Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance

Wellbeing, psychological safety and performance: all things critically important for organisations to cultivate in contexts of pressure and continuous change. A common thread is the quality of conversation. This in-company course is designed to assist managers and professionals improve their effectiveness potentially in all these areas through engaging safely and productively with others on change and other topics.

Available in Foundations (6 hour) and Change Agent (2 day-equivalent) versions, the course combines short, sharp and engaging self-paced learning modules and reflective exercises with highly interactive virtual (or face-to-face) workshops. The course can be adapted and customised for your organisation’s needs.

All managers and professionals need these skills!

The Quality of Conversation Matters!

It’s well established that how managers relate to their team members has an outsized effect on their wellbeing at work. We know, too, from research at Google in 2014 that psychological safety was the biggest differentiator between highly effective and less effective teams in the company.

These factors point to the need for managers – and other professionals – to have high quality, open, respectful, and safe interactions with their team members and other stakeholders. This needs to happen continuously in contexts of pressures for performance and ongoing change. It’s not enough for managers just to “be nice” to people. Tough decisions need to be made and difficult issues dealt with.

Conversation is the key for “shifting the dial”. But we’re not talking here about a typical “difficult conversations” course, with one-way giving of feedback.

The emphasis in this course is on helping participants learn to engage with others and deal with change and other challenges in ways that are more mindful, attentive, empathic, and authentic.

Research at Google in 2014 demonstrated the relationship between psychological safety and performance.

Google Building

Photo: Jonny Gios Unsplash

There are no magic bullets, of course, and these skills need practice. What the course does, though, is give participants a framework and tools that they can try out and apply in all manner of change and other situations over time, progressively sharpening their skills.

The Foundations and Change Agent course versions are outlined below.

FOUNDATIONS COURSE

Participants in the Foundations Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance course gain:

  • A structure they can potentially use in preparing for conversations on virtually any change issue
  • Insights into how to reduce defensiveness and threat, and promote safety, when talking about change and other difficult issues
  • Initial practice in applying the methods taught with change topics relevant to themselves, to support greater safety and desired outcomes.

The Foundations Course equips your managers and professionals with a structure and set of tools for preparing to engage safely and productively with others on whatever change and other challenges they face. Examples might be in areas such as stuck change, respectful behaviour, teamwork, collaboration, conflict, development and performance.

These are areas in which conversations commonly are avoided or handled poorly. Yet, stronger results as well as improved emotional safety are possible with the skills and tools introduced in this course.

Participants learn to ground what they say more in data and evidence, demonstrate practical empathy for others, and speak to what is true for them.

The approach they learn is simple to grasp, powerful and deep-reaching in its impacts, and generalisable to virtually any change-related or uncomfortable interpersonal situation. The power in the approach is that it helps make discussable topics that might otherwise be seen as off-limits or too threatening.

The Foundations course involves 3 hours of punchy and engaging online modules – average running time under 10 minutes – as well as reflection activities, to introduce the basic concepts, along with either 2 x 90-minute workshops, or a single 3-hour workshop, to explore applications and participants’ challenges.

This learning approach:

  • Minimises time away from regular work;
  • Gives participants freedom to choose when they learn the basic content and;
  • Ensures that valuable workshop time is focused on participants’ needs and concerns as well as practical applications.

Participants learn to apply the Australian-developed and internationally-recognised OBREAU conversation model (observation, reasonableness, authenticity), a method they can use to help figure out, and approach, pretty much any change or interpersonal issue they need to deal with.

As evidence of OBREAU’s international recognition, a workshop on the model was awarded “Outstanding Educator Workshop” at the (US) Association of Leadership Educators Conference in 2016. OBREAU is also used by HealthCareCAN(ADA)’s learning arm, CHA Learning, in an e-learning course, ‘Talking About Tough Issues”, in partnership with Don Dunoon.

As a standalone mini course, this is an ideal accompaniment to a leadership, professional development, or coaching program, or as a unique and valuable development opportunity for a team.

The skills introduced in this course are also foundational capabilities underpinning other soft skills such as influence and managing relationships. We’re getting people started on a set of practices they can potentially apply in a wide variety of contexts to better achieve desired outcomes and grow emotionally safe and healthy work environments.

COMMONWEATLH BANK STAFF TESTIMONIALS

Here’s what five participants from a recent demo course for Commonwealth Bank (Australia’s largest) have said (more info. can be provided on request):

Change agent COURSE

Combining 5 hours of engaging self-paced learning over 3 months with 3 x 3-hour highly interactive workshops, the Change Agent course version incorporates, builds upon, and deepens the learning from the Foundations version. To take a dive-training analogy, while the Foundations version visits a “relatively shallow, protected reef for diving practice”, the Change Agent version involves “a series of visits and practice sessions at deeper, more challenging reefs”.

“I think this course has really allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and approach situations with more confidence. By doing so, I've also learnt to be more open minded as well as gaining the ability to shift perspectives in my interactions with colleagues but also with everyone outside of work too. I have become more aware of my actions, but more importantly my reactions in challenging situations.”

Nancy Cai, 2023 course participant

Whereas the Foundations version builds skills to have needed conversations that can be applied with virtually any change-related issue, the Change Agent version helps participants develop the wherewithal to change the conversation. This involves building capabilities in three critical areas.

Building Capabilities in Three Critical Areas

In the Change Agent course, we’re using the combination of additional e-learning modules plus challenges brought to the virtual table by participants to further develop capabilities in critical areas including change-enabling skills, team growth skills and mindset skills - as shown in the graphic. These capabilities are essential in changing the conversation: in enabling higher quality, deeper-reaching and more inclusive interactions, as well as in offsetting some of the detrimental effects of intense workplace pressures and associated defensiveness.

Leading to Outcomes:

• Faster progress on change and transformation
• Better achievement of business results
• Emotionally healthier, more open workgroup cultures

Building Capabilities in Three Critical Areas

In the Change Agent course, we’re using the combination of additional e-learning modules plus challenges brought to the virtual table by participants to further develop capabilities in critical areas including change-enabling skills, team growth skills and mindset skills - as shown in the graphic. These capabilities are essential in changing the conversation: in enabling higher quality, deeper-reaching and more inclusive interactions, as well as in offsetting some of the detrimental effects of intense workplace pressures and associated defensiveness.

Building Capabilities

Leading to Outcomes:

• Faster progress on change and transformation
• Better achievement of business results
• Emotionally healthier, more open workgroup cultures

Engaging Through Deeper Conversation, Dialogue

In the Change Agent course version, participants learn how to move beyond common defensive patterns, and engage with others more mindfully, through deeper conversation, dialogue. With practice, they learn how to see more of the complexities, explore differences, get to the heart of the underlying issues, and authentically share what’s important, thereby creating a solid platform for moving ahead.

Even where change is contested, or unpopular, or where others express no interest in in-depth conversations, the methods participants learn will put them in a stronger position.

The course helps participants activate more of the potentially available intelligence (their own and others’) in working through the issues. (Think of “potentially available intelligence” as otherwise hidden, trapped, unspoken, as if “below the waterline” of an iceberg – yet potentially accessible through dialogue.)

Change Conversations: Safer, Clearer, More Authentic

Contact us to find out more about Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance and how it can benefit your managers and professionals – and the organisation.

How the Change Agent Course is Organised and Presented

The Change Agent course version involves the equivalent of 2 full days of learning, ordinarily over 3 months. The e-learning modules and reflective activities consist of about 5 hours learning over this time, coupled with 3 x 3-hour live, virtual workshops.

As with the Foundations course version, the e-learning modules are designed to be fast-paced and highly engaging. Realistic scenarios, practical advice and action tips will ensure your participants find the modules useful and stimulating. As one put it, “All of the modules were very informative and clear in concept”. The modules include work sheets and resources to help learners put the concepts and tools to work from the get-go.

The live workshops provide opportunities for participants to work together in small groups, helping each other apply the concepts and tools from the e-learning modules in making sense of their challenges, preparing to speak, engaging to advance change, and developing their own mindset capabilities.

The spacing between workshops enables opportunities for practice and reflection, ensuring “fresh material” to work with in the next session. (While 3 x 3-hour workshops is the norm, other arrangements, including for shorter sessions, can be made to suit client needs.)

The combination of these two modes of learning – e-learning modules and live, virtual workshops – gives learners a richer, more compelling and more potent experience than either mode could alone.

Additional options include:

A train-the-trainer service, enabling your internal learning and development people to run the live, virtual workshops directly, supported by the e-learning modules.

Customisation of the e-learning modules to better meet your organisation’s needs, including with the development of locally relevant scenarios.

Individual coaching, to assist learners in working through their own change challenges.

Contact us to find out more about the course, including pricing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how economical is Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance.

Which Groups Will Most Benefit?

The course will benefit just about anyone needing to work with others to bring about change. Examples include:

  • Managers and team leaders wanting to improve the culture and/or performance of their teams, or deal with specific change and other challenges
  • Planners, change managers, and facilitators supporting change initiatives
  • Functional specialists (e.g., HR, Finance, IT, Quality) working to advance change with partner departments
  • Individual contributors seeking change on aspects of concern to them, e.g., regarding the behaviour of colleagues or having their own needs recognised.

The course can be adapted for virtually any cohort, including executive teams and groups of individuals impacted by change.

Summary of Benefits

Individuals will gain in these areas...

Organisations will gain in these areas...

Find Out More

Contact us to talk about running or adapting Change Conversations: Growing Psychological Safety and Performance for your organisation.