How To Create A Fearless Culture
If you were to consider what defines a “fearless” workforce, what would be the defining characteristics?
These traits most likely would come to mind:
- Overcoming obstacles
- Creating new solutions
- Bold communication
These characteristics are effective behaviors against external challenges. Yet more importantly, they are even more critical against internal challenges that keep an organization fearful from within.
Many studies have been conducted on this topic, and a particular one from Gustavo Razzetti’s Fearless Cultures initiative resonates with what many others discuss.
Truly fearless organizations by and large are noted for transforming their culture from one that gets the worst out of people to one that gets the best from all of their people. They are fearless from the inside challenges, which enables people to act from a point of freedom and focus that is not counter-productive to survival mechanisms.
For context, here are some of the behaviors an internally fearful organizaiton exhibits:
- Cutthroat behaviors to get “one-up” on another employee or “internal competitor“
- Silenced people who protect their jobs, and short-term peace, in the face of bullying and other threats
- Silos, whereby people need to “stay in their lane”, that squelch collaboration
- Top-down hierarchy that does not lend to being accountable at the top
Fearless cultures, on the other hand, allow for autonomy, change to the status quo and traditional norms, and protect people who wish to speak on any topic that is a barrier to personal, team, or organizational growth.
If we reviewed the first few traits of a true and internally fearless culture, we could apply them in the following manner:
- Overcoming obstacles – removing internal barriers, personalities and behaviors that instill and leverage fear
- Creating new solutions – allowing innovation to flow freely from any individual, paving the way for agile collaboration
- Bold communication – speaking up without repercussions, holding others mutually (yet respectfully) accountable
Changing your culture to one that is not ruled by fear internally is a process of creating fully accountable mechanisms, allowing everything and everyone to be questioned and challenged, and fostering a safe environment that allows for mistakes, failure and experimentation instead of mere ROI results on every dollar.
The organization that embraces this type of culture shift is like an automobile engine that has been tuned up. The gunk has been removed, the fluids are fresh and moving, and the energy has been boosted as connections and conduits have been cleaned from corrosion.
Some of the more positive results of internally fearless cultures is that they allow for the workplace to be:
- More self aware, both individually and culturally in not allowing fear to manifest
- Create an atmosphere to have straight, tough questions and open talk
- Support failure, allowing for individuals and teams to learn, grow and become better
- Invite participation and collaboration inclusively from all parties
Creating a fearless culture takes, no pun intended, courage to changes that might be met with resistance from the best performers, particularly ones with power bases to lose. Yet it’s those behaviors that are needed to be overcome to unlock the potential of everyone by allowing psychological safety and true 360-degree accountability to permeate the company.
Fearless organizations take a lot of work to change, but once transformed can perpetually keep itself in a sustained environment of courage and inclusivity for all voices to matter in the company.
Ask yourself this week, do your people fear others outside, or inside, the organization?