I don’t remember her name, but I do remember the terror on her face as she tried to give her first presentation in front of our Dale Carnegie class. She was shaking, yet frozen at the same time.
Our wise instructor, Joanne walked up to her, placed her hand on her shoulder, and gently said:
“I want you to know that this is a safe place and I’m proud of you for having the courage to stand in front of us and try. We have 12 more weeks of practice left.“
In an instant, Joanne gave us a masterclass in leadership, she did 3 things all great leaders do.
1. Create psychological safety.
Strong leaders intentionally build an environment where it’s ok to fail once in a while, a judgment free-zone of sorts. A place where learning is rewarded, where consistently showing up is what matters and your team roots for you. Google identifies “psychological safety” as a key ingredient for a successful team.
2. Reframe the situation.
Great leaders never miss a teaching moment. Joanne took this opportunity to remind the student that it took real courage to come up and try. She didn’t want the student to miss the fact that she had demonstrated courage. This was a cue not only to the presenter but to all of us, that showing up matters. Showing up takes courage.
3. Challenge appropriately.
The comment that “we have 12 more weeks left” was another signal designed to convey the message: “I believe in you so much that we will try again and again”. Too often managers give up on their people too quickly. Joanne made sure to keep the challenge alive.
I say this to remind you that as a leader, you have to cultivate a safe environment for your team (High Challenge/High Support). Anything short of this will discourage your team from bringing their authentic self to work. No one wants that.