, you know, upward upwards slow nice angled upward slope graph that you use to go through it, which which kind of portrays this very well. So I really like that and enabling, you know, people, The intellectual conflict up, but the social one went down. So, basically, you you have the ability to say, speak your mind critically, but at the same time, understanding that people are are listening to what you’re saying, but not necessarily judging you as a in as a person for

Tim Clark [00:42:37]:
Yeah. Yeah. So let’s put this in perspective a little bit, Scott, because what we’re saying is we need people to feel safe to Speak their mind to challenge, and yet, it was last year that, Gallup did a big poll Across North America, and they found that only 1 third of employees felt that they could speak their mind, Their minds and that their opinions were valued only 1 third. So you can see how much work we have to do To create challenger safety in organizations, we’re not remotely there. And on most teams, there’s a big opportunity to take a big step in that direction. But, many many leaders, they they they they’re not doing it well. They need help. They need skill development.

Tim Clark [00:43:33]:
They need development of emotional intelligence and poise and composure. They need to overcome their insecurities which, chronically get in the way so that they can be, really, they’ve gotta be at peace with this process, right, with this constructive descent. They’ve gotta be able to handle that and say, you know what? This is This is how we work. And by the way, if you look at innovation, innovation by and large is a social process. It it emerges from interaction, from human interaction. Now, once in a while, someone will have a a light bulb moment of lone genius where they’re by themselves. You know, 1 person is is alone and he or she comes up with some great insight, but that’s the exception. Most innovation happens through a social process As we are working together, and we need leaders to understand that, and we need them to be able to facilitate this process more effectively.

Scott McCarthy [00:44:43]:
I love that part that you mentioned that the leader has to be at peace with their insecurities. Right? And I often talk about how people need to drop their ego. They need to be open. They need to understand that, like we talk about, you don’t have all the answers. You need to be asking the questions, and that ultimately enables, you know, people. And I also like the aspect of you have to keep your emotions in check. Someone comes to you with bad news, you can’t shoot the messenger.

Tim Clark [00:45:11]:

Scott McCarthy [00:45:11]:
They’re not responsible. They’re just bringing you the information on what’s happening. Do not necessarily take them personally accountable for something that maybe they had no control because then, like, you As you kinda hinted that, people get gun shy. They start they start not trusting. They don’t have the ability to show up with the news, and then all of a sudden people start hiding it. I’ve seen this happen in organizations where the the boss, the person in charge, would just shoot the messenger regardless if they’re responsible. So then it then it started coming, you know, playing roulette to see who was going to go with the news, And then people would just say, well, it’s it’s easier to try to fix it or hide it than it is to bring it forward, and that is not the type of culture that you want within station.

Tim Clark [00:45:59]:
No. It’s really not. It it’s it’s really not.

Scott McCarthy [00:46:03]:
Tim, man, this has been a fantastic interview, fantastic conversation. The book, I’ve absolutely loved it. Thank you for sending me a copy. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s it’s gonna be one of the ones I hold on to for quite a long time. It’s gonna definitely stay in my book Bookcase, now that it’s, I’ve gone through it. As we wind down this interview, I do got a couple last questions for you. And one is, a question I ask all the guests here at Moving Forward Leadership, and that is according to you, Tim Clark.

Scott McCarthy [00:46:32]:
What makes a great leader?

Tim Clark [00:46:36]:
Well, I’ll offer 1 parting thought on that, Scott, that maybe maybe helpful to your listeners and that is Lead as if you have no power. If you frame your stewardship that way, I think it will help you stand the essence of what you are being asked to do.

Scott McCarthy [00:46:57]:

Tim Clark [00:46:57]:
the reason I say that is because as leaders, We are never neutral actors. We always have an influence. It’s just a matter of what kind of influence. And, ultimately, Leaders either lead the way or get in the way. That’s something that we all need to reflect on very, very deeply. Are you You’re leading the way or are you getting in the way? And the best way to lead the way is to lead as if you have no power. If you Frame your stewardship that way. It will help you see more clearly what you’re being asked to do, And, you’ll it will accelerate, I think, your growth and development as a leader.

Scott McCarthy [00:47:43]:
That’s awesome. I gotta I gotta follow-up with a little anecdotal story. So my background is I’m Canadian army. I’m Canadian military. I graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada actually here in Kingston, Ontario. And literally, the day after graduation, I was returning my equipment, some stuff that stays at the college, And I remember being in line with it, and one of the, senior noncommissioned officers there was giving him his words of advice, And I’ll never forget this, and he said, remember, you don’t know squat. He used different word than squat, but and we’ll keep the show clean. But essentially, his his, his point was much like that is that you don’t have all the answers.

Scott McCarthy [00:48:25]:
You have to go in with a open mind and that you have to be willing to listen to your people and understand where they’re coming from. So I absolutely love that answer, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard, it put that way with I gotta count, but I think we’re close to 70 odd guests now here at Moving Forward Leadership. So, well well well said, sir. Final question is where can people find you? How can they follow you? Feel free to give yourself a shameless plug. You got 1 of 5 we talked about 1 of 5 books, so why don’t feel free to, just, you know, guide people.

Tim Clark [00:48:59]:
Oh, sure. Well, we’d invite folks to to join us on LinkedIn, Timothy r Clark, Twitter, same. Leaderfactor.com is our website. And by the way, we do have The behavioral guide, which is a free download, it’s a practical guide and companion to the book And helps people with very practical concrete behavioral behaviors for each stage. And that, by the way, we have people download that from all over the world. And then we also have the 4 stages team survey, Which is a validated instrument that we use with organizations to help them get a baseline on where they are with psychological safety safety so that they can then take steps to to improve. So those are some additional resources that you may be interested in.

Scott McCarthy [00:49:54]:
Awesome. For listeners, always, it is easy for you. Just go to the show notes, for this podcast, and all the links are there. Tim, again, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. Most importantly, let’s start there.

Tim Clark [00:50:06]:
Thanks, Scott. It’s been a it’s been a real pleasure.

Scott McCarthy [00:50:19]:
Alright. That’s all I got for you fine folks today. I hope you enjoyed the show. I hope you enjoyed the interview, and most importantly, I hope you got something out of it. And if you did, remember, r squared, s squared. Right? Write and review the show so that it gets a little bit noticed a bit more. But most importantly, I can help more people because that’s what I’m here for. That’s what my guests are here for is to help more people become Better leaders and not being bosses.

Scott McCarthy [00:50:48]:
Right? So remember that. R squared, rate in view. S, share the show. Share this show with someone who you think can relate to the podcast as a whole and today’s topic. And then finally, subscribe. Subscribe so that you never miss another episode, and you can do that via your podcast playing app of choice through moving forward leadership .comforward/subscribe. That’s it for today, ladies and gentlemen. And as always, Stop bossing and start leading.

Scott McCarthy [00:51:21]:
Take care now.


Psychological Safety Topics

During this interview, Tim and I discuss the following topics:

  • The Inspiration behind the book
  • The four stages of psychological safety—Inclusion Safety, Learner Safety, Contributor Safety, and Challenger Safety—and what they mean for your organization
  • Why your employees need to feel accepted before they’ll feel safe to contribute and be heard
  • How any worker can learn, regardless of aptitude, given the right environment
  • Four words every leader needs to live by: “No cover, no candor”
  • How to swap the pattern of “helicopter leadership” for a culture of innovation

Guest Resources


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