Good afternoon, I hope this finds you well. It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me, so I hope your life has been calmer than mine, but probably not. This Coaching Letter is about psychological safety, because it’s the subject of our latest Reading for Leading book selection, The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmondson, but also because it’s a thread that connects multiple strands of the Center’s work, and comes up frequently in the Coaching Letters (most starkly, this one). I started reading The Fearless Organization, so now I’m ready to talk about how this distributed book discussion is going to play out.

I first read Amy Edmondson’s work when I was working on my doctorate. My dissertation was on principals’ tacit knowledge of instruction, and she wrote a lot on the topic of tacit knowledge, as it applied in hospitals, particularly surgical teams, and how they built up shared tacit knowledge. As she describes early in the book, the work that she was doing on how teams learn from failure (which is often how we accrue our tacit knowledge) led her to ask, and answer, questions about why some teams learn faster than others, and that is a lot of what the book is about.

One of the reasons we chose this book is because the links to Professor Edmondson’s videos on psychological safety are among the most-clicked-on links that have ever appeared in the Coaching Letter. In case you are one of the half dozen or so people who have not seen them, they are:

Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace (TED talk)

Building Teams That Learn (YouTube)

In addition, you can listen to Professor Edmondson on Episode 89 of the Work and Life podcast. This is the link to the website, but you can of course also listen on Stitcher or the other various podcast apps. As I have learned in the time I have spent finding good podcasts, some are made with much greater attention to production quality than others. This one is not terrible, but basically it’s a recording of a phone conversation, so it’s not edge-of-your-seat listening.

And of course the major reason why we chose the book is because we think that the ideas that Professor Edmondson writes about are big and important and have implications for leaders and coaches everywhere.

Our major goal is to have people read the book, as we found with the first two selections that having a large number of people who participate in a loose-knit, but nevertheless powerful, community of practice really did change the conversations we were having as we work in different places. We know that a lot more people read the books than participated in the Google+ discussion, and that’s fine. So it’s a little bit of a risk to shift to Twitter; the pro, as I see it, is that there’s a lower barrier to entry, because one tweet is only a sentence or two so no big deal; the con is that the level of discussion will be lower unless people are willing to step up and get creative. So here are some ideas for that, and these are only the ones I can think of, so obviously nothing too audacious here:

  • Highlight a sentence or two that struck a chord with you, take a picture, and tweet the picture with one sentence about why you think it’s important; tag it with the hashtag #CCSCFearless, and the Twitter handle of anyone else you want to make sure sees your post (my handle, for example, is @IsobelTX, my colleague Kerry is @kerryhlord, Richard is @Richard_Lemons, Bob Villanova is @rmv1950.)
  • Link to a website or blog post that makes a connection to the book, write a sentence about that connection, and tag it with the hashtag #CCSCFearless, and the Twitter handle of anyone else you want to make sure sees your post.
  • Write a reflection in a Google doc and tweet the link to that, along with a sentence that sets the context. Tag it with the hashtag #CCSCFearless, and the Twitter handle of anyone else you want to see your post.
  • Write an old-fashioned, hand-written journal entry, take a picture of it, and post to Twitter. Tag it with the hashtag #CCSCFearless, and the Twitter handle of anyone else you want to see your post.

And if you search #CCSCFearless in Twitter, you will find what has been posted already about the book.  Which is not much so far, so I’m looking forward to what is added over the next few weeks.

This is our spring book, so we will do most of our Tweeting between now and the end of May. In addition, we are planning at least one live event for people to come together face to face and talk about the book. We will announce when we have more details, but right now you should hold the evening of May 29 in Hartford. If you are interested in hosting a book discussion in your part of the state, please let me know! Happy reading, and happy tweeting! Best, Isobel

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