Psychological Safety, Organizational Performance, and Leadership With Teresa Mitrovic

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Teresa Mitrovic is a leadership learning consultant and creator of a framework for increasing organizational performance via psychological safety.  Those are big and abstract words that mean she helps organizations do what they do better by improving the culture and the way team members relate to each other. 

She is the author of the book ‘The Currency of Connection: How Trust Transforms Life, Relationships and Work’ and the founder of Oro Collective.

In our conversation we hear some of her career journey through leadership roles at Hasbro to The Walt Disney Company and Universal Pictures, and eventually to what she does now.

I had a blast with Teresa.  Her work runs parallel to mine in many ways.  It was one of those conversations that could have continued for so much longer than the time allowed.

Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Teresa does
  • The psychologically safe performance model
  • The 3 aspects of the model — performance, psychological safety and trust
  • Connect mode versus protect mode
  • How Teresa created the model
  • Her journey as a team leader
  • Harnessing our emotions and bringing them to the work-table
  • Creating facilitation and accountability in your team
  • Transformational journeys — transforming other people’s lives 
  • How Teresa got into marketing and psychology
  • Teresa’s professional roles and how they added to her experience
  • The importance of building and nurturing relationships
  • Making leadership roles meaningful
  • Teresa’s retraining — transitioning into her business
  • Teresa’s definition of leaders — anyone who has an impact
  • Helping leaders create an environment that enhances performance
  • The importance of care, credibility, capability and consistency as a leader
  • Feedback — practicing humility and acknowledgement
  • People who are leaders versus leaders doing a job
  • Teresa’s perspective on meaning, legacy and purpose

Resources Mentioned:

Teresa’s website

The Currency of Connection: How Trust Transforms Life, Relationships and Work

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan: Teresa Welcome to The Meaning Movement podcast. I am so excited to have you here with us. Welcome aboard.

Teresa: Thanks, Dan. It’s so great to be here with you this morning.

Dan: The question that I love to begin with is how do you begin to talk about the work that you do?

Teresa: So the first thing I say to people, when they ask me what I do is I say that I help leaders get the outcomes that they’re looking for, but at the same time, creating a culture, they can be really proud of leading because I find that often when you’re really ambitious and you’re going after the performance outcomes, it’s really easy to forget about the people.

And when you forget about people, they start to feel commoditized. And so then ultimately over time it gets harder and harder to. Reaching those same performance levels. And I know that from having been a leader. So, um, so I’m really careful to say, look, you know, help leaders get the performance that they’re looking for while creating a culture, they can be really proud of leading.

They feel, feel really good about, you know, cause yeah, well, leaders, leaders don’t wanna be these kind of hard carrot and stick types anymore. Right. Leaders, like we all grew up with command and control as a leadership style that we were reporting into more often than not. And in this day and age, everyone, you know, particularly when we’re working hybrid or remote.

Leaders really wanna understand how to do this differently, but there’s not a lot of people out there showing us, so it’s. Yeah.

Dan: And tell, tell me what, just break it down a little bit for me. Like what kind of, um, I wanna say what, what manifestations, what avenues, what channels does that look like? As far as you doing that work with people.

Teresa: Okay. So in terms of actual PR the practicalities of how I do the work, I do it through coaching and online courses and online facilitation. So I’m 100% virtual. So when we talk about finding meaning and doing the work in a way that works for us, I’m a hundred percent virtual cuz that’s how it works for me.

And that’s how I’m able to give the most to the people that I work with. Um, but in terms of how. I help leaders to create the space, to create essentially psychologically safe performance. So that’s what I focus on. Um, it’s about helping them to understand how psychologically safe performance. Happens and essentially what it is is human performance.

So we look at three different aspects. So what I, what I do, so I created this model called the psychologically safe performance model. And if you imagine a pyramid with performance at the apex at the top, and then psychological safety, bottom left and trust bottom, right then you’ve got, then we start with psychological safety.

So I help leaders to understand psych safety. Then we understand, then we look at trust because. the degree to which you feel psychologically safe, then determines the level to which you trust the people around you, the environment and the leader. So the more you, the safer you feel, the more you trust, the more you lean in, the more you volunteer and, and open up.

And that then becomes, um, a straight line into this really rich, sustainable performance. So, so that’s kind of, yeah, that’s the basis of the model. And then within that, we’ve got, uh, we’ve got four other little triangles that sit inside of that model. We’ve got self, which is bottom lift hand corner team, which is bottom right hand corner system, which is right at the top under performance and leaders.

It’s right in the center. So helping leaders to understand that they are the center, they’re the beating heart of this model because they can influence self team and they can also. Their team members and their team from the systemic kind of down flow, but they can also have an influence upwards on that system as well.

So, but they are the they’re really the center. So I help ’em understand those two different levels. Yeah.

Dan: I love it. And just, just for listeners since it’s, it is a little bit visual. Let’s go over it again. The top is the

Teresa: Sure top is. Yeah, no, no. Top is

Dan: no, no performance.

Teresa: I’ve got performance. Yeah. Performance at the top. I’m gonna do this in reverse, since you’re looking so performance at the top, psych safety bottom left trust bottom. Right. So if you think of it, like. Yeah, like safety and trust is like your new bottom line, right?

That’s your human bottom line because humans only humans only. So we talk about humans having two, two different operating, um, models, right? We’re either in connect mode or in protect mode. If we’re in protect mode, then we move into trust. Sorry. If we’re in a connect mode, we move into trust because we are starting to actually feel connected to the environment, the leader, the team, the outcomes that we’re looking for.

So we’re connected to this biggest, bigger purpose, right? So when you and I talk about ING, meaning and, and work, that’s, you’re helping people. So from a leadership perspective, when you’re thinking about psych safety, it’s not your role as a leader to create psychological safety. You create the conditions where people understand that they are valued and that they contribute value.

Dan: I love it.

Teresa: When you do that, then they trust more. And then, so as a leader, your job is to keep fostering that trust piece and then the performance comes. So yeah. So it’s psych safety first, then trust and then

Dan: Yeah. Yeah.

It really helps me to visualize it as the floor.

Teresa: yeah. Yeah. Well, and think of it like this. Yeah. So if, if you think of psych safety and trust as your new bottom line, and also then being the load bearing. Um, support beams. Yeah. That, that hold up performance. So without them performance is always an uphill battle, but with them performance, just everything flows up.

Dan: Yes, I love it. It, this is fantastic. Um, I wanna get way more into that, but before we do, I wanna know how, how did you get into this? Where did this come from in your, like, I, I love this model. I, I wanna know, you know, how you came up with it. Where, where did this emerge in your, in your journey?

Teresa: so. the model, I literally woke up one morning, like at three o’clock in the morning. Um, one, one morning in January this year and was like, oh, I finally get it because I have literally spent 10 years. I’ve been 10 years, 11 years doing this work with people, um, internationally. And I’ve always talked about high performing, how you create high performing teams as a leader, or how you take, uh, an underperforming or a slightly dysfunctional team.

and turn them around so that you create this incredible kind of performance dynamic.

Dan: Yeah. Hmm,

Teresa: But always I was talking to people, talking to leaders about the importance of psych safety and trust. and there was always kind of, I always had felt like I had to sneak it in under the radar. So I was trying to find a simpler way to explain it to people It was, you know, the more I thought about it, the harder it was to try to conceptualize, but when I just woke, you know, lift it, lift it to my, um, reticula activating device.

Right. And woke up one morning. but the other part of this is that I, um, I was one of those leaders way back when I was head of marketing at HaBO in New Zealand, I was one of these leaders who was like, um, and some of the listeners might recognize themselves in this. I was always busy. I never had enough time.

I was working long hours. I always felt like I had to, to, to cover everything that the team weren’t thinking about. If there was something that had to be done, it was often easier for me to do it rather than delegate it or teach people how to do it. Um, And our boss, our GM sent the entire senior management team on a coaching, this manager course.

And I was so annoyed about it because I thought it was such a flagrant waste of time. And I just didn’t have, and I was a single parent at the time and I was like, oh, I don’t have to understand. Um, so I spent three days offsite learning this stuff, and I was so annoyed, but I came back to work and I thought, look, I, I do trust her.

I, she was one of the best managers I’ve had. Right. So in terms of allowing you to understand the value that you’re creating and how valued you are, she was amazing. and so I trusted her. So I put some of this into practice. And if I tell you that I went from being this really I’m gonna say it. I was a really a type character, right?

I wasn’t narcisistic, I wasn’t brutal, but I had really high standards. Let’s like, we’ll make no mistake about, I was raised by a Croatian guy, you and very loving mum, but this Croatian dude who’s like, there is only, there is only perfection. There is nothing beneath, you know, and so I had this really a type approach.

Um, but when I started putting some of these very simple things into practice, Things lifted, like within the first month, six weeks, things were really dramatically changing. And in nine months, not only had we shaved between an hour and a half and two hours off of our work days as a team, the quality of work had improved and we also tripled our profit.

And that was enough for me to go. Holy moly, what? And I, we, the morale on the team was amazing. My job as a leader was so much simpler and so much easier and so much more fun. Right? So that was the first time I really experienced this deep sense of meaning and connection to my team as a leader. And I was like, I almost missed all of that because I was so stuck on, I know what I’m doing.

I know how to do it. I’ve got it covered that I almost missed this incredible opportunity to change my life and the lives of people in it. But. but it took me, there was a long time between then and retraining in London to, to then starting up my own business. So it was with me and I was thinking as, as soon as my son’s old enough or the mortgage is paid, whatever comes first or before I turn 40 I’m retraining and I’m gonna do this full time and help people like me to, to discover this stuff because.

It doesn’t just change who we are and how we are at work. It changes, uh, what happens in our, in the rest of our lives as well, because we spend so much time at work. Right. It can’t, it can’t help, but have knock on impact outside of work.

Dan: And who you are at work is who you are, right? Like you’re not, you’re not a different person, as much as we like to try to separate it and be your quote unquote professional. Right. Like, and I feel like, and maybe partly because of work from home and everything, but I feel like that the separation is breaking down.

I think in a really positive way. Um, So that you can be more human, you know,

Teresa: mm-hmm I think so. Yeah.

Dan: your feelings to, to the table. cause that’s what we’re talking about, 

Teresa: I, yeah, it is it’s and the people kind of get it. People get nervous about emotional work, but the thing is we, we want passion and commitment and energy at work and those. They come from an emotional place. Right? So it’s not the emotion that, that people, it’s not the emotion we’re trying to stop.

it’s the maladaptive expression of emotion, I guess. So, cause we want people to bring their emotions to, if someone’s not happy at work, if someone sees an issue that hasn’t been addressed, we actually, it’s better to have that out in the open then to have them put a lid on it. Right. So we should ex we.

Dan: out. It’s gross.

Teresa: leaks that and it splashes over everybody. Do you know what I mean? It’s ugly. So the best thing as a leader that you can do is go actually emotion is what we want, but what we need to do is figure out how to take it from this kind of state, where that emotion becomes, Emotionally tense, you know, like we, we’re looking for that kind of, we’re looking to turn that tension into rather it being kind of an emotional tension. We want it to become a creative tension. So we wanna harness that emotion and convert it into something that can actually be fuel for us to become better, stronger, more robust.

And, and, and to understand, uh, each other better as a team. Cause the more we understand how each other works well, the more we can create those environments collectively for each other and, and unlock greatness, you know?

Dan: Yes. Yes. So just to focus a little bit more on this, you know, that experience when you’re, you know, head of marketing, was that change that took place. Was it directly correlated to that retreat experience that you didn’t wanna participate in?

Teresa: Yeah. , I’m really embarrassed to say it was directly correlated to that. Yeah. And I, and I have to tell you, I don’t know. I dunno, how many of the actual tools and processes that they, that they kind of taught us around? I actually took on board, but what I did do was, um, so I can tell you, I can break it down for you.

I can tell you that all I, all I did essentially was create a greater clarity for the team with a longer window of visibility, right? So greater clarity around what it is we are going for, why, why it matters strategically for the business longer term, and also. Why it matters that you guys are doing it and how you each add value collectively as a team.

So what here is what you guys are doing as a team that none of you can do on your own. And here is why each of you matter in doing your role. So my job as a leader is to help you guys is to focus you guys, by saying, here is what we’re looking for. And here are, here are the guardrails as well. Right? So, so here are the things that you must be aware of because outside of this space, uh, we’re either wasting money, wasting time wasting energy or.

Potentially and curing some kind of risk or harm, but inside of that, a fill your boots. And so it was that giving them that level of clarity and then carry this pace, this cadence. Every week, uh, we, we would catch up as a team on the Monday and then on the Wednesday, we’d do one to ones and those touch points to connect with people individually and say, Hey, what are you doing?

How are you doing? Like, where are things not going well? And why is that happening? Is it coming from a place of ability or is it coming from a place of motivation and how do I help you address that? Um, so starting to see my role as a leader, as. Understanding what was required and then creating the conditions and supporting the team to get there.

Um, and then in the team meetings, it became about, um, facilitating the team dynamic as well as overseeing the work and those, and, and then, and you know what, when you do all those, the things accountability becomes so much easier because you’re holding people accountable to a standard that they have set themselves.

And you are holding them accountable in a way that says, I know that you can do better and I’m here to help you tell me how I can help you best right now around this particular thing. So you get that specificity, that precision and every, yeah. And you’re kind of always you’re building in and you’re reassuring consistently over time that you’ve got their back, that they’re not gonna fail on your watch.

And, and you, I mean, you, the caveat is you can only do that when you’ve hire people that you do believe in and who you want to support to grow. So if you don’t have people who have the right attitude on, on the team, and that does get hard. You know, obviously, but, but really that’s all I did. And so, you know, it’s really about doing that consistently over time and the results were remarkable.

Absolutely remarkable.

Dan: it sounds

Teresa: So that’s what I try

Dan: Yeah, well, it, it it’s makes so much sense that you had such a transformational experience facilitated by, you know, an outside entity party, coach, whoever. And that, like, that would be such a, that was such a palpable moment, um, in your career to like that you wanna be a part of doing that offering.

To other people, it just makes, it makes so much sense. I could see how this work is just really rich and meaningful for you because of that

Teresa: Yeah. Well, do you know what just, registered for me as well for the first time I think in this conversation is, um, I would never have, I, I would’ve declined going on that course. I would’ve fought it. If she’d been a different kind of a manager herself.

Dan: Mm.

Teresa: my boss had been a different kind of a manager, if I hadn’t have respected her and trusted her, the way that I did, I would’ve fought really hard and I could’ve won because she would’ve let me because she believed in me.

Right. So, um, but yeah, it’s, you know? Yeah. So there are times when we have to trust other people sometimes, you know, to show us the direction that we need to go in and, and just give that, just give them the benefit of the doubt and just give it, give it a try. Cause it was, it was a game changer and, um, it’s changed my life in terms of the course of the direction of the work that I do.

Um, but I know that it’s changed the lives of the people that were on that team as well.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I, and it just sounds like you had a great manager, like it feels like such a rare and beautiful thing to be able to say, like, that person led so well and like changed, changed me as a result. Like that’s so cool. Um, um, yeah. I hope, I hope, I hope she knows that. Yeah. I hope,

Teresa: I might be, I’ll be dropping her another note after this. I have, yeah. I did, I did tell her that if I, I bumped into her in New Zealand, um, several years ago and I said to her, Hey, you changed the, the course of my life. And, um, but yeah, you, yeah, I’m gonna have to drop her another note.

Dan: Yeah. And well, I also think I hear, I have, I have three kids, um, six and a half and under, and, um, you know, I hear my other friends. Yeah. Wow. We could just stop right there and just

like, uh, I’m gonna take, I’m gonna take a nap for a little while. Um but, uh, I, so my parenting, my friends who are parents will say, you’ll see, there’s a saying about parenting books.

Like whether or not they actually help. 

What we do know that what that data shows is that the parents who read parenting books are better parents. But what we don’t know is if it’s because of the books or because they’re actually trying to

Teresa: Yeah. And they 

Dan: you know, and

yeah. Yeah. And I that’s, that’s what I kind of going through my head, even as you, maybe we’re invited by your manager to. Go to this thing and take part of this transformational journey. Like even just by saying yes to that. Whether or not the actual content of that, you know, retreat or whatever it was like is one for one, the content that you put into practice with your team, she was inviting you to, to become a new person and a new

Teresa: mm-hmm mm-hmm

Dan: matters. And that’s at least

Teresa: yeah. It’s so

Dan: story.

Teresa: Yeah. No, it’s, it’s a hun it’s a hundred percent accurate,

Dan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s just, I, I’m curious, just to rewind, just to zoom out a little bit more before we, before we zoom in again. So like head of marketing at Hasboro, like was marketing kind of your trajectory.

Was that kind of your, your end goal? Like tell, maybe

Teresa: thought so.

Dan: of your, your career. Yeah. I’d love to hear a little bit more of like and turns. I got you got you there before we talk about, you know, what ha what’s

Teresa: Oh yeah, sure. Sure. So, Look, honestly, when I started out studying, I was studying psychology, I wanted a psychology degree. Um, but I was a young parent. I was a very young parent, right. So I became a parent when I was 17 years old. And my first thought was, I’ve gotta provide for this, for this young man, you know, like, so.

So I went to, I went to university, got a degree, um, and it just so happened. Then marketing was kind, was one that just, I, so I started out doing psychology. It was hardcore with a newborn. So then I switched to marketing, which was less hardcore, but still about humans and behavior and, and whatnot. and then kind of just started my, so got into marketing, just started my career trajectory and it was actually that particular manager who was, who was amazing.

He put me on the coaching course. Um, she, it was her that said to me, When she offered me the head of head of marketing role at Hasbro, she said to me, um, she offered it to me and I said, no, because I was going through a divorce at the time. And she said, um, she said, if you don’t take it, you’ll have to train the person who does. and I remember saying to her fine, okay. I may as well do it then.

 and she, cuz she knew that would get a rise out of me and that I would say yes. Right. So, so that was, that was amazing. So I did that for three and a half years as well. And it was an incredible job. It’s hard to when you’ve had great inter you know, when you fly into New York for toy fairs and you’ve, and you’ve got international travel and it is really hard to move from that job into another job that feels as exciting.

but I was ready for, I knew that if I didn’t move I’d, I’d become a lifer and that’s really common at Hasbro because it’s a great company to work for. Um, so I did a, I did a sideway stint, um, at a boutique sales and marketing recruitment firm. And that was really interesting to understand people’s needs and people showing up.

So, and you’re talking about meaning at work, right?

Hearing people talk about their careers and what they were looking for and what they wanted, and then trying to help, you know, the employer and these, these hiring managers get great stuff. So that was really, that was a really interesting window into the choices that people make and how, how leaders set their team members up and how, you know, how people are thinking about building their career.

Cuz our career is such a big part of how we live our life. Right? So that was fascinating, but ultimately not me because it felt really transactional. Still. And then I, um, got a country manager role with Disney. So what I, what was really interesting about that. So that was, uh, that was in New Zealand and it was, it was largely a relationship based role.

So the skills I’d learned in that coaching course where it was all about empowering others and finding the route to success helped me tremendously in my role at Walt Disney. So we turned that business around in 18 months. And I had like, if I tell you that I had like $20,000 us, that was my budget annually dispense.

So I literally. Like not much money to spend, but I built relationships with, and I just kept, you know, breaking down walls, building relationships. And when we started working together or was like one team even. So we had competitors working together for the greater good of the business and the collective Disney business.

And so that was an, a remarkable. Thing to learn as well. Um, did that for two and a half years, and then we relocated, I married my husband and we relocated to London. And that was when I thought, you know, what if I don’t, if I, if I get back into a full-time role, I’m never gonna get out. Cause the golden handcuffs are too good.

Right. So I took a contract role at universal pictures in London, and that was another incredible role Rome, another wonderful, wonderful leader as well. Um, and. Did that for, so they kept extending my contract and it got to a point where my 40th birthday was coming up and I was like, Hey, this was one of the deadlines I’ve gotta stop and retrain.

And so I did. Um, but that was an amazing, it was, it was an incredible opportunity again, to just kind of keep, um, keep building and growing and nurturing relationships, but in service of. The greater good for all of us, which is, you know, for businesses, it is about money. It is about, you know, making sure that the lights are kept on, that people are employed, but also having fun while you do it, rather than feeling like a grind is a real to be able to do.

Do that is a real joy. Uh, so yeah, so I’ve retrained in London, got a couple of coaching diplomas got halfway through a third coaching diploma, got distinctions, did more additional training and, um, and then just went out there and. Started and got my first organizational client and I was away. And so yeah, did that for five years in London, moved back to New Zealand for two and a half years, and then we moved across to, to Melbourne.

We’ve been here three years now as well.

Dan: Cool. Love it.

Teresa: but a pivot, the Oracle collective is really. It’s the latest iteration of this business. And I took the opportunity. And you talked earlier about, uh, slot, the slight gift in the pandemic. You didn’t quite put it that way, but I’m just gonna call it that. Um, I think the, I think the pandemic’s taken so much from us that we should take back the bits that, that, that work for us.

Right. And for me, what worked for me is I had these amazing clients in London. I had clients in London, who’ve moved overseas. I had great clients in NZ. The pandemic has meant that now that everyone’s comfortable using zoom and being online, I can actually run my business online and work with clients around the world.

So that’s been a real gift for me, but also being able to say, okay, now I can focus on, I don’t have to talk about performance and come in the back door with site safety and trust. I can actually go, Hey guys, we need site safety and trust. And we need to understand this as leaders, not just for the good of our team and our business, but for our own good as leaders as well, because.

Our roles stop being meaningful when it just becomes about the money and the outcomes, the meaning comes through adding value, being of service, be doing things that you know, are valued, appreciated, acknowledged, um, necessary, you know, and money, money, money. Isn’t a great, isn’t a great, um, metric of that.

Um, but other people are

Dan: I love it. So great. Thank you for the, yeah. For the overview, it helps to, you know, connect, connect the dots. I was gonna ask which, which happened first, the mortgage being paid off or your son, son growing up. Um, and

Teresa: My 40th birthday.

Dan: I just, I just had mine, uh, about a month ago. So, um,

 so I’m, I’m, I’ve been there.

Yeah. Thank you.

Teresa: Yeah. Oh

Dan: But yeah, it changes things when it’s like, oh wow. Like life is going by. It’s been, it’s been really interesting just to be like, wow. Time feels like it’s speeding up. And I don’t, I’m like, I don’t know. It just, it, it has reframed a lot of things in surprising ways in ways that other birthdays for me haven’t um, yeah.

Teresa: Yeah, there is something about 40. Yeah. Yeah. It’s

 it’s interesting, right? I just turned 50 this year and there was this moment of thanks. Yeah, I was actually, I thought I’d be horrified. I was re actually really excited about it. I don’t know. I think it feels liberating. Sometimes to when you hit a benchmark and you’re like, wow, I’m gonna have fun with this.

And so that’s what,

this year feels like for me. Yeah. Yeah.

Dan: I love it. I love it.

Teresa: wow. You know, that’ll 

Dan: so great. 

Teresa: right? So

Dan: Yeah.

Teresa: what

Dan: Yes, exactly. so, so good. I, um, I’m curious about, you know, taking retraining is the word that you’ve, that you’ve been, been using and how much did, did you have. Planned out going into that of like, this is, this is, you know, is that psychological safety, that piece in particular?

Or is it just like, I want to be a part of this change that I’ve experienced, and this is an avenue through which to do it, like maybe just narrate a little bit of, of what your thought process was through that transition.

Teresa: So it wasn’t. , it was almost instinctive before it became codified.

Dan: Yeah.

Teresa: So in fact it wasn’t almost, it was, yeah, it is right. Like you follow your nose and your nose takes you in this direction. So I was constantly going performance, but also relationships and trust and, and it always felt like it was a little bit hard to, and, and I think as leaders, we can understand that, right.

Because. You do want both, but trying to merge them feels really difficult. It feels like oil and water, right. They just don’t, they don’t mix. And so, um, I was constantly trying, so the reason why psych safety mattered and trust mattered so much to me is because I think through, through Hasbro Disney and universal, it was the relationships that helped me amplify what I was able to achieve.

So I didn’t wanna have to give them. I wa I, not only because it was much more fun and much more enjoyable, meaningful, satisfying for me to work that way. Um, but also because it just, it made performance so much easier. So if you didn’t have great relationships, it constantly felt like a battle and a struggle.

So my challenge was how do you figure that out? And, um, and the interesting thing for me is that I can, my, my background, I I’ve got a really, I’ve got a really close relationship with trauma and adversity. So I’ve had a lot of it through my life. And so I think, you know, we talked these days about being trauma informed, but I think the part, so I always talked about performance and trust.

Psychological safety has always been really interesting to me because of the fact that that’s more the internal. Assessment and the internal kind of, um, dynamic that we are dealing with, right. That is based around who we are and how we have, uh, lived our lives to date. And so that’s such a complex and nuanced piece.

So that piece only came in. Um, I think as I started to age and as I’ve been, as I was more se, as I became more seasoned in the business, I started thinking, you know what? This is really important and I’ve gotta find a way to do it. That is trauma informed, sensitive. You know, like, uh, really kind of delicate because I was doing a lot of work in big organizations, you know, big corporate organizations where they don’t really wanna think about all that messy stuff like emotions and whatnot.

Um, so it was really, I guess that’s another gift that the pandemic’s given me is. Now a lot of people are talking about psychological safety and the importance of actually making sure that people aren’t stuck on protect mode, which is survival mode. Right. And a lot of people are still feeling the, the shadows or still being haunted by that sense of having to focus on survival first.

So, uh, it wasn’t ever a plan. um, I think the plan loosely was performance and trust because I valued both. I just didn’t know how I was gonna get there in a way that would actually really synthesize the, the learnings. And I didn’t wanna have to give up either. I didn’t want it to be a, an either or I wanted it to be an and, or both, you know, um, a.

And as I say, it was just this moment of serendipity waking up in the middle of the night, one day and going, oh my goodness, I can see it. And I literally, I had to get outta bed and write it down before I sketch it before I, before I lost it. Because you know, those things, those moments are brilliance are rare.

Right. So , 

Dan: Yes. Yes. I love. Yes. Oh, absolutely. Yes. Likewise. Likewise, I’m curious. Um, you talk about leaders. How do you define leaders? Like who, who is, who, when you’re talking about the leaders that you’re working with, who are you talking about? And, and maybe for listeners, like they might be asking, is this me?

Or is it not me?

Teresa: So when I’m talking about leaders, um, the kind of leaders that I work with, or, or when people are coming to me and saying, you know, this is the kind of thing that I need. Uh, it’s probably different to how I would describe leaders because I, the way I define leaders is anyone who’s having an impact on.

More than one person. So parents can be, parents are leaders, teachers are leaders. you know, ward, sisters are leaders. So anyone who is responsible for overseeing something and making sure that there is security, that there are outcomes and they also have influence over others. They are technically leaders.

The leaders I tend to work with are. Are people who have a team whose work relies on them, being able to think and act and emote in a thoughtful way, um, or constructively. So if, if, if you’re dealing, if you’re a leader whose people are working in the knowledge economy first and foremost, then that tho you know those and, and you want to figure out how to make performance easier, or how to create a really great culture, um, or you know, that actually the team.

The team have been through some rough times and they could deal with a little bit of self care and you wanna be able to give them that kind of envir the environment that feels like it’s fun. It’s enjoyable to come to work, whether they’re coming to work at a desk at home, or whether they’re coming to work in the office.

But if you want to give them an environment where they feel like they matter. But you also wanna get the results, then that’s the kind of leader that I work with. And it’s really important that, cause again, it comes back to attitude, right? Because I could, I could stand in a room and have stood in a room of 200 people and talked about this stuff before.

And you know that if there are people are gonna get it, wanna do more, if there are people are gonna be ambivalent and if there people are gonna go well, that’s just ridiculous. And we just need to figure out, we just need to focus on four months. You know, it doesn’t matter if people don’t like it they’ll leave, you know?

Um, and so yeah, the leaders, the leaders that I work with, all people who are like, you know, We we’ve got the technical stuff down, pat. We know what we are doing. We’re really, we we’ve. We are really skilled at.

Dan: Mm-hmm

Teresa: performance is good, but we think it could be better. Our people are starting to feel burnt out.

Cuz here are the things that we see when, when trust and psych safety aren’t present. People get really burnt out people. Aren’t speaking up about what they need to make their jobs and their lives easier so that they can contribute more effectively at work. Cause it’s not just about, um, so for leader, it’s about creating conditions for performance, right?

So it’s not just about the work that you’re doing, but how effective can you be? Most, you know, before the pandemic, we had something like two hours of productive work every single day. And the rest of it is switching between tasks or taking calls or meeting. And so actually it’s about, it’s thinking about what is the value that you’re here to create and how do you, how do you achieve that?

And whatever way feels good for you, because we, you know, we’ve gotta acknowledge neurodiversity and different, you know, peop everyone’s got something else going on and work is one part of life. So, um, if there were, you know, The leaders who are out there who think, you know, we want people to be able to bring the best of themselves to work.

We want, we want people to feel like we wanna create a human workspace. We want people to feel engaged and valued and rewarded by what they do. Then building the connection with your people has a stronger impact than increases in salary as an example. So an increase in trust is there was one study done several years ago where, uh, the researcher discovered that an.

An increase in trust was equivalent to a 10% increase in salaries. And no one’s getting 10% increases in salaries right now. You know? So, so, and this, and that’s a thing, right? Because people are so used to being treated like a commodity that they act like a commodity. So when you are, when you go to work and you’re treated like a valued team member, because what you are doing every day matters, then the way that you show up and the way that you do your work changes, and you start to add more value organically, um,

And so those are the kinds of leaders I work with. I it’s leaders will know if they love performance, but they want their team to stay. They love their team. They wanna give something back to their team and let their team, um, you know, feel really, engaged then. Yeah. Those are the leaders that, that I work with.

Dan: I love it. I love it. Um, for people who might fall into that category, I’m curious what the low hanging fruit is to increase that trust and to build that connection with your team, like where where’s the first place to, to start.

Teresa: the answer is kind of easy and hard as it always is when you’re an adult. Right. The, the easy part is that you can start with yourself so you don’t need to rely on anyone else. You can start by changing the way that you are engaging with your team. Um, the harder part is that you need to be doing this consistently.

So what you can do consistently is you can look at the four different ways that you are creating trust with your team and the way not just in what you are doing, but also what you’re endorsing in the team’s behaviors as well. So,

Dan: Yeah.

Teresa: Trust is. Um, and I talk about this in the work that I do as well, and in my book, but trust is these who I think about building trust is that you build it through your competence and your character, right?

So your comp so, so your character is about how, how. How am I connecting and how credible am I? So connection and, and credibility. Am I, am I building, do people know that I care about them? Or do I just care about the work that they’re doing? Are they just, they just a means to an end for me. So getting that piece, right.

So how are you showing people that you care and that you have their back and that you’re invested in their success? Credibility is making sure that you’re closing that say do gap because as leaders it’s really easy for us to say, Hey, it’s really important that you, um, it’s really important that you feel O that you feel comfortable speaking up and telling us when you’ve got ideas or concerns or problems.

And then when they do going, oh, well look, we will have, we will have that problem right now. What do you know what I mean? So we, so when they, when they take that, that leap of faith and trust you, you shut them down and it’s human nature, right? It’s human nature and we get tired. so credibility is a really big piece as well.

And if you find yourself doing that and look, I used to do this all the time. I’d I’d internally be rolling my eyes going, oh, you know, Suck it up, but we can’t do that. Right. And it’s not appropriate to say that. Um, and yes, we are all feeling like that, but it doesn’t, but, but it doesn’t make any less real for all of us.

So what you can do is you can say, tell me more, help me understand what’s going on for you, or tell me more about what what’s happening and when that’s a problem, help me understand how I can help you right now. So just ask questions in those situations when it comes to, um, to our comp. So that’s our character about our character when comes to our competence, it’s.

How capable we are. So how are we demonstrating our capabilities to the. That comes down to things like, are we setting a really clear north staff at them? Are we saying, this is, this is what we here to achieve together as a team or as a business. And here is what we need to be focusing on in the next month, three months, six months.

And here is what your, you know, let’s talk about your contribution to that. Let’s talk about what, why you matter in this team because of the value that you add. So it’s about demonstrating your compete. And your capability as a leader and make, and so they know that they can trust you because you know, what’s coming, you know, how, um, you know, the broad brush strokes of how it needs to happen so that it’s successful, not risky.

Um, but that you’ve also got their back and you’re gonna support them to, to be successful in that because their success is your success. and then the other piece is, um, consistency. So trying to have as few bad days as you can, like, so trying to show. Often with people and I, for, for the consistency part, it’s, you know, it’s not, I’m not suggesting stop being human.

You actually should be human. So on the days when you’re having a bad day, it’s okay to say, Hey, look, I’m just, I’ve got a really tough day today. Is this something that we could park or do we really talk about it? Can you give me five minutes just to regroup? So be human role model, what it looks like to be human and measured and kind of composed, um, always take it as an opportunity, but always think about how you are demonstrating that consistency.

So, yeah, so focus on those. So as a leader, focus on trust, but focus on from the out insight out first, think about how you are building, um, capabil, how you’re demonstrating capability, how you’re demonstrating consistency, how you’re demonstrating connection and how you’re demonstrating, um, credibility with your team.

And you can do that with in, in any relationship, right? You could do it with your partner. I can do it with my partner. We can do it with our clients. We can do it with our teams.

Dan: I love it. And it sounds like so much of an invitation. I think we’ve already kind of named this a little bit, but just to, just to be human, right. Instead of pretending that you’re not having a bad day, just to say, I’m having a bad day and, um, you know, can you, can you cut me a little extra slack or I’m, you know, I’m only at 75% today.

I’m sorry. Um, but we’re gonna, we’re gonna be back to it tomorrow or, you know, whenever,

Teresa: Absolutely cause it’s real, right? This is what real world looks like. And when you’re doing that, when you, when you give yourself the permission to do that, then it lets them know that actually it is, is genuinely like that is that’s deep integrity on your part as a leader, because you are signaling very clearly to your team members that it’s okay to be human.

And that matters more than you saying it’s okay to be human. Right. So what matters is not what we say, but what we do and what. Encourage and facilitate others to do as well. So it’s really important that when we see other people and that’s probably the, the one thing I would add as well, when you’re, when you’re thinking about how you build trust as a leader, when you see the team members doing any of those things, acknowledging it, naming it, and acknowledging it is really important as well, because then you’re facilitating and fostering this, this culture of trust.

Right. Um, so that’s really important as well.

Dan: yeah. And I feel like there’s a piece of.

Teresa: mm.

Dan: That’s also just comes back to humility too, that when, you know, when someone speaks up about their experience and it’s negative, like yeah, sure. You’re responsible because you’re the leader, but that doesn’t like, but to not let that be a, a CRI like feel personal or a critique, or like, say like, you’re not doing your job well, um, I feel like, yeah.

That’s just something that, that, that, uh, maybe feels like underscoring all of this, this whole conversation. Like you have to, you have to be who’s willing to acknowledge that you have room to grow. Yeah.

Teresa: Absolutely. And that’s a thing, right? It’s none of us are perfect. And I think I’ve made that mistake when I was a leader of thinking that I knew it all. I had it all. I could just control it all, you know? And when you do that, you leave no space for other people, but also you create a really, really strong rod for your own back.

And, um, You need to be able to, to let go of that and say, actually, if we’re all perfect, then there is no space. There is no, like, it becomes a zero sum game. And so demonstrating that. Um, and certainly if you, if you wanna be able to give your team feedback, you need to be able to take it as well. And the trick to taking feedback and being able to invite it and be okay with hearing it is to know that that person wants you to be successful.

So if you, if you can see it that way, if you can see it as a gift and you can always say to people, look, I Don. It doesn’t feel like that for me. Like you can always ask questions, like, tell me more about like, when do you see me doing that? Or how do I, you know, in which circumstances or which bit so you can ask questions, but you should always, it’s, it’s hard to give feedback to each other.

So the first thing we should always do is acknowledge the difficulty in doing it and speaking up. And then if we don’t agree with it, the next thing that we can do is say to people, help me understand more about that. Help me understand when I do it. Um, the kind of context that that’s in, because. A leader’s role is to help create and foster this, this great environment where people do wanna keep turning up where people do wanna keep doing their best work and where the performance is really sustainably, consistently reliably high.

Right. So, um, and we all, you know, because the environment around us is constantly changing. We need to be prepared to constantly change as well. Um, So we’ve got that, you know, and if we think about it from that perspective, we are constant. We’ve gotta constantly evolve to remain relevant and to survive.

So if we think of it like that, as leaders, not just human beings, but as leaders, then it makes us more, it allows us to be more open to hearing the feedback when it comes.

Dan: I love it. That is so, so fantastic. And just so in line with, I mean, I, with, with my work that, you know, I think as humans, we are, we are called to use that word to, to always be evolving, to changing, to becoming the next iteration of ourselves. And it sounds like just the work, the same work that you’re inviting people to just in the, you know, in this, in the context of, of their organization in, in, in the context of their leadership, which is just really, really beautiful.

I love. I love it. Just to kinda zoom out for just a, another moment here. Um, how do you think about, uh, whether it’s in your own work, the work that you do yourself or in the work that you’re doing with, with leaders? How do you think about words? Like. Um, purpose, like calling like legacy, like what are, what are the words that you, that you use to really talk about the meaning the, the real meaning of, of the work and the, whether, again, whether it’s for you or whether it’s with the leaders that you work with.

Teresa: I talk about meaning a lot and I talk about legacy a lot. Um, and I do that for two reasons. One is because, um, when you have meaning in your work life, just. Takes a whole, like, there’s this whole other dimension in life that opens up. Right. and you don’t, and I don’t think I realized that if I’m completely honest, I don’t think I realized that before I did that coaching calls, because I’d had a, up until that point, I’d had a job.

And I think after that point, I then felt like I had a calling. And so, and this is the difference, right? I remember a long time ago, um, having, when I was in London doing this, um, leadership. Seminar and talking about leaders who do jobs versus leaders who are following their calling, or who are, who, you know, people who are leaders versus leaders doing a job, you can feel the difference.

Right. Um, so if I could just go back and edit my comment earlier about leaders who wanna, who wanna have a, not just do a job, but actually leave a legacy. Those are the leaders that I love working with, but.

Dan: There you go.

Teresa: But then also, so it is partly about the meaning, right? It’s because when you’re a leader who understands that there’s meaning in what you’re doing, how you lead shifts.

Like it just automatically shifts. You can’t help it. You know, you start to love your job more. You start to see different, you start to see your team differently. You start to see chaos, complexity, conflict as an opportunity, not as a risk. So it’s so, so a huge gift to, to leaders. But I also talk to leaders about legacy a lot as well, because again, um, legacy makes you think about the impact that you’re leaving and that takes you, that broadens your horizon.

It broadens your thinking beyond. The metrics that we would traditionally think of in business into, well, actually, what’s the difference that I’m making? Um, what am I creating something here that’s bigger than me? Or am I just creating a cold personality here? So, um, you know, or a FDO. So yeah, I talk about legacy and I think so.

And we talk about purpose as well. Cause purpose is that north star, right? So when I’m talking to, to a leader or to a leadership team, It’s if you dunno what the north star is, then we’re, you know, and it’s like that old saying, if you dunno where you’re going, any road will take you there.

Dan: Yes.

Teresa: as soon as you, if, when you know your purpose, it filters everything.

It makes, um, it makes setting goals. um, prioritizing, cutting out all the, the nonsense and the noise much, much easier. So purpose sounds like it’s one of these fluffy idealistic kinds of things, but actually it’s a really great tool for simplifying your strategic thinking, your decision making process.

It’s yeah, it’s, it’s a great filter 

Dan: I love it.

Teresa: guide.

Dan: Yeah, it’s so great. So great. This is so, so fun. I just feel so, um, yeah, just so much resonance with the work, the work that you do. And so I just really love that you’re out there doing it and, um, just really appreciate you coming on the show and let me pick your, pick your brain about all of it.

Um, it’s just been, yeah, so, so fun having you for folks that wanna follow along and, and, um, connect with you. Uh, is there anything in particular you’d like to invite people to.

Teresa: Yeah. So probably a couple of things. If you, if, if, if what we’ve been talking about resonates, then I’d love for you to come and connect with me on LinkedIn. Um, but also for people who are listening to this and thinking, wow, actually I’d like to take a dive into some of this work. Then I have created a landing page for your listeners so that they can jump on there.

And I’ve got a, um, a nice chunky discount on the performance partnership playbook, which talks through how you can really start to, um, evolve your skills as a leader. So that rather than kind of taking that traditional command and control approach to leadership, you are really partnering your team for optimal performance.

So there’s a lot of guides in there and a lot of walkthroughs from me around how to make it happen.

Dan: beautiful. I’ll make sure to put a link, um, to that in, in the show notes. So people can just click on, um, click on right on through. And, uh, it’s been so fun to connect with you really hope to, to stay connected.

Teresa: Yeah. Yeah. Likewise. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been such a joy to spend this time with you.

Dan: Thanks. 

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