My Shingo Webinar Recording on Learning from Mistakes and More

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I recently had the opportunity to present a webinar hosted by my friends at the Shingo Institute, where I presented on the topic of using mistakes as a catalyst for continuous improvement. I'd like to share some of the key points and insights from that session.

The Recording:


The Importance of Psychological Safety

I began the webinar by addressing a common misconception that mistakes should always be avoided at all costs in all situations. Instead, I emphasized that mistakes are inevitable and can be powerful learning opportunities. This is closely tied to the concept of psychological safety, a crucial element for fostering an environment where team members feel safe to speak up, admit errors, and suggest improvements.

Andon Cords and Cultural Expectations

Drawing from the practices at Toyota, I highlighted the use of Andon cords as a symbolic and practical tool for quality assurance. These cords are pulled thousands of times a day in Toyota plants to signal a problem, reflecting a culture that encourages and expects team members to speak up. This behavior is underpinned by the Shingo principles of ensuring quality at the source and respecting every individual.

Preconditions for Effective Problem Solving

Effective problem-solving in any organization hinges on two key preconditions:

  1. psychological safety and
  2. a robust problem-solving framework.

Many organizations invest heavily in problem-solving training but fail to see results because they neglect the importance of psychological safety. Without it, employees are less likely to report problems for fear of punishment or futility — they'll say, “It's not dangerous, it's just not worth the effort.”

Learning from Toyota's Approach

I shared examples from Toyota, where leaders respond to mistakes not with punishment but with support and a focus on improving systems. This approach helps build a culture where employees feel safe to admit mistakes, leading to more reported incidents and, ultimately, fewer serious safety events.

Psychological Safety: Definitions and Importance

Referencing Amy Edmondson‘s work, I shared her definition of psychological safety as:

“the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”

This is essential for creating an environment where continuous improvement can thrive.

Overcoming the Fear and Futility Factors

One significant barrier to speaking up is the fear factor, where employees fear retaliation. However, research by Ethan Burris shows that the futility factor–believing that speaking up won't make a difference–is even more prevalent. Overcoming these barriers requires a cultural shift where leaders not only tolerate but encourage and reward candor.

Real-World Applications and Data

I provided data from hospitals in the Pacific Northwest that adopted a “safety stop” processes modeled after the Andon cord. These institutions saw an increase in reported concerns and a decrease in serious safety events, demonstrating the effectiveness of combining psychological safety with problem-solving processes.

Case Studies and Leadership Examples

I shared stories from Toyota leaders like Isao Yoshino and David Meier, who experienced supportive and constructive responses to mistakes early in their careers. These examples illustrate the long-term benefits of a non-punitive, learning-oriented approach to mistakes.

Practical Steps for Leaders

To cultivate psychological safety, leaders must model candor by admitting their own mistakes and uncertainties. This behavior encourages employees to do the same and reward them for speaking up, fostering a culture of openness and continuous improvement. I also discussed the importance of moving from a “nice” to a “kind” approach, where leaders provide constructive feedback and support to help employees grow and avoid repeated mistakes.

Measuring Psychological Safety

We explored ways to gauge psychological safety within an organization, both indirectly through metrics like reported incidents and directly through employee surveys. These measures can help identify areas for improvement and track progress over time.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, creating a culture of continuous improvement requires a foundation of psychological safety. Leaders play a crucial role in modeling and promoting this culture, ensuring employees feel safe and empowered to speak up and contribute to the organization's success.

Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar and contributed to the discussion. For those interested in learning more, I highly recommend Amy Edmondson's The Fearless Organization and Timothy Clark's The Four Stages of Psychological Safety.

And I hope you'll check out my book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.

Let me know if you'd want me to share on this topic at your event or organization. Contact me about speaking.

Transcript:

Mary Price:
Welcome everyone today. My name is Mary Price. I'm the events and marketing director at the Shingo Institute at Utah State University and I'm so excited to have Mark Graben with us today. I've known Mark now for over a decade and I truly value our relationship. Mark is an internationally recognized consultant, published author, professional speaker, blogger, podcaster, entrepreneur.

Mary Price:
He does it all. He's received the Shingo Publication Award for his books healthcare true Management's role in improving work climate and culture, and how to do a gimbal walk. He recently wrote the article we published in our newsletter earlier this month. It's titled Psychological Safety, and you can read that article by visiting shingo.org articles with that, Mark, I'll turn the time over to you.

Mark Graban:
Well, thank you Mary. Appreciate the introduction. I'm going to make a a slight correction. The topic is mistakes. We all make mistakes.

Mark Graban:
And you'll think I set Mary up to do this. The Gemble walks book is not mine. My books are lean hospitals and healthcare Kaizen that I was given the shingo recognition for, but thank you for my mistake. We all make mistakes. I'm going to make mistakes so we can learn how to react graciously to mistakes.

Mark Graban:
And sometimes you have to speak up and and .1 out and okay, we'll move on. But I want to share some thoughts here today about using mistakes as a driver for continuous improvement, if not innovation. So for those of you that are practitioners of lean, you'll recognize probably this is of course an and on cord pictured at a Toyota plant. And if you know Toyota, these cords are being pulled sometimes up to thousands of times a day in the typical plant. But team members doing so can be a cultural expectation.

Mark Graban:
But companies cant force this behavior if the cultural norms dont promote and accept and encourage that behavior of pulling the cord or speaking up. So we can connect this to shingo principles of assuring quality at the source. We can connect it to the principle of respect every individual, of realizing people want to do quality work. And when they've made a mistake or see a problem or have a concern, the expectation can be in certain cultures, to pull the cord. If in doubt, pull the cord.

Mark Graban:
And doing so has to get a positive, constructive, reinforcing response. Otherwise it's not going to happen. So we can think and work backwards from this and other organizations that have people speaking up in different ways and ask what's required. And I think there's at least two key preconditions and things that we can work on addressing one of them, which I'll share some more thoughts on here today. Is this idea of psychological safety.

Mark Graban:
Do I feel safe to pull the cord? Do I feel safe to speak up? Plus, effective problem solving. We need these two together. And a lot of organizations have invested a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort in problem solving training.

Mark Graban:
And that's a good thing. Or it can be a good thing when it's combined with an environment where people feel a high sense of psychological safety. Otherwise, it's difficult to do problem solving if people are being punished for pointing out problems. And this is something a lot of organizations in different industries and different countries are working on. Pictured here, Doctor Yasudas, a chief medical officer at a hospital near Toyota city in Japan.

Mark Graban:
I had a chance to visit there. I think this picture is from 2018. They're actually getting coaching directly from the local Toyota Global headquarters people, and they are focusing on creating an environment where people feel more safe to speak up. So Doctor Yasuda is smiling because she is showing and talking about this chart that shows a vast increase in what's labeled as incident reports. Now, why?

Mark Graban:
The reason she's happy is that they are working on closing the gap between actual incidents and reported incidents. In this transition toward a climate of higher psychological safety, we're going to see more reports when people feel safe doing so. That's an important starting point. We can see the same thing in us hospitals. This is data from a hospital in the Pacific Northwest modeling a process after the Andon cord, not literally a cord, but something they call a safety stop process.

Mark Graban:
This chart shows as they were rolling out that safety stop process and management system across different clinics and hospitals. The number of, as it's labeled here, safety stops, rcas and serious safety events. This is the number of reported concerns and events that's increasing. That's evidence of psychological safety and people feeling safe when it's combined with effective problem solving. Here's the key result.

Mark Graban:
The number of serious safety events going down over a very similar timeframe. So it may seem counterintuitive, but we can have an increasing number of reports while the number of actual events is going down. So I've used this phrase, psychological safety. There are a number of definitions that are similar. I like Amy Edmondson's definition.

Mark Graban:
I like her book, the Fearless Organization. She's considered one of the expert researchers and teachers of psychological safety, and she emphasizes that it's a belief. We could use words like perception or feeling that one will not be punished or humiliated, or I would add, even just being ignored or marginalized would be a bad thing. It's a belief that we can do these things without punishment. Speaking up about ideas, questions, concerns, mistakes.

Mark Graban:
Speaking up about anything disagreeing with the boss requires a high degree of psychological safety. So mistakes is the last thing on this list. Intentional mistake. Here, what is mistakes? I mean, it's a word we know, but one definition of the word mistake.

Mark Graban:
Mistakes are actions or judgments that turn out to be misguided or wrong. So that's the key phrase here. We only determine something to be a mistake. In hindsight, it could be pretty immediate. Seconds, it could be minutes, hours, years may pass before we determine something is a mistake.

Mark Graban:
And I think there's a parallel to some lean thinking in terminology about gaps in problems. We make a decision because we think it's the right thing to do, and then it turns out to be misguided or wrong, at least to some degree. So when we make a decision, we have an expected outcome that something good is going to result from our action. If the actual outcome is lower, we can identify a gap and say, ah, what we did was a mistake. And we don't have to shame ourselves over that.

Mark Graban:
Except the idea that a mistake is a fact. It exists, much like a problem is a fact, and it exists. We can choose our emotional reaction or learn to do so. How we react to a mistake makes a huge difference. So mistakes are by definition.

Mark Graban:
There's some literature where people use the phrase unintentional mistakes. They're all unintentional. Like by definition, an intentional mistake would be described as something like sabotage. So we need to create an environment where people feel that it's safe and effective to participate. I visit a lot of hospitals.

Mark Graban:
I visit other organizations. They're often wanting to show off their huddle boards that they may have patterned off of or copied from an organization that they visited that had a really robust, continuous improvement process that put up boards all over the hospital. One potential mistake organizations make is assuming that people will use a huddle board that you've placed in front of them. One hospital I visited, it was quite literally a blanken huddleboard blank, other than some blank cards that were intended to be filled out to report problems, to bring forward ideas. And I'm not blaming the employees for this, but we need to ask why.

Mark Graban:
Our favorite lean question we can ask many whys. How many whys are we going to ask? There's no single root cause. There could be many causes or a combination of why people aren't using the huddle board, or why they're not speaking up. Professor Ethan Buress from the University of Texas has done a lot of research that shows there are really two primary factors and reasons why people choose to keep quiet.

Mark Graban:
Kind of ranking number two is the one that normally came to mind first, to me, a fear factor. People are afraid to speak up, or they've learned that they get punished for doing so. Ethan's research shows that actually just slightly higher is not the fear factor, it's the futility factor. Where I've heard people quite literally say things like, I'm not afraid to speak up. It's not dangerous to speak up.

Mark Graban:
It's just not worth the effort because nothing happens as a result of speaking up. So people give up. And that's something we need to avoid if we're going to have a culture of continuous improvement now, if we're going to have a world class culture or a lean culture or a Shingo prize winning culture, we can look to Toyota. And I think there's a lot of evidence that psychological safety is present at Toyota. The only reference I found directly in the literature is in Jeff Leicher and Mike Hoseus's excellent book, Toyota Culture, the heart and soul of the Toyota way.

Mark Graban:
A shingo award recipient. It says in the book, Toyota believes people must feel psychologically and physically safe. They must believe that any concerns they have will be taken very seriously. This, to me, points to eliminating the fear factor that they feel psychologically safe to speak up. And it's eliminating the futility factor because taking a concern very seriously means there's going to be action and improvement.

Mark Graban:
And I've had a chance to talk to Mike Hoseus about this. He agrees with me that even though they didn't really use the phrase psychological safety, that he agrees that those principles and concepts exist. We can see the evidence of it. People are speaking up. People are participating in improvement.

Mark Graban:
So I think when we look in different organizations again, our response to mistakes matters greatly. I've seen too many environments in different industries where the response was punitive. People get yelled at, people get in trouble, people get fired. And I've heard stories even recently of an organization firing somebody for making a mistake that damaged some equipment. They replaced the equipment, they replaced the employee, and wouldn't, you know, because they hadn't addressed the root cause.

Mark Graban:
It was just a matter of time before the new employee made the same human error, mistake of forgetting to do something and they damaged the equipment. I think the punitive response to mistakes is counterproductive because it teaches people to drive mistakes underground, to hide them. If we dont help people feel safe pointing out problems and even admitting I made a mistake. Now the reaction to that might look at systems and processes instead of blame. Hopefully we could be in agreement that we need to move beyond punitive responses to mistakes.

Mark Graban:
But some organizations get stuck in the mode of being nice. They don't punish the person, they're not in trouble. But leaders say things like, I know you didn't mean to do it. Please, please don't feel bad. It's okay.

Mark Graban:
Well, if that's the end of the conversation, the person is still set up. Maybe to repeat the same mistake. If we haven't addressed the process and systems issues, if we haven't mistake proofed the process based on what we learned from that mistake. It's not nice to set people up for repeated failure. And as my friend and author Karen Ross has helped teach me, we need to shift from nice to kind.

Mark Graban:
Kind means constructive, action oriented. We can be candid or blunt about the impact of a mistake to the customer or to our company. But we can also be kind to constructive and helpful, working together to focus on what are we learning? What are we doing to improve. And I've heard so many stories of this type of reaction at Toyota across the decades and across continents.

Mark Graban:
Two stories that were shared in my podcast, my favorite mistake, and are also shared in my book, the mistakes that make us come from Asao Yoshino, who you might know from Katie Anderson's book Learning to lead, leading to learn. Also a Shingo publication award recipient, Mister Yoshino told a story of working in a factory very early in his career. In the 1960s, David Meyer, co author with Jeff Leicher of the Toyota Way field book, which I think it's not a mistake to say, is also a Shingo award recipient. David Meyer started his career at Toyota in Kentucky in the 1980s. He now makes bourbon, which is why he's pictured with the bottle there.

Mark Graban:
But Mister Yoshino and David Meyer were both working in a factory where they were involved in an incident where the wrong chemical was loaded into a machine. For Mister Yoshino, it was in a paint shop. For David Meyer, it was in a bumper part molding, plastic molding operation. In both situations, when the problem was discovered, Toyota leadership basically apologized to them for putting them in the position where the mistake or the failure was even possible. So they were not only not punished, the company took responsibility for the process and the system that they were working in that was faulty.

Mark Graban:
It was a materials management and supply chain problem. In both cases where the incorrect chemical wasn't even supposed to be there. And I've heard other stories from Toyota people where it seems like it's a very consistent culture, not coincidence, that Toyota leaders tend to react to mistakes in this way. So what can we do to build this type of environment? I want to point first to Jamie Benigni from Toyota and TSSC, who defines the Toyota production system as an organizational culture of highly engaged people solving problems or innovating to drive performance.

Mark Graban:
Well, how do we end up with what we would describe as highly engaged people? I would ask the question of, well, how do we engage them? How do we get them participating? And in the study of psychological safety and in the practice of it, we've learned one thing that does not work is just mandating or declaring, you should speak up, or we want you to speak up. It can be kind of aspirational.

Mark Graban:
It can be sometimes guilt laden. Healthcare, I think, makes a mistake by often pressuring nurses to say, well, it's your professional obligation to speak up if you think that surgeon is about to do something wrong. When the nurses realize, sadly, the culture might be one of punishment and retribution for speaking up. So please just don't mandate or say it's safe. Now we want you to start speaking up.

Mark Graban:
I think that's well intended but ineffective. Because one thing I've learned is that an individual's choice to speak up isn't a matter of character or courage. I don't think it's fair to frame it that way. It's a function of culture. Do we feel safe speaking up, or do we protect ourselves by being quiet?

Mark Graban:
I have a thought experiment that I'm certain has played out for real. But think about what would happen if you have a Toyota team member who's worked for years, if not decades, in an environment where pulling the and on cord was an expectation and pulling the and on cord was rewarded, that employee, that team member, would get very used to speaking up. Now, let's say they had to move across the country because of a family member. They had to take a job someplace else. And let's say it's a factory that copied the mechanics of an and on cord.

Mark Graban:
But we've all seen or heard situations where companies have the and on cord equipment without having the culture. I'm guessing that Toyota team member would learn pretty quickly if they got yelled at for pulling the cordental. They would probably learn pretty quickly to stop doing that in a different environment, same person. And this is why I say it's not a matter of their character or their courage. Instead of telling people to be brave.

Mark Graban:
Let's do what doctor Deming said, and let's eliminate fear. So what can we do to cultivate and improve psychological safety? It starts with leaders modeling. Ander speaking candidly when leaders say things like, I made a mistake, I was wrong, I have an idea, but I could be wrong. So let's test that idea.

Mark Graban:
I don't know. When leaders model those key behaviors, then they've, I think, earned the right to encourage others to do the same. Now, I think without modeling the candor, encouraging the candor might fall on deaf ears. We need to model the behavior, then encourage people to speak up and then to close the loop when they do. So.

Mark Graban:
We need to reward that candor. And we can see this type of culture in all sorts of industries and companies of different sizes. Greg Jacobson, pictured here, is an ER doc. He's the CEO of Kynexis, a software company. Greg says, and I know he believes this, you can't have a culture of continuous improvement without learning from mistakes.

Mark Graban:
Greg is great at modeling these behaviors of, again saying, I don't know, I was wrong, I made a mistake. Pictured here is a middle manager. It's not a very, it's a pretty flat organization. Chris Burnham, who sadly passed away last year. But I like to honor Chris by continuing to use the example he set.

Mark Graban:
This was at an all hands company meeting. Chris is following Greg's lead. You can see the report out here. In plain language, we talk about not only what went well, but what went wrong. And as Chris said in plain language, not sugarcoating it, I made mistakes.

Mark Graban:
He explained those mistakes. He explained what he learned from those mistakes. He explained what he was going to do different in the future. So he's following the behavior that's modeled by Greg. He's in turn modeling that behavior for members of his team, including Stephanie Hillen, who posted on LinkedIn, and I'm using this with permission, she shared in response to somebody's post, I thought I had a pretty significant failure.

Mark Graban:
I told everyone I might want to know. Instead of pointing fingers at me, everyone rallied around me to help right the ship. At no time what did they imply? I was wrong. All they said was, we learned.

Mark Graban:
It encouraged me to continue trusting them with my mistakes. The thing I've heard repeatedly from Toyota people is that executives and leaders would ask, what did we learn in the aftermath of a mistake? It's far more helpful than the punitive or even just nice approach. So we need both psychological safety and problem solving. Now, if all we have is psychological safety, where people feel safe to speak up, but nothing's happening.

Mark Graban:
We end up replacing the fear factor with the futility factor, and we need to do better than that. If we only have problem solving training or knowledge or ability, without psychological safety, then people won't feel safe speaking up. We can't solve problems we don't know about. But there's a different factor when we think about PDSA cycles, can we be candid and effective experimentalists? Can we actually be candid about the study after what we've planned and done?

Mark Graban:
When we have psychological safety, it's safe to say things like, we could be wrong. Let's test it and see that didn't work as expected. And this all comes again as a result of leader behaviors, modeling candor, encouraging candor, and rewarding candor. And as we do so, I want to share one last thing. This is a model that comes from Timothy Clark's book, the four stages of psychological safety.

Mark Graban:
I recommend this book just as much as Amy Edmondson's book. And what Tim Clark's research showed us is that we can break down psychological safety into four components that tend to be a progression. So we'd call stage one is inclusion safety. Do I feel included, accepted and respected? This makes me think of all kinds of lean thinking and shingo principles.

Mark Graban:
Can I be my authentic self? If we don't have that feeling, it's going to be very hard to participate in improvement and innovation. Stage two is what Clark calls learner safety. Do I feel safe to learn and grow? Do I feel safe asking questions, admitting a mistake that leads to contributor safety?

Mark Graban:
Do I feel safe to contribute and create value and do my job without being micromanaged? And that leads to the pinnacle and the most difficult stage to reach, but the most meaningful, called challenger safety. Do I feel safe challenging the status quo? That's where Kaizen and innovation ultimately comes from. Can I be candid about change?

Mark Graban:
So, to reach world class performance, or however we're framing it, we need in part, a culture of improvement. To have a culture of improvement. We need, in part, a culture of learning from mistakes. To have a culture of learning from mistakes absolutely requires a culture of psychological safety. And that's why I've come to believe very strongly that psychological safety is a foundation and precondition for continuous improvement, for lean, for innovation, for operational excellence, and for business success.

Mark Graban:
So this is about the fear and futility factors. How much at work does the fear factor affect you? So please use the slider. One means I always stay quiet because of fear. Ten means I feel safe speaking up.

Mark Graban:
One for the futility factor means I always keep quiet because of futility. A ten would mean, nah, that's not a concern. I can always speak up. And as we see the votes coming in, with any reasonable number of votes and people from different organizations, you can see not just the average but the distribution. We've got a range of responses, sadly.

Mark Graban:
We've got some ones, some twos and threes. We've got some eights, nines and tens. And so I think a lot of this, again, is an impact. It's one way of measuring or thinking about culture. Ideally, these scores, we would want these to be ones.

Mark Graban:
So I'm going to move along. Thank you to everybody who, who voted. Let me hit advance. So here's a question of choosing one of three responses. What's the most likely reaction to mistakes in your workplace?

Mark Graban:
As I tried talking through it, punitive, nice or kind? We know what punitive means. Nice is about making people feel better. Kind. Is that constructive, helpful, even challenging approach.

Mark Graban:
And gosh, we've got, oh, okay, we got, we got some kind votes, but right now it's at six. Punitive, 13, nice, three kind. So thank you for those responses. That's hopefully an opportunity for some discussion. And then I'm going to move to the last question here.

Mark Graban:
Four responses with the sliders. And again, this is related to Tim Clark's four stages of psychological safety. A one here means I feel very unsafe. A ten would mean I feel very safe on these four dimensions. So the first is I feel inclusion safety safe to be myself.

Mark Graban:
Second is I feel learner safety safe to learn. Third is I feel contributor safety safe to fully contribute. And fourth is I feel challenger safety safe to challenge the status quo. And we've got responses coming in. Oh, I see someone put in the chat, I'm sorry to hear.

Mark Graban:
Yes, the futility is real. So that's an opportunity for all of us to try to help reduce that futility factor. And the responses are coming in here on the four answers. Again, with groups of any reasonable size, this very much follows the pattern that I've seen in different industries, in different settings and even with groups in different countries, that the average on inclusion safety is 7.2. And there's, of course, some distribution.

Mark Graban:
Unfortunately, some people don't feel safe to be themselves. The learner safety is at an average of 8.1 with a little bit less of a spread. Contributor safety is at 7.8. And then challenger safety again. That is the hardest stage for a team or organization.

Mark Graban:
To reach the average score is, not surprisingly, lower. And then, sadly, that distribution again goes more evenly, you know, across the distribution of one to ten. So thank you, everyone, for answering those polls. I'm glad I had that queued up.

Mary Price:
Thank you so much, Mark. We do have a couple questions that have come across.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And I'm happy to stay over if that's okay.

Mary Price:
Okay, great. Let's, let's go ahead and just ask one of the questions. So Peter asks, he says, I love the futility factor thinking, since many people I work with on the front line don't want to be seen as complainers if there's a little pattern of actions coming with these concerns, especially for retaliation. I've seen that the fear factor weaponized for bad managers in the form of insubordination. Any advice to sidestep this concern?

Mark Graban:
So what I hear from the question is bad managers are creating fear because they're labeling people as insubordinate for pointing out problems or concerns. Is that the way you read it, Mary?

Mary Price:
That's exactly how I read it, yep.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And then there's the futility factor of, I mean, you know, if people are being seen as complainers, that's probably because of a fear factor or punishment. But, you know, people like, you know, I mean, there's some cases where people will speak up even though it's dangerous, because it's meaningful and worthwhile. And I'll give credit to Steven Shadlefsky, who's written a great book called speak Up Culture. He talks a lot about psychological safety.

Mark Graban:
I love his framework that people will speak up if it's some combination of safe and worthwhile. So you think it's situations where safety is at stake. People might say, hey, I've got to speak up, even if there's consequences, but then if nothing happens, might stop speaking up because of futility. So the advice to sidestep the concern, you know, is, I think it's one of these situations of, you've got to try to change the leaders of behaviors, and I think that's going to tend to flow in a top down way. Frontline supervisors who are punishing people for speaking up might also being punished themselves for speaking up by their group leaders or directors or, or what have you.

Mark Graban:
So I think youve got to try to change behaviors. I think it starts with leaders at a high level as possible modeling new behaviors. And if people have got such deeply ingrained habits where they just cannot shift to a new way of behaving, sometimes youre going to have to maybe send people off into retirement. Its hard. Yeah, and I see another question here.

Mark Graban:
How do you go about gauging the psych safety in a company or department? You can do it in both the direct and indirect ways. So the indirect way is to look at measures like the number of ideas being submitted or more importantly, the number of ideas being implemented, how many problems are being reported, how many incidents are being reported, whether that's safety or quality, what have you like you look at those measures where I think you can reasonably say when psychological safety is stronger, we will have more of those things that are countable. You can also do surveys of employees. Tim Clark and his organization leader Factor has a survey that I've facilitated with different teams that ask twelve questions related to those four stages of psychological safety.

Mark Graban:
And some open ended questions, of course, really tell you where the opportunities for improvement would be. So if anyone's interested in doing some of that direct measurement, feel free to reach out. Or again, sometimes indirect measurements serve as a really good proxy. So Jacob asked, what key behaviors should leaders demonstrate to create the safety? So again, it's acting candidly, speaking up candidly.

Mark Graban:
Or sometimes you could use the word being vulnerable, where vulnerable means you're putting yourself at some risk. So let's say a leader and executive sharing a mistake that they've made, it might not be vulnerable in that they're going to get fired for it, but they may feel like it's embarrassing or that it may somehow hurt their reputation. So they admit a mistake anyway. But then here's the counterintuitive thing. People tend to respect you more when you're candid and honest and admit mistakes.

Mark Graban:
Employees know their manager's not perfect, right? Nobody's perfect. And I think when you can be candid about that as a leader, and again say things like, I was wrong, I might be wrong, I don't know, I made a mistake. Those are some of the key behaviors. And you can also break down a long list of other behaviors that help people feel safe, like drawing out opposing views or opinions.

Mark Graban:
Instead of a leader saying, well, people should speak up, like going out of your way to continually encourage people to speak up to disagree, then reacting well when they do can help build that sense of safety. I think it's a helpful habit when leaders, let's say if a leader presents a plan or an idea, don't ask the closed ended question of do any of you disagree with this? That might be scary. You could ask it more positively and more open ended and assume there are some problems with the plan so the question might be, please tell me what flaws or gaps you see in the plan. How can we make this better?

Mark Graban:
I think questions like that are more likely to draw out input. We can get to better ideas, to better performance. And then again, if you encourage people to speak up, you'd better reward it. Don't just tolerate it. Don't ignore it.

Mark Graban:
Don't punish it. Reward it.

Mary Price:
Great. We do have one other question.

Mark Graban:
Sure.

Mary Price:
What are some ideas to get leaders to go from nice to kind when it comes to a response to mistakes?

Mark Graban:
Well, you know, I'll point. I mentioned Karen Ross earlier. Her book the kind leader is a great resource for this or anything that Karen, um, has said or presented. Um, about this, like, in a nutshell, nice is about helping the other person feel okay. Or nice might be easier for you.

Mark Graban:
Is the leader, like, there are times where, you know, an employee's made a mistake, and one example of nice would be to just ignore the mistake. You're like, yeah, it's a typo. It's not a big deal. I don't want them to feel bad. I'm not going to point it out where I think a kind response would point out the opportunity for improvement because we're trying to help that person.

Mark Graban:
We know they can do better. If they're making a grammatical error, they can learn. They're an adult. They're a professional. So I think kind is really more about the person you're trying to help instead of your feelings of like, well, I don't want to feel bad.

Mark Graban:
I don't want them to be uncomfortable. That's. That's one way I would try to summarize this.

Mary Price:
Perfect response. All right, I don't think we have any other questions, so thank you again, Mark, and I hope everybody enjoys the rest of your day.

Mark Graban:
Thanks, Mary. Thanks, everyone, for being here.


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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