Have you ever talked with someone who has changed your perspective by a simple turn of phrase? Or been stuck on the one way to see an issue with someone who asks a question and boom! the perfect idea or solution pops out of your mouth - all through their clever questioning and support. Simply by helping talk through an issue or conundrum, these ninjas elevate our thinking and lift our eyes. I call mine my Challenge Ninjas. My Ninjas never make me feel silly, small or wrong. They help me think boldly, differently and support me to try things out. They are the queens and kings of creating a sense of psychological safetyfor me and others to get to be the best ‘us’ we can be.
Psychological safety is getting a great deal of press lately, as well it should. High performance is found when teams can create a sense of risk-taking, voice and belonging that brings about authentic debate and exploration. Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School has been leading great research into this area, as well as Daniel Coyle, author of Culture Code. Google has also famously researched their high performance teams in Project Aristotle and found that in the five key dynamics, 'psychological safety was far and away the most important.’ Edmondson’s definition of psychological safety is a climate where people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions and ideas.
Great teams who have psychological safety are full of Challenge Ninjas. Challenge is often seen as an aggressive word - but when we look at growth and transformation in our work, we can’t do it without challenging the current paradigm. And if we don’t have psychological safety, this turns to defensiveness and a sense of being under attack. Interestingly, this type of psychological safety is not warm and fuzzy, it’s high energy and exciting - I call it The Buzz. And when we’ve got it, it’s contagious!
So, when I see leaders blitzing this space, I can see the pattern of some major skills we should build. We need them in ourselves and our teams. Reflect on the people who bring out your best thinking and work. What attributes do you see in them? How do they make you feel? How do they make you think? Do they display any of the following list?
Building your Challenge Ninja Skills
Challenge thinking with wonder and curiosity, not JUDGEMENT.
Think about times when you’ve been challenged by someone to think differently, but the call to do it has been laced with judgement and criticism. Straight away our defensiveness rises and we shut down the best thinking
Great Challenge Ninjas know just the right tonality and inquiry to set the tone for good exploration, not defensive missiles back and forth. They also know how to ask wondering questions with authentic curiosity.
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