Impression Management and Psychological Safety In High Performing Teams (Europe 2021)

With a background in Psychology as well as Business, Duena is on a crusade to see lasting change in our VUCA world, to help companies avail themselves of DevOps and the new ways of work and bring humanity back to the workplace. Today, Duena is the Co-Founder and CEO of PeopleNotTech -a company designing a revolutionary AI-driven work tool creating the world’s first solution to check and increase Psychological Safety and Emotional Intelligence for the success of Agile and digital transformations. With 15 years bettering high performing teams, Ffion focuses on: psychological safety software, group and individual coaching for high performance collaborative leadership and teaming workshops for large multi-disciplinary teams e.g. High Speed 2 rail projects; cross organization leadership programs with live learning and peer coaching at their heart collaborative behaviors training for board members behavioral assessments for bid teams.


Duena Blomstrom

Author, Co-Founder and CEO, Emotional Banking and PeopleNotTech


Ffion Jones

PeopleNotTech, PeopleNotTech



Hello everybody. And thank you for having us back at dusk. We were speaking about the same topic and almost saying the same things only. We hope with a little bit of a slant at the last dance in America, and we're really, really happy to be part of this one in Europe because there's on home. Third of the vast majority of people of tech is based in the UK. Did I say in Europe, our home turf, that's a little bit contentious of a topic, but in any case, both you and I are really excited. We're not going to be giving you a long intro about who we are because you can so easily find this information. Learning thing stuff. Is it to say that we are in love with agile in love with DevOps and are living and breathing psychological safety. So with that said, let's just get straight into the topic and the topic, as I said, it essentially the same one that we have discussed before. Um, basically looking at the idea of psychological safety, both from the point of view of good behaviors and from the point of view of negative behaviors in particular, when it comes to impression management and, um, the way that defects in high-performing teams. So, um, as I said, we're, we're going to be giving you some of the new staff and some of the stuff that we've discussed before only with like you to stick with us. Um, so did we get to those bits of news?


Absolutely. So we know that in this community and the DevOps community, and that does, there's going to be a ton of people who really already know quite a bit about psychological safety, but we wanted to put it at the beginning, some of the backgrounds. So first of all, the term psychological safety has been around since about the nineties. Um, this quote here, you can see from William Conn, that piece of work and the research around psychological safety has really been brought to the public conscious by the work of professor, Dr. Amy Edmondson, the Harvard professor of leadership. So if you haven't heard of her go and read their books, she's the place to start. But then psychological safety has been defined by her hours, shared belief that the team and the environment is safe, interpersonal risk-taking, as we've already said that we've taken that to heart and made it the core of our work here at people, not tech.


And we've come up with our own definition based on what we see in teams that have really high levels of psychological safety. And that is to say that a psychologically safe team is one that feels like it moves maintenance together. Thinking back to the time when you made magic with the team, when you would debate it, you were vulnerable and learning and getting stuff done. That was what we see to be psychologically. And then we boiled it down to something even more simple and human and fundamental, really. And that's looking at this idea of team equals family. And when we talk to people about that, and when we say, think back to the last time you were in a team where it felt like family that's when people can really think of unhooking to a time when they felt psychologically safe in a team. So that's how we have found it most impactful and useful to talk to people about psychologically safe teams,


Right? And as funeral saying, the concept in itself is not new. It has been going around for quite some time. In fact, I think the very first mention of the concept may have dated back to, um, the sixties if I remember correctly, but the term hasn't come into consciousness until the nineties. And then obviously with the one professor Dr. Amy Edmondson, um, in, in terms of professor , I'm sure no one listening to this is unfamiliar with her work, but if you haven't read it, please read the fearless organization, please reteaming. Um, at the very least those two books, um, will give you a lot better of a perspective. And obviously everybody listening to us would have, um, at least read the project and is very familiar with, um, how Dean and, and collaborators are defining psychological safety. But obviously we say this over and over again, psychological safety hasn't really gotten to become part of the general idea of, of the business world and theater project.


I sort of came back with our findings and we're going to be talking a little bit about it, um, from here on, but what matters is that there was this, if you wish gap between when academia woke up to the importance of dynamic in teams and teams making this magic together and that time that the business world has woken up to it. So in terms of the project, I started out, um, this has been a very successful slide at the other does, and we were very pleased to see that people have liked to see all this information in one, I'm sure it wasn't news to anybody. But what this says is that we are practically looking at the biggest set of data that is in terms of a technology company that has, has asked the right questions of their people. So what, um, Google's project case, it was in an Archer if you're not familiar with it is essentially, um, centered around the question of what is it that makes our team super performance.


How do we get high performance in themes? What makes our team be magical and run fast? And, um, they have run this study with, uh, looking at over a hundred varieties was 180 teams, 50,000 people have been surveyed that as immense as compared to everybody else. And it has been over a quite sizable period of time, those four years and all the data has come back to essentially point to first and foremost, psychological safety. Secondly, um, whether or not a team is, has a degree of dependability, whether or not the team has, um, inbuilt structure and clarity, if they have meaning, if they have impact, obviously, um, all of these mean different things to different people. And, uh, there has been, you know, uh, there have been voices that have been slightly critical of what does dependability really mean? What does it mean outside of Google?


Um, how do we get more meaning how do we get more impact? What does structure and clarity, meaning in different organizations, all of those things are debatable. What isn't debatable though, is what does psychological safety, um, really mean in this context and to double down on how important it is. Um, what you're looking at is something that I'm sure most of you have seen before, which is essentially, um, one of the many diagrams in the state of report that starts by saying that you have to have a culture of psychological safety. And every one of those diagrams has started with one of these boxes, which I find absolutely remarkable, because if you want, um, you know, uh, regulation, you have to start with a culture of psychological safety. If you want operational excellence, you have to start with a controlled psychotic, because they say whatever it is that you want less technical debt, whether it is to have cleaner code, to run faster, make better technology.


The number one thing you need to do is start with a culture of psychological safety. And what I think is really interesting is that one of the premises in this particular report has been let's double check. If the findings that Google had were particular and specific to Google only, or were actually, um, applicable across the board to other organizations. And so the, um, survey data here was over, I believe 3,600 other companies, they have asked them nearly the same things and every result pointed to psychological safety again. So now this is not a result that is Google specific. This is a result that is humans in technology specific.


Definitely. And then what we came to thinking about and what we're talking about in this talk on our last talk is that psychological safety, as an idea, is pretty straightforward too. If people, people to connect with, and it really people really resonate with the idea as well of, you know, needing to create a safe, to speak up environment, but how do we break it down so that we can do something with it? And that's one of the questions that we grappled with. And then we came up with six components of psychological safety, well, focus on the net positive and negative behaviors of psychological safety for the purposes of this talk. But these are the six components that we believe that it breaks down into. So there was a flexibility engagement, how connected you are with your team, openness to the behavior of speaking up courage, again, having the courage to stand up for what you believe in resilience.


And then of course learning, which should always be at the core of it, have a great psychologically safe team to become to those positive and negative behaviors that we mentioned a second ago. The, you can see it here in front of you. So we know that the positive behavior that is the desirable behavior that creates a psychologically safe environment is speaking up, it's having a voice is giving input authentically, openly, and courageously voicing concerns. The is observed mistakes. It's offering opinions and ideas, no matter how wild and left of field, they are understanding that you're in an environment that will respect and receive all of those ideas or any of the other categories. We'll welcome those and we'll deal with those constructively. And then on the flip side of that, whilst that's really easy to understand, it's a little bit more challenging to look at the negative behaviors of psychological safety, but when we do talk about impression management and we dig into impression management, it really makes it much clearer as to how we can make progress in the space of psychological safety. So impression management is the, the not speaking up for fear of appearing incompetent, ignorant, negative, disruptive, or intrusive. And the key thing, or one of the other things to think about here is the impression management is the antithesis of psychological safety and it also lowers psychological safety. So the more we see of that behavior, the lower psychological safety becomes in the team


Precisely. So impersonal management is indeed the deffer over that and what we must find ways to avoid. We'll show you something here, which we couldn't have shown you. Um, when we talked to you last about this, and we're kind of trying to expand on that because we've learned a lot over the last, um, year, really, and over the last few months, even, and those learnings, um, are primarily to do with how teams have embraced these concepts in particular, in terms of good and bad behaviors through the placement of the fact that we make no secret about it. We make a product that measures and improve psychological safety. And by that, I mean, we ask and check how people behave, and then we give them ways to improve those behaviors and improve the good ones and, and diminish the bad ones. And when it comes to infection management in particular, we are forensic in helping teams try and lower it because it's fiance, not only does it show itself as a symptom, but it's further diminishes, whatever psychological safety they had whenever they engagement.


The great news about investment management is that it lends itself to essentially the equivalent of cognitive behavioral therapy with four themes. I'm sure some of you are familiar with the concept. The concept when it comes to individuals, is that if you have a behavior that's negative, what you need to do is find the time to understand it. Dissected, think of it in an analytical way, potentially we support and help afterwards. Once you have understood it, you're a lot more able to reframe around potentially avoiding that behavior from then on that is the principle behind cognitive behavioral therapy in a very simplistic terms. Don't anyone should me who is a psychologist. Nonetheless, we realized very, very soon that there are ways in which we can do that same thing only with teams instead of individuals, meaning once we start understanding what the negative behavior is and understand it, forensically enough to catch ourselves when we do it, we can start reframing and stop engaging in that behavior.


These on your screen are screenshots of some of the questions of which that are a good, I believe, close to a hundred questions that pertain to the same topic, but these are some of the questions that will make people while using our dashboard, realize what their behavior is. When have they stopped themselves for fear of appearing a certain way, whether that was incompetent, negative, um, ignorant, disruptive, and so on. So we simply just ask the members to look in words and realize that they have in the last period in the last sprint, in the last engagement, stop themselves from saying something, they have bit their lip, they haven't engaged, they haven't spoken up. They, they, they stopped short of, of actually showing the true thoughts when it came to something. Anytime that they've done, that they've engaged in impression management, they've done that fear of appearing a certain way to their colleagues if they have them.


So that is absolutely problematic and they should know immediately. And what happens for the, in our software is that they will, um, be told that this happened to them with what we call an alert. And you see that on the left hand side of your screen, that's a screenshot of the alert. So in this particular team, once someone was afraid of looking dumb, once someone was afraid of looking twice, someone was afraid of looking a negative or maybe the same person, and then they never were afraid of looking intrusive or, or overly crying and so on. Um, and in that particular example, that's neither good nor bad. You simply know what has happened in terms of those moments, when the team hasn't engaged fully, they will obviously reflect in the score that we're also showing with the components, the funeral speaking about earlier, but by the time they reflect on that score, it will be a little bit late.


So what we suggest is, um, a way to reframe around understanding when people have done that behavior, and then a way to change that by asking themselves to stop and reflect on, on the moment itself. And so this is an example of an except of one of the place we have put together called the catch yourself counter and what you need to be doing. And you can do this without our software. Most of the things we're telling you today, obviously we'd like you to talk to us and work with us. We don't actually need us for this bed. You literally just need to form a practice of catching yourself when you engage in impression management, ask us these questions. Have I stopped myself? Was I afraid of X and Y have I been fearing appearing a certain way to my team? Have I seen other people engage in that behavior around me?


So this is just an example of one of the place of play that you can start doing as of today, um, where you will know is impression management, uh, around you, even in this conference, because once you see you can no longer unseat that it's a really healthy, happy to have to look around, right? Speaking of a place, do we have a number of them in the software that will address a certain type of behavior? Remember the components that Fiona was talking about when you see that those behaviors are flagging in any which way, when you see that you're not doing great in any of those categories, then you can go ahead and address that by using one of the plays that we have crowdsourced from the many astoundingly, wonderful teams that we have worked with over the last year, year and a half. And we are now giving them back to all the other teams that are working with us.


So going into, what can we do with those different areas of psychological safety, some of the pieces of advice and knowledge and the story I said, we've picked these up over working with teams for the last little while that one of the, one of these is to continue that looking out for impression management really important to remember when you're looking out from pressure management, you're starting on that journey that we don't talk about. You know, when we talk about impression management, we always talk about we and not vague because it is common to us all. And one of the first things you'll find is that you notice it in yourself and you realize that actually there are lots of occasions on which you don't speak up. And even if there's only a few occasions, there will be important ones. The behavior of impression managing is dangerous and risky from the point of view, the way Amy Edmondson describes it in her book, the fearless organization, when she says you can mitigate for what you hear, but you can't mitigate for what you don't hear. So when you were animating, your team is impression managing you're missing out on some really important information, insights, challenges, whatever it might be. So our advice is to look for it in all corners, in your team, in yourself, outside your team, and definitely upwards in the leaders that are above you as well.


And the next piece of advice, the next thing that we'd really like you to be thinking about doing is being courageous about courage element of psychological safety. And again, this is something that if you're as an organization wants to stay relevant, you want to stay competitive. You want to, you're looking at innovation, you're looking for new ideas, this idea of having courage and being safe to speak up and feeling that stepping into that vulnerability in order to be able to speak up, then that's, what's going to get you into that space of being able to innovate and be able to stay relevant and stay ahead of the marketplace. Rene brown is a fantastic source of all kinds of tips and knowledge and thinking around vulnerability. I'm sure you've all heard of her, but referring back to her work at any time is already really valuable in this space.


But the sorts of things that we think about when we think about courage are for example, the Nakia example. So Nakia had, uh, impression management and lack of courage of three different levels of their organization. They didn't listen to advice or community can communicate openly about threats from competitors. They weren't able to tell bosses that the company's technology couldn't compete in an evolving markets. And as a result of that impression management and low level courage across the organization, they actually think they became irrelevant and lost billions of dollars as a result. We're looking to avoid those kinds of instances and those kinds of results by working on psychological safety and specifically working on that courage to speak up in difficult situations.


And then next always be learning. I think we all many organizations and many teams really value learning as part of their culture, but do we really valued any? No, we say we do. We provide opportunities for people to learn. We talk about learning on the job. We talk about making people development opportunities, but where do we really see organizations putting, putting their money on the line when it comes to learning and really making it one of the most important things to people in their teams can do. And what's been really, really interesting for us in the last 12 months has been working to speaking to, um, a particular large pharmaceutical company. That's actually taken the step of not just talking about doing this. They are taking this, they've taken this step of rewarding people on their time spent on learning. So imagine that talk about flipping the page.


You know, you've got people being bonused for, uh, their achievements in terms of technical delivery or their achievements in terms of what they've actually delivered on the job. This organization has said, no, we valued your learning as much as, or more than that level of performance, because we see the long-term contribution to our organization and to your motivation and to that psychologically safe environment that we really, really value creating in this organization. So it kind of knocked our socks off when we heard about it. Um, and I think it's definitely one to take away and think hard about what do we really reward in terms of learning in our teams,


Precisely other things that are not new to anyone here that we have to keep focused on. Are, are we able to stay stubble and, um, are there things that can, we can be doing so that we increase that because let's face it with the period you've just crossed where we're more aware than I ever have the need for flexibility and of the need for resilience that they're connected. In fact, the way that we look at it, um, you can very well be flexible and yet break at some point. So you don't have long-term resilience. Um, and, uh, they are again interconnected, but they're not one in the same thing. So we measured them both in the software. The way we measure the flexibility is, um, through, uh, a couple of things that are declarative, where people have told us how excited they were about change, how and bothered they were about things that have come, um, and, and being kind of above what they were expecting to happen, how willing they are to see, um, directions, uh, be mothered and, and ideas be, um, iffy and so on.


So we're asking those, but we're also looking at the way they're using the software to see if they indeed are flexible and they change times, they meet the change times that they react with the software and so on. Um, and on top of it, if you go step further, as I said, flexibility will then eventually ideally over time transform into resilience, not on its own. Um, if anything, we believe that, uh, resilience has also also has a component of engagement in it. If you stop to think about it, the tighter you are, the more empathy you have, um, the more of a foundation, you have enough of emotional bond to be resilient by using your flexibility. But, um, on both of those things, we have developed various place that you can find in the playbook. And we, we also, um, send out an, in about a video or two a week that pretty much described this place with, with the same attitude of please just learn from us and do the things with pen and paper.


You don't necessarily have to use our software for it, but in those explanations, if you dig through our YouTube channel, you're going to be able to see us talk about resilience, plays that increase your ability to be resilient over time. And God knows we've been very tested on resilience in the pandemic that just passed. Um, but also there are flexibility, plays and ways to keep you agile enough in terms of thinking. And I don't mean that agile, I mean able to do prints, and I don't mean those prints, but just able to move between idea and another big side about change and, and, um, Harold's transformation in ways that are, um, enthusiastic. And to do those things, there are exercises you can actually apply where you put yourself in, in new situations where you think about that are demandings when you create an ideas where you together, think of, um, things that you have actually avoided and then appreciate them be grateful for the resilience that you have built together.


I'm going to split it up a little bit over here and not preach on servant leadership, but give you a fun bit of information, which has, we have been contacted not long ago by a company that wanted to use our product, not to measure psychological safety, not to include psychological safety, but to train servant leaders. So as a mini leadership product, and that is because when people are using our playbook, they don't actually need a team leader to be running the plate, the session that can be done by anyone. So essentially the team decides together on next actions. Facilitator could be anybody of them, essentially, that person becomes a servant leader for that particular action. So this company was interested in getting many, many servant leaders within one team. She's a lovely, lovely idea. So being a servant leader just means being able to facilitate taking obstacles out and any one of us can do it. Um, if we have the right picture of the dynamic that we're trying to construct,


Absolutely. And speaking of leadership, I think it's always worth us talking about psychological safety and leadership teams in our hearts of hearts. We all, I think acknowledge that the higher up an organization would we go into the executive leadership teams, the lower, the levels of a psychological safety, the higher, the levels of impression management. There's no getting away from that, but that is where a good body of the work needs to be done in terms of psychological safety and building that kind of culture. We always think of one, the standard example, which was from you might've heard of, she put this briefly had worked at apple for a period of time, but it was only after she left apple that she was quoted as saying that in that job, she would rather have kept her job by staying with the lines within the, within the lines than seeing something and risk looking stupid.


And that she had been in a really senior role, widely respected for her work. And yet with still experiencing that, um, that level of impression management, um, because of the level of role that she was in. So something to reflect them in terms of senior teams and psychological safety. And then finally, not finally, but how do we measure and improve psychological safety? One of the key things here is about understanding that the, this thinking about how we are engaging people in psychological safety and impression management, how are we serving people? How are we talking to them about it? So we want to measure and improve psychological safety survey. Fatigue is one of the barriers that we need to get over. Also, it is not a survey tool to be clear, but when it comes to surveys, what we have found is that the most successful survey tools out there are the ones that close the feedback loop. So nobody wants to continue to answer questions that are not relevant and questions that don't where the answers just don't go anywhere. They're just rolled up into a corporate metric. When you give people the opportunity to close that feedback loop, then people can see the value and they're willing to give of their time and their energy to those surveys and answering those questions.


Exactly. And what that results in is practically empower teams. And we have been incredibly humbled and fortunate to see teams that have went from disengaged, not quite interested with low level, and they have transformed themselves into empowered, powerful, uh, excited, many psychology teams that were now in, in an enthusiasm. Um, if you wish loop of, of, of doing something about their wellbeing and then seeing the results of that. So it's been truly an honor, for those of you that are watching this and your clients are watching your teams, girl, um, has been, has made audio and made obviously, um, made everything we're doing worth it. And w we'd like to thank you for that. Obviously what we see and what we advise that everyone does is again, our software, not just, what did you think what's something called the human debt. That's one for maybe the next does, but what it is essentially is finding ways to focus on the team Bible obsessed about psychological safety, make sure that you do measure mental action truly, and, and, and honestly, and openly, and that you get organizational permission for all this.


If you actually are trying to lower that human, that, that we are talking about, speaking of human, that, um, I actually have a book coming out. I'm not going to talk about this provider, but there's going to be a discount code, which you can see in the slack channel so that you guys can get it for cheaper than the rest of the universal sort of very expensive book in general. But what it tends to do is essentially, um, make that connection between HR and business and it, and the folks and bridge that gap is actually alive. It's in the middle of that gap that we have dropped out of the knowledge and the goodness about people. And if we do want to start, um, sorting that human, that we have to come together and fix it from both sides of the equation. Obviously there's a couple of, um, of newsletters you can find on LinkedIn, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, we talk either about agile or psychological safety. And, um, as fiance said,


You come to us and talk to us about this as well. And if you already to do something about psychological safety, and we know that this community is from our experience last time, and our experience working with you, I already elbows deep in psychological safety. If you want to use a software solution, come to us, we're really ready to talk to you. We love working with people and using this solution, but if you're not, and you just want to get started and you can't, and you just want to get started, then please take some of the advice we've given you today. Just get started to take some practical steps in the right direction. It will make the difference for your teams, and that is what we want to see happen. So thank you very much for listening to us. Thank you. Bye.