871: How to Lead More Powerfully by Being Human with Minette Norman

By June 5, 2023Podcasts


Minette Norman says: "Leaders tend to believe that they need to have all the answers and that they cannot show emotion. It’s time to set aside these limiting beliefs."

Minette Norman discusses what it takes to foster psychological safety for your team.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The secret to high-performing and high-engagement teams
  2. How to increase psychological safety in five steps
  3. What you should stop doing

About Minette

Minette Norman is an author, speaker, and consultant focused on developing transformational leaders who create inclusive working environments. Before starting her own business, Minette spent three decades in the software industry.

Minette is the co-author of The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human. Her second book, The Boldly Inclusive Leader, will be published in August 2023.

Resources Mentioned

Minette Norman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Minette, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Minette Norman
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m excited to talk about your book The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human. Could you maybe tell us, first of all, what does that term psychological safety mean?

Minette Norman
I’m happy to, and I just want to say, first of all, that it is not only my book. I co-wrote it with a wonderful co-author, Karolin Helbig, so it was a 50-50 collaboration, and I want to say that upfront.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly.

Minette Norman
Yeah. And let me explain psychological safety because it does sound like an academic geeky term, people throw it around a lot without always understanding what it means. So, I will ground it in the idea that it’s a belief or a feeling that, in a group setting, I am safe to share my idea, to ask a question if I don’t understand something, to disagree with someone else in the room, and to show up the way I want to show up, not trying to conform to the norms of the group, without fear that if I do any of those things, I’ll be rejected, I’ll be excluded, or I’ll be seen as that troublesome person.

So, it’s really this deep feeling that we have as parts of a group, whether we’re in or out, whether our ideas are welcome, or whether they’re not. And if we think about it, we probably have all experienced both having psychological safety, like being in a team where I speak up, or I can share my ideas, or I feel like myself, and times where we’ve been in groups where we sit back, and we’re very cautious, and we don’t speak up because we think we’re going to be shot down, or we’re going be embarrassed if we say something here. So, that’s basically what it means.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a sense for, in the United States workplace in 2023-ish, roughly what proportion of professionals generally have it and don’t?

Minette Norman
I don’t have a good metric to tell you so I’m just going to go on anecdotal evidence, which is that it’s less common than we would hope. So, I would guess that probably less than 50% of team environments would consider themselves to be really psychologically safe. And I’ll tell you, I worked 30 years in the tech industry, and I got interested in this work specifically because I would often be in meetings where even though I was pretty senior – when I left I was a VP of engineering at a large company – and I still would sit in meetings and go, “Do I dare speak? Do I not? I have something to say but I don’t think it’s welcome here.”

So, my own experience, and the experience of so many people I worked with, was that they didn’t feel comfortable speaking up, or they didn’t feel that they could be less than perfect.

Pete Mockaitis
And when you talked about being yourself, I think it’s interesting in terms of just, like, the political climate. It seems like in most mixed rooms, if you were to share a deeply held belief that was on one side or the other of the political continuum, there’s a good chance that won’t go so well for you. So, is that sort of included within the umbrella of what counts as being psychologically safe?

Minette Norman
Well, you have to also know these situations you’re in. So, if you’re in a professional setting, our book is focused on the workplace so I’m not talking about the world at large, in general, about how to have a conversation about politics with your family, but in the workplace, let’s just ground us there for now. In the workplace.

You have to know what is maybe just going to be a taboo topic in the moment and not go there. Like, you’re not going to say if someone’s a Trump supporter and someone’s a Liberal, like, that’s probably not a good discussion in a team meeting about how the project is going. This is just going to go badly and devolve.

So, I think that if we are talking about work, there’s this idea of showing up as your authentic self, so maybe let’s go back to that. Now, people bring as much of themselves as they’re comfortable bringing to the workplace, and it doesn’t mean you show up with your ugly colors if you don’t want to show those ugly colors at work.

And it means that, also, when you think about women having to prove themselves in different ways than men, or people of color having only certain aspects of their experiences that they’re willing to show in the workplace, we all have to decide for ourselves what we’re willing to share. But what I’ll say is that, in a psychologically safe environment, you may be someone who has a very different viewpoint than the rest of the room, and you’ll know that that viewpoint is welcome. And I’m not talking politics, so we’re talking work. But let’s say, and this has happened in groups that I’d been a part of.

We have all agreed that this is going to be our strategy moving forward. And then you see someone in the corner of the room who’s got some odd body language. They’re kind of sitting back in their chair, their arms are crossed, and you think you’ve all agreed. And then you, as the leader, you can say, “Hey, Alice, over there in the corner, you’re looking like you’re not quite with us. Is there something else you want to add to this conversation?”

Depending on the level of safety in that room, Alice may say, “No, no, I’m all good,” even though you can tell that she’s not, or she may say, “I’m seeing a risk that we haven’t even talked about. What if we…” and then she can share her thought, and then, suddenly, we may have a whole different discussion, “No one has brought this other thought up. It’s really important for us to consider what Alice just contributed,” but she wasn’t quite sure her idea was welcome until she was called upon and invited to offer an alternate perspective.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t happen enough. And what I see happen a lot, this is both in teams I’ve been a part of and teams I’ve worked with, is that you have a meeting, for example, and everyone ostensibly agrees in the room, “Here’s our strategy, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s how we’re going to proceed.”

Then you leave the room, whether it’s a virtual room or a physical room, and then there are the side conversations, the meeting after the meeting where people say, “You know, that’s just never going to work,” or, “I totally disagree,” but they didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in the room. There’s something about those team dynamics that are not healthy enough to invite the dissent or to invite the “Have you thought about this?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful. I guess as I’m thinking about this, it seems like the authentic-self component of the definition is, I guess, it seems to be, like, a higher bar in terms of that, or at least maybe I’m projecting my own viewpoint on things in terms of saying, “There’s a risk I don’t think we’ve considered,” seems perhaps less risky, to me, than sharing any number of, I don’t know, things about one’s self.

Like, I remember someone shared, let’s just say, any number of self-disclosure things in terms of, “I went to Burning Man,” or, “I went to an eight-day silent Jesuit prayer retreat,” or it’s like they’re sharing sort of their lived experiences associated with what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, what they’re passionate about, in bringing their authentic self. I guess, depending on the context and the group, it may seem more or less risky to reveal either a work concern or a personal bit of life.

Minette Norman
Yes, that is so true. And you only reveal, generally, someone has to go first also with revealing. And so, for example, if you’re a manager or a leader, if you reveal nothing of yourself, if you’re very guarded, and we talk about this in our book, like taking off that mask of perfection as a leader, if you come across as, “I am just this powerful leader. I know everything. I don’t have a life outside of work,” well, no one else in your organization is going to share who they are outside of work either, and it’s going to be this very stilted artificial environment where people just show sort of a mask of who they want to appear as.

But if you, in a position of any kind of leadership or authority, you show up in a more human way, and it doesn’t mean…this is where I think people get confused when we talk even about vulnerability. Like, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have to share your deepest darkest secrets, but to share something about who you are as a human being, or even that you’ve had failures in your life, you’ve had setbacks, you’ve had hardships, you have emotions, then you are more likely to invite others to do the same.

And that usually does have to start with someone who is either seen as a leader or as a dominant person in the group, that if they can let down their guard a little bit, then others will start to feel more comfortable doing the same. But if you feel marginalized, whether you feel you’re from an underrepresented group, and you just don’t feel like you’re a part of the in crowd, you are not going to be the first one to probably share who you are fully.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so psychological safety, we’ve defined it, we got a vibe for what that looks, sounds, feels like in practice, and it sure seems pleasant. I’d like to be in rooms where there’s psychological safety for folks. Can you unpack a little bit, associated with the performance, team effectiveness correlates to having versus not having psychological safety? Just how much of a difference does it make?

Minette Norman
Yeah, and there is a lot of research on it. I just want to unpack one word you said, which was it sounds pleasant. And I want to just say that it isn’t always, like, “Kumbaya, we all love each other all the time, and there’s never disagreement.” In a psychologically safe environment, you can have debate and dissent and it’s safe to do so. So, you may not always feel like it’s pleasant. It can be challenging, but it’s challenging in a constructive way. So, I just want to pick apart that word a little bit before I went further.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. So, it might feel uncomfortable but it’s not, like, terrifying, like, “I’m unsafe. I’m an outcast. I should polish up my resume now based on how that conversation went down.”

Minette Norman
Exactly. It can be, like, sometimes when you have a debate, it can be very energizing because you feel, like, “Pete, I’m not attacking you, personally. I disagree with your idea but let’s make this better together.” That’s actually really energizing as opposed to, like, “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and you should be looking for a new job.” So, those are different ways to engage in dissent and disagreements.

So, yeah, it definitely enables you to have those hard conversations that may not always be comfortable but they’re more comfortable than they would be if we didn’t feel safe with one another. So, coming back to the question now of performance, there’s lots of research, and certainly Amy Edmondson, who has done decades of research on the topic, has uncovered that performance is directly correlated to having a higher degree of psychological safety.

And why that is is because, first of all, people openly discuss risk and failure so that they can learn from mistakes more rapidly rather than being doomed to repeat the same thing over and over. If there’s this stigma that we never talk about failure and we don’t talk about risk, what happens is that we go dark on that and we hide from one another when things have gone badly, and then we’ll probably just repeat those mistakes and failures over and over.

And her original research, which I don’t know if you’ve read her book, The Fearless Organization, but in her book, she shares that in her research in the medical field, that teams that had a higher degree of psychological safety had better patient outcomes because those medical teams were actually willing to talk about mistakes.

And, for example, in a medical setting, someone at a lower hierarchical level than, let’s say, the surgeon, could actually question, “I think that we’re risking something here. Like, is this the right medication? Is this the right dosage?” and they could question the surgeon or the doctor even if they were not at the same level. Whereas, in teams where there was sort this huge hierarchical difference between doctor and nurse, the nurse would never challenge, and, therefore, there would actually be worse patient outcomes.

In the world of other kinds of business, what we see with a higher level of psychological safety is we see more innovation. And why that is is because, in an environment where you’re trying to innovate and come up with new ideas, that will only happen if people are willing to share maybe a crazy idea, maybe an idea that seems like completely impossible. And that happens when people feel that, “My idea is welcome here. All ideas are welcome.”

And then we can refine them together, we can debate them, we can take the best nuggets from everyone’s thinking, and we can shape that into something that’s really greater than the sum of the parts. And that’s the way I see a psychologically safe team, is that if you can really tap into that genius that is there, because everyone has their own way of thinking and their own experiences, then you can get something that is bigger and better than the individuals in the room could do, but only if everyone’s ideas can come forth, and everyone’s voice is welcome, and everyone is really valued in a group.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Well, now could you perhaps share a story of a team that really upgraded their psychological safety and the cool things that came about from it?

Minette Norman
Yes. So, I want to talk about a team that had a high degree of psychological safety that I worked with early in my career before I knew that term, and then I want to talk about how I actually tried to do that in a team that I led. Is that okay?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Minette Norman
Okay. So, early in my career, I was in the software industry in Silicon Valley, and I was in a company, and we were a cross-functional team, there were about eight or ten of us on the team. We all had a different function, and we just somehow, without ever talking about these terms or anything, we listened to one another in a really important way, and that everyone’s voice was equally weighted.

And we took turns doing things like administrative work. Like, in a team meeting, we would take turns who took the notes, because when you take the notes, you don’t participate as much. We got to know each other. So, to your point about your authentic self, over time, because we worked together and we met daily, working on our project, we got to know our little quirks, we got to know who did what, and who was strong at this, and who was weak at this.

We even got to the point where we could joke with one another about our little quirks because we knew each other enough that it was okay. Like, humor can be very dangerous when you don’t trust someone, but it can be very bonding when you do. So, we were this amazing team, we put out the best product that division had ever put out ahead of schedule, customers loved it.

That was early in my career, and I didn’t know that that was, like, a particularly psychologically safe team until I’ve discovered the research on it much later. But then I was leading teams, and what I found in my group was that people all stayed in their lane. I had a bunch of leaders who reported to me, and they all had their area of responsibility, and they were kind of guarded with one another. And it took us actually bringing someone in, an outside facilitator, to start getting us to talk about what was it we could do together, how we were stronger together, how we could help each other.

And it really wasn’t until we shared more about ourselves, like our whole career journey, or what was important to us in our lives when we got to know each other, then we started to care about each other as individuals, and not just as, like, “Okay, this is the head of engineering, this is the head of agile practice, and this is the head of training.” Instead of our functions, we got to know each other as individuals and we knew, like, “Okay, so-and-so grew up here, and this is what he loved to do, and this is what’s important to him and his wife.” And somehow then we could have the more difficult conversations.

We could actually disagree with one another instead of this sort of false harmony, and we became a much stronger team together, but we had to consciously get to know each other as individuals instead of just, like, “Okay, we’re showing up at work, we’re our perfect selves at work, and we’re going to be a gelled team together.” It didn’t work until we actually invested the time to get to know each other on a different level.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, within your playbook here, you mentioned five essential tools. Could you walk us through each one and tell us some best practices for using those effectively?

Minette Norman
Sure. So, yeah, we wanted our book to be, first of all, as short as possible because we know that business leaders are busy people, and, if you’re like me, you have lots of business books on your shelf that you haven’t finished. So, we wrote this book as short as possible, and we have these five plays, and underneath them are five moves, and they can each be used individually so you don’t have to read the book sequentially.

But the way we started our first play is called communicate courageously. And for a leader, like, the very first thing that we advise you to do as a leader, if you want to be a more courageous communicator, is to embrace the idea that you don’t know everything, and to invite other people to help you with your thinking.

So, if you get up, for example, and you give a presentation, a powerful question you can ask is, “What am I missing?” because when you do that, what you’re doing is you’re inviting others to add on, or even to dissent with something you’ve said, but you’re saying, “I am a human being like everybody else. I can’t possibly think of everything there is to think of. And I am inviting you to contribute.”

And then, of course, it’s really important that then you welcome other perspectives if someone does say, “Well, Minette, did you think about this? Like, this seems to contradict your thinking,” that you welcome the other viewpoints and that you get comfortable with, “I am imperfect. I don’t know everything.” So, that’s a starting point. And, of course, that was just one of five moves under communicate courageously, but I thought I would just start with that one. So, that’s the first.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I like that, yeah.

Minette Norman
“What am I missing?” “What have I not thought of?” That’s another way of saying that. You can find your own language, but I think what’s really interesting is I said that to a leader once, and they said, “Okay, I’m going to ask if that was clear.” And I said, “No, no, because if you say, ‘Was that clear?’ what happens is everyone says, ‘Hmm-mm, yeah that was very clear,” because you’re the leader in the room.”

It’s not so inviting as saying, “What am I missing?” Then you’re asking someone to contribute something back as opposed to a yes-no. It’s really hard to say to your leader, “No, you were completely unclear just now. I didn’t understand you.” So, that’s our first play.

Our second one is about listening because we really believe that listening is something that we think we all know how to do well as human beings. Just forget about even being a leader, or a manager, or anyone in the workplace. We think, as human beings, we all know how to listen, that it’s an innate skill. But what happens is there are so many things that get in the way of us listening to one another well, and it’s a critical skill for everyone because, first of all, as human beings, we need to be heard. We want to be heard. We want to be valued.

And if you are sitting in front of me and, first of all, you’re distracted by something else, I know you’re not listening. But what also happens, and this is so hard to overcome, is that we, instead of listening, we are preparing our response. So, as soon as you start talking, Pete, I’ve heard the first thing you said, and I’m already reflecting on what I’m going to say next. But instead, the powerful thing to do is to truly stay with the person and just, like, listen, maybe ask a clarifying question to make sure you really understood them, and then only when you’ve fully heard them, then you can say, “Okay, maybe I’ll share my perspective now,” instead of this need to just come up with our response right away.

And then this leads into the third play, which is managing our reaction. So, let’s say we’re listening, and you challenged me, you may say something to me that feels like you just disagreed with me, or you dissed me, or you made me feel stupid for something, and I get defensive. And that is, again, this is human biology, every human being will get defensive because this is our brain’s way of keeping us alive and safe, and we don’t differentiate between a physical threat, like I’m about to get hit by a bicycle on the road, and I jump back, and my boss just criticized me in public.

So, to our brains, what just happened then is a threat, and what happens then is that our amygdala fires and kicks in with the fight, flight, or freeze reaction to keep us safe. This doesn’t serve us well in a work setting because, when we get defensive, what do we usually do? We lash out at the other person, or we freeze because we just don’t know what to say, and we can actually practice. And we talk about this in book, we can practice. We can’t stop ourselves from getting defensive, but we can practice how we respond.

And one of the most powerful things we can do is to just pause. So, if someone says to you, “You know, that is just a ridiculous idea. That’s never going to work,” you’re about to get angry with them, and then, instead, you go, “Oh, okay. Let me take a moment, let me come back, and let me say, ‘Can you say more about that? I really want to understand what you just said.’” It wasn’t very long. Like, I just took a little breath, I took a little pause, in that moment, I calmed my brain, and I was able to continue in a more constructive way.

So, that, listening, not letting the defensiveness take over, and responding productively, I will tell you, this was something I had to work on so much in a professional setting, and I’ll probably be working on this the rest of my life, it’s a hard skill to learn, to remember to pause, but it can change your relationships at work in such a positive way because, instead of it being this battle of who’s right and who’s wrong, it becomes a collaborative conversation and a real dialogue.

So, that’s our third one, is managing our reactions, and becoming more self-aware that we all have emotions, we all have reactions, and in order to handle ourselves better in a business setting, no matter what level we are in the organization, we can benefit from greater self-awareness and greater regulation of our response. So, that’s the third play.

The fourth play in the book is about embracing risk and failure. And it’s one of the things that turns out to be so critical in psychological safety that we can openly discuss the failures. And I mentioned in the medical setting, but it’s really in any setting. And that one of the best ways you can do it is just to openly share your failures as a regular practice, like what went well. Of course, we want to learn from what went well, and we want to replicate as much as possible; what didn’t go well, what can we learn from that.

And to make that a regular thing, and thinking a little bit more like scientists. Scientists experiment and go in the lab, and they know they’re going to have a lot of failures before they’re going to have success. And if we can think more like a scientist in any setting, and realize that failure is going to help us get to the big breakthrough, and if we’re not having any failures, we’re probably not pushing the envelope enough, we’re probably not reaching as far as we could go with new ideas and innovation.

And so, de-stigmatizing the topic of failure, and not making it like a finger-pointing blame game of “Who did that?” and “Why was that wrong?” but instead, “What can we learn from this? What did we do that we want to do differently moving forward?” So, that’s a really big topic. And one of the things we share in the playbook is that it’s something that came out of the software industry, that teams that I worked with use, and it can be used in any setting, and it’s called the blameless postmortem.

And the idea is that, like after you’ve had a failure, like in the software industry it’s often an outage. Let’s say you’re on Zoom, and Zoom has a big worldwide outage. The Zoom team would go back, and they would have a blameless postmortem to say, “What led up to that? What happened? What can we do differently to prevent that going forward?”

That can be applied in any setting. And it’s a great way for team members to not point any fingers but instead say, “What are we collectively going to learn from this? And how are we going to be better going forward?” So, talking about failure is not something, honestly, that I was used to in the workplace, and it’s something that you have to get accustomed to doing and practicing. So, that’s our fourth play in the book.

And then the last one is actually a really big topic, and it’s the topic I focus most of my work on, it’s about inclusivity. So, we call the play using inclusive rituals. And what we’re talking about there is creating an inclusive culture, and psychological safety is truly the foundation for inclusion. So, if you think about there’s so much talk, of course, about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the world today and in the workplace. And it’s often focused on hiring a diverse workforce.

And if it stops at that, you will not actually, as an organization, benefit from the diversity that you have on your teams because, without a safe culture, and without an inclusive culture, people who feel different will just conform to the group norms, and they won’t even show up with any differences. They won’t share their opinions. They won’t share their experiences.

So, we introduced the idea of inclusive rituals, and we start with how you run your meetings because meetings is how…we spend so much of our time in meetings, and meetings are often a very much sort of an expression of organizational culture. Like, how we show up in meetings, often what you see is that in a meeting of eight or ten people, there are two people who do most of the talking, and the other six or eight people who sit back and are fairly quiet.

And if you want to truly create an inclusive environment, you have to find a way to bring in those other quiet voices, and there are different techniques for doing it. So, we share some examples of taking turns, like doing actually a very deliberate turn-taking rule, pointing someone as a facilitator, and taking turns playing that role so that you make sure you hear and invite all the voices. And then, very deliberately, inviting dissenting viewpoints as opposed to quickly converging on agreements which don’t usually lead to great outcomes or thinking things through all the way.

So, that’s the fifth, and each one of these five plays with their five moves could be as complex as you want it to be, or as simple as you want it to be, and we try to make it very simple in that we give you ideas of what to put into practice right away. And then we offer, for the reading material, if you want to go deeper on any of these topics, because they’re all quite big topics, but we want to make it accessible and actionable.

Like, if I want to run a more inclusive meeting tomorrow, I’m going to use this rule “No one speaks twice until everyone speaks once.” Try that out. See how it works. And if that works, then maybe the next thing is you ask someone to play devil’s advocate in the room, and then that brings dissent into the room.

So, just trying out things, experimenting with them, see what sticks, see what doesn’t, see how you want to refine things, and that’s how we really want people to think about this material, is that this is a toolkit for you to use one bit of it, some bits of it, and find what works for you but then keep consistently trying other things, and trying to go deeper on this work because it can transform how people feel about being at work every day, and how they contribute, and how much they feel they can do their best work.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Okay, so we heard about the five plays. I guess I’m curious to hear the opposite in terms of common mistakes, things that many professionals do that are harmful to psychological safety. They might not even know they’re doing it, but it can have a really damaging impact. Are there a few don’ts you would also highlight for us?

Minette Norman
Yeah, that’s probably a very long list so I’ll come up with a few don’ts. So, let me just start with meetings since we were just on meetings, and then I’ll work my way backward. Don’t in meetings. You know one of the ones that can really destroy psychological safety is someone is speaking, and you interrupt them, and you don’t let them finish.

I’ve read research about this, I felt this myself as a woman in a very male-dominated field. Women are interrupted three times more frequently than men in business settings, and actually in all settings. So, when you interrupt people, they start to feel that their voice isn’t welcome, and then they go quieter because it’s not worth the effort.

So, pay attention to interruptions, and it may be a very, very inadvertent and accidental interruption. So, I just talked over you, Pete, and someone, either I or someone else can say, “Oh, I’m really sorry I interrupted you. Please finish your thought and then I’ll come back to my thought.” And just that really the small correction can make all the difference because then I’ve just said to you, “I do care what you say,” as opposed to just talking over you and continuing, and then we never come back to your thought, and you feel minimized, and you feel excluded, and you feel like you don’t count. So, that’s one.

I will say a really important one, and that is when someone asks you a challenging question, and especially if you’re anywhere in a management or leadership position, it is so important that you not shoot them down, and that’s when we get defensive. But I mentioned it before, it’s one of the worst most destructive things I’ve seen happen in a business context is that someone asked a question, and maybe it wasn’t even meant to be a challenging question.

They’re brave enough to ask a question, and the person at the front of the room who’s holding a Q&A session, for example, makes them feel stupid in the moment, like, “I’m not going to answer that question,” or, “That’s a ridiculous question.” I’ve heard an executive say that, “That’s a ridiculous question.”

So, this is what happens. First of all, the person feels humiliated in front of their peers. But, second of all, everyone else who witnessed that interaction suddenly feels like, “Oh, it’s not okay to ask this person questions. They’re not going to respond well.” So, you basically just shut down the people in the room. So, be really careful with your responses that may embarrass people, or that make people feel less than.

And if you get a question that you can’t answer, just say, “Oh, I’m not prepared to answer that question. Can you give me a minute? Or, I’d like to come back to you on that. And thank you for the question.” So, there are ways to handle it that are going to increase the psychological safety, and there are ways to handle it like, “That’s a ridiculous question. I’m not even going to answer it.” That’s going to be pretty destructive. So, that’s one.

Pete Mockaitis
Anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Minette Norman
Well, if anyone wants to learn more about the book, I will just say that we have a website, you can get some sample content, it’s just ThePsychologicalSafetyPlaybook.com. And what we’re finding is that there are so much interest in the book in all different industries. And that was maybe what was really surprising to us and fun to find out.

We’ve been finding out about people in the automotive industry, in law, in HR, in insurance, in tech, and the food industry, and they’re all finding value in this book. So, what I want to say is that psychological safety is important no matter where you are, no matter what you do. It’s any time you’re dealing with teams of people, it matters.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Minette Norman
Yes, and it’s hard to pick because I have my selection of quotes around my office, but I’m going to pick one. And this is from Madeleine Albright, and it was something that I kind of heard later in my career, and it feels right to me today, and it is, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice. And now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Minette Norman
Yes. So, this one comes out of UCLA, and I discovered it when I read a book called Social by Matthew Lieberman. It’s about the brain, and it has to do with our brains recognizing pain. So, they did these functional MRI studies on people, and they discovered that what they call, so the researchers from UCLA, call social pain.

When you are excluded, when you are left out, and when you feel hurt, you’re not part of this group, our brains register pain in exactly the same way they register physical pain. So, why is this so important? Because when we are feeling excluded at work, when we feel that our voice is not welcome, our brains are experiencing pain.

And so, I always say, like, we need to minimize the pain we are going through at work. People are suffering. And so, that’s why I think it’s so important to create a culture of psychological safety and inclusion so we can minimize that pain that human beings are going through every day in the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Minette Norman
My favorite recent book, as I read constantly, but my favorite recent book is actually a novel that I think applies to the workplace as well, and it’s the novel called Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Have you read it, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis

Minette Norman
Okay. It’s a great book. It came out in the last year, and it’s about a woman who’s a chemist in the late ‘50s, 1960s, and how she just plows through this male-dominated industry, and does things on her own terms and with her integrity. And I think it’s about speaking up and staying true to yourself. I think it really applies to the workplace everywhere today in 2023, and it’s a great read.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Minette Norman
Lots of software, a simple software, but I will say the one thing I probably couldn’t live without, what tool I couldn’t live without is Evernote, or any note taking tool, because I’m constantly reading and collecting ideas, and things I want to come back to, so I put everything in Evernote so I don’t lose it, because if I write it in my physical notebook, I can’t read my handwriting afterwards.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome at your job?

Minette Norman
I’m a big walker. I’d love to exercise, in general, but I think walking is the best way that I clear my head, and I often get my best ideas and my clearest thinking when I’m just out for a walk.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Minette Norman
There’s a quote from the book that comes back a lot, that we’ve seen people quoting, so I’ll just share it. It was, “Leaders tend to believe that they need to have all the answers and that they cannot show emotion. It’s time to set aside these limiting beliefs.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Minette Norman
If they want to get in touch with me, they can find me on LinkedIn or my website MinetteNorman.com, and I already mentioned the book site, ThePsychologicalSafetyPlaybook.com.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Minette Norman
I would say that small actions and small behavior changes can make a hugely positive impact. So, my call to action is just commit to trying one new behavior in your next interaction with a human being, in your next meeting, and it could be just commit to listening fully, or taking a pause before responding. And you may be amazed by the changes you’ll see in your relationships in the workplace and your relationships in real life. So, just try one small thing.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Minette, this has been a treat. I wish you much fun and psychological safety.

Minette Norman
Thank you. You, too, Pete.

One Comment

  • Ed Nottingham says:

    Pete, another excellent podcast! Having been moved to the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) team and having no experience in that area, I found this podcast and interview extremely relevant. Having been a fan of Amy Edmundson’s work for years, I appreciated Ms. Minette’s approach (the 5 essential tools) and her guidance on creating a psychological safe environment. AND, as always, I appreciate the availability of the transcripts since some prefer to read than listen. This is another podcast I have shared on our organization’s cross opcp SharePoint site.

    Thank you for your great work!

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