Candor in the workplace, even “extreme” or “radical” candor, has become a hot topic in recent years. And for good reason. The creativity, buy-in, and efficiencies possible through candid conversation are remarkable and well-documented. There’s no question that candid dialogue, when seen as the norm and practiced routinely, is a key source of competitive advantage — companies like Google and Bridgewater Associates are good illustrations. Yet practicing candor company-wide is not nearly as easy as popular writings imply, especially if a company’s existing culture is less than candid. We at PMC believe a vital ingredient has been missing from the candor discussion. Until now, that is. The Fearless Organization, by Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, is hot off the presses. In this book, Edmondson discusses the often subtle yet widespread effects of fear in the workplace, and how fear impedes candor and creativity. Her basic argument is that, for a culture of candor to take hold and endure over time, an organization must first propagate psychological safety throughout its ranks. We couldn’t agree more. This book is highly recommended reading for leaders at all levels.
The clients we work with at PMC often ask for advice on how to get more buy-in from those they lead. Almost all of these leaders believe buy-in is obtained through personal qualities such persuasiveness, passion, intelligence, charisma, and so on. Important as these qualities are for any leader, they’re secondary when it comes to garnering commitment. The primary source of commitment is choice. That is, in order to truly commit to a course of action, those from whom commitment is sought must be given some choice about whether, or how, they will carry out the action. Think about it. If you have no choice in what you do or how you go about doing it, how will you feel? If you’re like most people, your natural response will be to feel as though you don’t really own your actions. It’s human nature. Ownership and commitment go hand in hand, so a lack of felt ownership almost always diminishes the commitment we would have – or at least could have – if we were given some choice in the matter. So, if you’re not getting the commitment you’d like from those you lead, consider the possibility that you may be constraining their choices too much. The more willing and able you are to let them choose (or at least influence) their own path, the more you will get their commitment. To be precise, you won’t be “getting them” to commit. Rather, to the extent they step up and make the choices you’re offering them, they will commit as a result of their own choice-making.
As 2018 draws to close, we would like to thank the many clients, colleagues, and partners who played a part in the continued success of Paese Management Consulting over the past year. It’s been our best year ever at PMC, and we know our continued success will depend as much as ever on the relationships we’ve built and the creative possibilities that arise through partnership and collaboration. Wishing you the happiest of holidays and all the best in 2019!