How do teams become teams? Last week a friend shared a remarkable video of the moment when a luna moth emerges from its cocoon. As a brand-new moth, it’s ugly, scraggly and definitely doesn’t look like it can fly. It crawls up to a nearby perch and over the next hour or so the real show starts. Its wings unfold and dry out and only then can it get onto the business of really being a moth.
I recently presented at the Third Thursday session held this month with the Strategic Doing community. The topic was “Untangling Rule 1: Trust, Psychological Safety, and Equity of Voice.” One of the things I’ve found compelling about Strategic Doing is the way that it accelerates those moments of “magic” in teams where suddenly, everything is clicking with the group. I’ve long wanted to learn more about exactly what’s going on, so that I can help those moments emerge or – as sometimes happens – pinpoint why they aren’t happening in a particular group. Pursuing a PhD in Organizational Leadership is providing plenty of opportunity to learn about just that, and this month my own research began (email me if you want to be part of that!).
Trust and psychological safety are two of what scholars call “team emerging states” that are familiar to Strategic Doers (there are more than 60 such states that have been identified in various articles). Another emergent state is “voice climate,” which I would argue is the precursor to equity of voice (put another way, it’s emergent, but something else emerges from it). All three have a role in creating those moments.
Trust and psychological safety are similar, but they are not the same thing. Trust is when I am confident that others will behave well. Psychological safety is when I feel safe taking risks. Amy Edmondson pioneered the idea of group psychological safety and her work is a touchstone of Strategic Doing. Voice climate is the set of shared beliefs about speaking up – and one way you can see those beliefs show up in a group is in equity of voice. Is everyone speaking about the same amount, or are there identifiable “talkers” and “watchers”?
All three of these emergent states are critical for teams trying to collaborate effectively. That’s why we spend a lot of time in Strategic Doing Practitioner Training on Rule 1 – it’s the first of ten rules, but if we don’t get it right, the other nine will never make up for it. To return to the moth analogy, that scraggly little creature has all the potential, but unless the environment into which it enters the world is right, it will never be able to take flight as a gorgeous moth. In our trainings, we cover a number of techniques that specifically target these emergent states.
We have new training courses coming up soon – an online course begins June 5, and an in-person course in Chicago in August – contact us to get on the list for more information.
Liz shepherds the expansion of the Lab’s programming and partnerships with other universities interested in deploying agile strategy tools. A co-author of Strategic Doing: 10 Skills for Agile Leadership, she also focuses on the development and growth of innovation and STEM education ecosystems, new tool development, and teaching Strategic Doing.