How can organisations become more progressive and empower high-performing teams? – PODCAST

Pim de Morree, Co-founder at Corporate Rebels, chats to our in-house performance psychologist about how organisations can set up high-performing teams.

How can organisations become more progressive and empower high-performing teams? – PODCAST

Pim de Morree, Co-founder at Corporate Rebels, chats to our in-house performance psychologist about how organisations can set up high-performing teams.


Meet the authors

Suzie Mossman-Monk

Performance Psychologist

Pim de Morree

Co-founder, Corporate Rebels

Corporate Rebels are dedicated to exploring and sharing the most innovative and forward-thinking approaches to work, to help organisations on their way to becoming progressive.

In this episode of Never Mind the Pain Points, our in-house performance psychologist Suzie Mossman-Monk chats to Corporate Rebels Co-founder Pim de Morree about what high-performing teams look like within different kinds of businesses, and how organisations can set themselves up for success.

Listen here or read on for an edited transcript.

Suzie Mossman Monk: Hi everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. My name is Susie Mossman Monk and I am joined today by Pim de Morree, who is the founder of Corporate Rebels. Welcome Pim, thank you for joining us. 

Pim de Morree: Hi. Very nice to be here. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Awesome. And today we are going to be talking about high-performing teams. Pim is, I guess, an expert on progressive organisations, so we are gonna discuss the topic of high-performing teams and what that looks like within different kinds of businesses, and how we can set our organisations up for success and to have teams who are performing at their best over time. Pim, I guess, to start with, keen to hear your views on what we mean by a high-performing team. What does that look like for you? How would you define what high performance looks like within a team? 

How would you define high performance within a team?

Pim de Morree: At Corporate Rebels, what we are all about is making work more fun. Our goal is to get rid of the vast majority of organisations of today where work isn’t something very motivating for people because of the traditional structures and the hierarchy and the bureaucracy and the lack of entrepreneurship and freedom that people have. We’re trying to fight against that and getting more and more organisations into a more progressive way of working and more progressive mindsets too, to make sure that people actually enjoy their work more, and as a result, also start performing better. We believe that’s really where the key is. If you now look at the amount of people that are unhappy or disengaged or unmotivated at work, well, the numbers are so painful.

Pim de Morree: For example, if you look at the research done by Gallup shows that 85% of the working population is disengaged or even actively disengaged at work. So a lot of people are simply not enjoying it. So we are here to help more organisations create a workplace where people actually are truly motivated and love to be.

Pim de Morree: And I think that’s one of the main keys to high-performing teams as well. If people enjoy their work, they enjoy the people they work with, challenge each other and feel that they have autonomy and control over what they do. I think that can really unleash passion and also unleash a lot of performance.

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, it’s a great point and I love the idea of actually, let’s look at what we can do to foster that environment, and I think we’ll come onto that in more detail. I guess something that you touched on, the fun element, which is amazing, sounds great. My question would be, how can we measure that?

Suzie Mossman Monk: So you would maybe have your standard measures of engagement if you’re looking at an organisation, how are we gonna understand and measure if a team is having fun or an organisation if there is fun at work? 

How can we measure if a team is having fun at work? 

Pim de Morree: There are a hundred thousand ways you could measure it. I think it doesn’t really matter too much in the end, it’s about starting to measure it one way or another and understanding the trend lines.

Pim de Morree: So whether you use the employee net promoter score, where you just ask people to rate their work environment or their way of working on a scale from zero to 10 and keep track of that on a monthly, quarterly, annual basis, or whether you use the employee net promoter score or the Gallup survey with their 12 questions, whatever it is, as long as you’re looking at what is the trend in our team and how are we trying to make a change.

Pim de Morree: What experiments are we setting up to actually increase the engagement and motivation levels in our team? 

Suzie Mossman Monk: And you’ve mentioned motivation a few times. I guess as a psychologist, that’s something I’m fascinated by. And you mentioned the three elements. I would put kind of the self-determination theory piece around autonomy, mastery, and then purpose, connectedness. Is that how you tend to speak about motivation? Do you think they are the key elements of having a motivated team, a motivated workforce? 

What are the key elements of having a motivated team in progressive organisations?

Pim de Morree: Yeah, for sure. So in our research to progressive organisations and what drives people at work, of course, we came across the work by Daniel Pink and what he bases his books on, so in, in the theories that you mentioned. And I think if you look at those, it always comes down to the same thing. And what we are seeing from all the organisations we’ve been visiting over the past seven and a half years that have been able to create truly inspiring workplaces, that’s really where they tap into this autonomy and mastery and purpose that people are longing for also in the workplace. But in many cases, we’re not providing the right environment for people to really tap into those drivers of motivation. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, and that’s the thing, right? We know what we should have, what we want to have. We want to give people that autonomy. We want to be able to upskill them and give them the ability to become better, and masters in what they do. And we want people to feel connected and have that sense of belonging, I guess if we take each of them, maybe I’m, genuinely interested to hear your views on, if we take autonomy, for example, how would you go about starting with setting up an organisation with autonomy? I guess if we start there, and then my second kind of hard question would be around how leadership links in with autonomy.

Suzie Mossman Monk: How can we give autonomy as leaders and what does leadership look like in an organisation that has that level of autonomy that we’d be looking for? 

The importance of autonomy in progressive organisations

Pim de Morree: I think the autonomy part is a challenging one for many companies at the moment. So for example, if you look at what disengages people at work, the lack of autonomy they have is a big element to it and a big reason for it. Also the huge amounts of people that are now at home that cannot work because they’re in a burnout. A lot of that comes from the fact that people feel they cannot have any control over their work environment, the decisions they make, the topics that they work on, this kind of stuff. So I think there’s an important area for organisations to explore. And so from what we’ve seen in all these progressive companies and how they’re able to actually create an environment that’s based on autonomy, I think it’s one thing for leaders is to let go, this is way easier said than done, but letting go of some of the control of some of the decision making power of some of the information, and let people figure out a way to work on topics themselves. So let the team figure out how they wanna decide on certain things, what topics they wanna work on, and what opportunities to pursue. I think for leaders, it becomes more and more important to create the right environment. So that people can kind of self-organize within that framework that you provide them.

Pim de Morree: If you look at the history of leadership, we tend to think of strong leaders as the ones that are making decisions for us, the ones that have a clear strategy and then dictate how people should be getting there. I think that that is a thing. If it even was already, I think it should be a thing of the past. More and more in the complex environments that we work in makes much more sense for leaders to provide an environment where people feel comfortable to contribute, to share their suggestions, their ideas, their criticism, and also then to execute on those. So, one of the things we see very clearly in many of these organisations is that leaders are very deliberate about designing the organisation.

Pim de Morree: So they see themselves much more as architects of the system, whether that’s on a team level or organisational level, that doesn’t really matter, but they see themselves as architects of a certain environment, and if they set up the right environment, the right behaviour will arise naturally out of it. And they don’t see themselves anymore as the person being there to dictate how others should be doing things or how they should achieve their targets. They just create the environment for people to self-organize and to be motivated within. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, I really like that. It’s almost removing themselves from being so involved in those decisions. As you say, as leaders, you want to set up the organisation or the team. I guess even within an organisation, you can still be a leader who sets up a team in that way, who can be the architect to set up that environment.

Suzie Mossman Monk: I guess in an ideal world you would have that from the beginning. You would have those processes or systems in place to allow those behaviours as you mentioned. What would you recommend or suggest to existing organisations where maybe there is a lot of hierarchy where things are fairly wrapped up in red tape and process, and is there hope for them? In something that’s already there, how can we start making those steps? How can we kind of move towards those things if we’re not starting from scratch? 

How can hierarchical organisations start taking steps to become more progressive?

Pim de Morree: So first of all, there’s hope as many other companies that have transformed from very traditional into highly progressive workplaces, it’s not an easy thing to do. And I think a big part of it is around redefining how you work from, how do we make decisions as a team? How do we distribute responsibilities in our team? So for example, one very powerful thing that many of these teams do is getting rid of the fixed-job description and instead throwing all the work that you have to do as a team all on the table. Create a kind of a simple list of all the activities that a team needs to do to be successful. Cluster the activities into roles, and let people then pick up the roles that they want to pick up. So forget about the job description that they’ve been initially hired for. Just focus on what people love to do, and then you’ll see that people can take a lot of responsibility within those roles, and you can try to make these as autonomous as possible so that it really becomes teamwork where somebody takes the lead on one thing and follows on another. And somebody’s not contributing anything on one topic, but is very important and impactful on another one. And you as a team put in all your combined effort to contribute to the bigger purpose of your specific team. And I think it’s the leader’s job then to create that environment and to allow people to pick up certain areas of the team. And then take full responsibility on it and give them also a lot of autonomy in how they actually get to the right outcomes. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: And that makes sense, right? If you are putting your hand up and saying, I’m gonna own this, this is mine, I’m gonna take it on, that accountability piece links in with autonomy, right? It then becomes yours to own and deliver on. And that sense of pride when that comes together and that element of ownership as well. My devil’s advocate hat, I suppose there are parts of work, parts of any job that maybe no one wants to pick up or are less attractive to people. Is the response to that, well, you need to then find the right people to make up the team, to allow people to, cause I’m sure there are elements of work that I don’t like that someone else will be really buzzed about. Is that how you would kind of balance it? Or is there an element of, okay, you have to do some stuff that you do really love and you do get the fun out of, but then you also need to maybe do your backend admin that no one particularly enjoys doing, but it’s really important to that higher purpose. How would you kind of help organisations through that question? 

Pim de Morree: There are a couple of very simple ways to solve it. So first of all, I am not an advocate of people just picking up the things they like and just not doing any of the things they don’t like to do. I think it’s important as a team to understand what do we need to do to be successful, to give people an important stake in the outcome as well. So make sure they feel proud when they achieve their goals and if they are successful, and also make sure they feel somewhat of the pain if they’re unsuccessful as a team. Really bring that ownership also to a team level. If you don’t do that and people have just the freedom to pick up all the stuff they wanna pick up but don’t feel the responsibility or the accountability, it can often lead to even higher levels of disengagement and people feel a bit lost and not really tapping into that motivation of people, and I think that’s where purpose comes into place as well. So you can do a couple of things. First of all, if you have that list of things you need to do as a team to be successful, people will understand, okay, if we want to be successful as a team, we need to step up. And I either people have to pick up a role and for example, if nobody loves to do it, you rotate it within the team, and every three or six months there are some companies that every six months they rotate the unpopular roles and just have to do it for a certain period of time. Do it as well as you can, and then you can hand it over to your team member or you can outsource it. Find somebody outside of your team, whether that’s inside your organisation still or even outside of the organisation. For example, if I look at our company, we all hate to do the financial part of the business, but it’s pretty important if you wanna succeed and understand if you’re making a profit or not. So we outsource a big part of our financial work to an accounting firm that we work very closely with, and they do much more than they do for their other clients. But it’s simply something we don’t want to do ourselves. And I am a hundred per cent sure that because we outsource it, it’s not just more fun in our organisation, but it’s also much more successful because they do a much better job than we would do if we don’t really like to do it. So rotating, outsourcing is another one, or, and this is a bit more controversial, but simply don’t do it. So don’t execute a certain role if nobody likes to do it, and then only if it will lead to trouble, then figure out a way to solve it, and then you might still wanna outsource it or somebody will pick it up. But in many cases, we do a lot of things in teams that are not really harming our performance if we don’t do it. So we’re still executing on a lot of roles that people don’t like to do, but they’re not really contributing to our success. So just give it a try and not do it at all, and then see if it leads to trouble. If it does, solve it. And if it doesn’t, well good thing you stop doing it. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: That’s fascinating as well, right? And it makes sense from a psychological perspective if you are doing a role that maybe doesn’t feel like you are contributing and is one of those, as you say that we are doing because historically that’s what we’ve done and it feels scary to get rid of it, then of course you are probably not gonna be enjoying it because you at some level know that the impact that you are having isn’t necessarily super significant to the outcome or absolutely vital to the work that’s happening. So yeah, you can see how those two would be linked. 

Pim de Morree: What I think is also interesting about it, so in my previous job when I worked for a big corporate where I also became pretty frustrated – in those kinds of organisations it’s very easy to hide. In a team, nobody really understands what you’re working on, what you’re responsible for, in many cases at least, or that was for me, definitely the experience and it was quite easy to hide and do very little just to get by, which nowadays is called quite popularly, quiet quitting. But I think it’s been a thing that’s been going on for decades already. So this, it’s quite easy to do in an organisation that works with these autonomous roles that we’ve been talking about. It’s almost impossible to hide because it becomes very transparent who’s responsible for what, and if you’re underdelivering or underperforming on a certain role, or just not taking any ownership in this, it will become very visible to everyone in the team that it harms the team’s performance to not perform your role well, and this is also, it sounds maybe harsh, that you can’t hide but it also leads to a lot of motivation because when people pick something up, they know it adds value to what the team is doing and to the success of the team as well. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah. And then I guess if we link that to the other couple of areas that we spoke of, particularly that connectedness, I guess it’s originally like relatedness, connection, sense of belonging that really helps to contribute to that, right? You’re all working towards something. You are all contributing.

Suzie Mossman Monk: Something that we talk about a lot at Clarasys is values and purpose and that at an organisational level. Would you say that having that at an organisational level is enough, or would you break it down to the purpose and values at a team level? But what size team would you say, actually it’s okay, we can work towards the higher business purpose. We can use the values of a business or is that something that you’d encourage teams to have a conversation about at any point of forming? 

Is having a purpose at an organisational level enough, or should it be broken down to team level?

Pim de Morree: I think it depends a little bit on what type of organisation you’re looking at. So for example, if you look at an organisation with a very, very clear purpose. For example, healthcare organisations, it’s very clear for the vast majority of people in healthcare organisations what the purpose of the organisation is. Well, if you go to a for-profit company, in many cases people have no clue and the only purpose is actually to make as much money as possible. So there’s, I think, a variety of organisations that need to address this differently. If it is harder for your organisation to clarify the purpose to individuals and to teams, then I think you need to put more effort into creating this clarity. So making sure that, okay, this is the purpose of us as an organisation, and then how can we translate that to team level If you work in a really big company, and the purpose is maybe a bit vague or hard to translate I think you need to put more effort into trying to translate it to team level so at least you know what the purpose of your specific team is and how you contribute to the bigger picture of the organisation. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, I like that kind of stepping stone piece, right? And you can do it both ways and both ways actually are useful. So this is the overall purpose of the organisation. And then this is how, as you say, this is how I contribute to the team. This is how the team contributes to maybe an area within the business. And that’s how we kind of align to the wider piece. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Just going back to something you said there around the piece around purpose and the link of, okay, if your purpose is just to make profit, to make money. If an organisation came to you and said, this is what we’re trying to do, we’re just trying to make more money, please help us. Do you feel like that is okay? As a purpose? How would you define that, if that’s very upfront? If they’re very open about that, that is what they’re trying to do. I guess on a human level, do you find that enough of a purpose, it’s maybe not purpose-led in terms of doing good or doing. I mean, maybe it is as well, but interested in that nuance, having a purpose of just making loads of cash? 

Is making profit enough of a purpose?

Pim de Morree: I think there are two sides to it. On the one hand, I kind of feel a lot of sympathy for the honesty because a lot of companies have this as their main purpose, but they just come up with something that they say is their purpose. But if you look at their day-to-day decision-making, it’s far from it. So here in the Netherlands for example, you look at TV commercials from banks and it’s also like almost like you’re looking at an NGO commercial. And then at the end, they say it’s about this specific bank and you’re looking at it like what the hell, this has nothing to do with how they make their decisions on a day-to-day basis. So this purpose washing is, I think, worse than just being honest, saying, okay, we’re here to make money. If you wanna do so too, come work with us and we’ll all fight for the same cost.

Pim de Morree: It’s not personally what would drive me just to make as much money as possible, especially not if the money is only for external shareholders that you’ve never met or will never know. It’s not my personal preference, but I’m also not the one to decide for other people what their purpose in life should be. So if an organisation is solely set up for that, I think it’s quite ballsy to actually say it and to attract people that are also into that so you can at least be honest about it and don’t have this corporate theatre where we all pretend that we have a noble purpose, but in the end, it’s just about making as much money as possible.

The importance of having a purpose

Suzie Mossman Monk: Okay. Because when we were kind of talking through to start with that piece around distributed decision making and actually how do you do that in practice. I guess the link there is something you said around each individual decision should be leading you towards that purpose, whatever that is, right? So whether that is around doing good in the world or making money, whatever it is that you have as your purpose, actually that makes it really much easier for individuals and teams to make decisions without having to go all the way up the chain, right? Because everyone’s on the same page and you should be making decisions that help you move towards that is how you would want that to work in practice, right? 

Pim de Morree: Yeah. It provides a framework for people to work within. If you don’t have that purpose or you don’t have the values through which you agree how to operate and how to communicate, how to collaborate, then it’s really hard for people to make decisions themselves and to understand how they can contribute to the organisation. But if the purpose is very clear and the values are very clear, it makes it super easy for people to use their own best judgment to make good decisions in that same direction. It’s a bit like, I always hate to use sports metaphors, but I think it’s very easy to understand how it works. So with this, you try to provide just the basic rules for the game. If you don’t have any rules, it’s not a lot of fun to play. If you don’t keep scores or if you have no transparency on performance, it’s also, in many cases, not a lot of fun to play. But if you do provide that framework for people to then self-organize within, to set their own strategies to play however they’d like to play, I think there is a lot of fun to be had in that because they can self-organise, but they’re working towards the same goal and they work within a very clear framework.

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah. Nice. I mean, I’m a sports psychologist by trade, so absolutely love a sports metaphor. 

Pim de Morree: And you like it? 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah! Nice.

Suzie Mossman Monk: So we’ve spoken a lot around that autonomy piece, that decision-making element. If we look at the other areas, we spoke a little bit about how having that sense of impact, being part of a team contribution, helps with connectedness and belonging. You mentioned previously around that hybrid working or working away, working at home, maybe not coming together as a business and organisation – how would you recommend businesses or organisations setting up, but also if you are already quite an established organisation, how can you build that connection while we have people who aren’t necessarily in the office ever or see each other face-to-face at all?

How to build team connections in a hybrid or remote work setting? 

Pim de Morree: Yeah, that’s really challenging. I think you cannot build the same level of connection if you never meet in person. So, I know that so many companies that work only remote still try to find ways to meet up, but even if that’s once a year for a week or a weekend where they focus on getting to know each other, and everything revolves around social activities so it’s not much about work or strategies or whatever it is, but they wanna focus on creating human connections. Even if the rest of the year they all work remotely and many of them say, this is a vital part of how we work. Only working remote, never meeting each other. Sure it can be done. There are enough companies that are proving it, but I think it leads to a different level of connection that you have with your coworkers. Probably some other areas must be stronger, for example, the purpose element needs to be stronger and it can maybe compensate a little bit for the lack of connection among colleagues, but I think it’s important to find the right balance there. 

Pim de Morree: So also in our own company, people can work wherever and whenever they want, so it’s also hard for us to all be in the office at the same time. Yeah, it’s one of the challenges, but we like the freedom so much and the autonomy so much that we think that’s more important than calling everybody into the office so we can all work together. But I think what is more important is that the remote, the whole shift to remote work or hybrid work has shown us even more clearly that our way of working is outdated. Because whether we work in the office or at home, Like in the office, we think we work more productively because we’re in meetings all day and we can easily meet each other. That feels maybe very productive, but in reality, it’s not. And then when you’re working from home and you’re still in meetings all day, but now you’re in Zoom calls or teams calls, you’re not changing how you work. You’re only changing the physical location of where you are. 

Pim de Morree: So I think much more needs to change. For example, how can you work more asynchronously? So how can you work at a moment that suits you? Instead of having to be at a certain moment in time, for example, a meeting, how do you make decisions more distributed so you can make decisions without having to be in the same location or at the same time at a certain location? So I think these kinds of things are much more important. How do you share information? How do you communicate? How do you decide? This stuff needs to be solved by organisations and you can actually see that organisations that experiment with new approaches to work around these elements, you see that both the productivity and the engagement go up significantly if they’re able to find a new way that is much better suited for today’s work environment, whether that’s in the office or at home.

Suzie Mossman Monk: And you mentioned a couple of times that experimentation piece, right? Like trying stuff, trying to find a new way. How, in practice, if I’m a 500-person organisation and we’re very stuck in our ways, we’ve identified that, that this isn’t, you know, we’re a bit slow with decision making, whatever it is, how do you go about coming up with these ideas? Where do you start? How do you get going with some of this stuff? What does that look like? 

How can large organisations make a change to become more progressive?

Pim de Morree: There’s, I think, roughly two roads or two paths to choose. So if you’re a company of that size 500, if you’re ballsy enough, then you can change quite radically. So first you need, of course, a bit of a design period. You need to learn from some other companies that have gone down a transformation journey like this. And then you can design something, change the entire way of working, I wouldn’t say overnight, but rather quickly. Then you’ll probably experience a bit of a dip in engagement and productivity, but you’ll see that you can quite quickly recover from that and then start improving. That’s the more radical and risky journey. 

Pim de Morree: Another option is to start experimenting in a part of the organisation. Where you just gather ideas from people in the organisation, show, or get inspiration from pioneers who are working differently to give people an understanding, okay, what are the things we can even change and what could that change look like? And then start experimenting in some teams, in a department, in a separate business unit, and understand how some of these changes come to life and how much customization they actually need in your specific business. And then once you found something that works, try to then scale it to other parts of the organisation. And this is actually how we see most changes come to life. It starts in a pocket of the organisation and then once it’s successful, they start scaling to the rest of the organisation. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Everyone wants to be a part of it, right? There must be a point where actually everything tips and everyone’s like, wow, I wanna be part of that team, or I wanna be doing what that team are doing, that looks cool and fun.

Pim de Morree: So in traditional transformation journeys it’s most of the time either external consultants dictating how changes should be made, or it’s the leadership team of the company that decides, okay, this is the journey we’re going on and this is how we’re gonna do it. And then they force an organisation into a certain direction. Well, we’ve seen from all of the transformations that we’ve researched, that it’s much better and much more successful to focus on the teams and the departments that want to change. So focus on the intrinsic motivation of people that wanna change and give them the opportunity and the freedom to experiment. And then once they are successful and more engaged and more motivated, and once they’ve achieved that, then other people will probably wanna follow along on that journey. And it’s a bit like the adoption of technology, right? If Apple comes out with the newest iPhone or another new gadget like the one they’ve recently announced, you probably don’t want to sell it to the people who still walk around with a Nokia in their pocket. They will never focus on those people first. Let’s first focus on the innovators, the people who really love to try new things, even if they’re unproven. And then once they have experienced success, move to the early adopters, then to the early majority, and I think it’s very similar to how technologies are adopted. We shouldn’t focus on the ones that will never wanna change. We should actually focus on the pioneers and see how we can support them down a transformation like this. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: And you mentioned there something I thought was really interesting around, not the specifics, but there’s that element of, okay, we want to look at our organisation so exactly as you said, speak to those people who are keen to experiment, do things differently and get them to come up with what are their ideas, what are their ways that they think they can solve the challenges that they’re facing, or how would they like to do things differently. I guess the balance between that, giving them just full autonomy to be like, just go away, do whatever you want, come up with solutions. But then also, as you say, looking at pioneers who have done it elsewhere, so a lot of your guys’ work I know around seeing what other organisations are doing, bringing ideas in and that side of things. I guess there’s maybe a little bit of a balance between those two things, you don’t wanna just lift and shift something from elsewhere, but also, you know, other people have cool ideas and being able to borrow some of that, but apply it to your organisation I guess is you want a balance of the two of those things.

Pim de Morree: Yeah. I think what is important in many of these transformations, it should start with a very simple question, what frustrates you most about how we work? That leads to a lot of good discussions and a lot of good insights and then start figuring out how can we get rid of some of these frustrations by implementing new ways of working or changing our existing structures. Many of the transformations that have succeeded start like this. Having a very simple discussion. Let people list the things that they wanna change, and then understand, okay, what are the things we can already start changing and what are some of the things we won’t touch at first? And also be brutally honest and open about it. I think it makes more sense to say, okay, these are some things we simply are not going to change right now, but any other topic, bring it on and let’s give it a try. For example, we’ve been working with one big company from the Philippines. CEO had read our book. He loved it, and he sent an email to all of the people working in the organisation and he said, I advise you to also read this book and then come up with an experiment on what you feel you can change inside your part of the organisation. And he also then very clearly said, we’re not gonna talk about self-set salaries, which is something we touch upon in our book, which is for sure for the more radical ones out there. Self-set salaries, salary transparency, and there were a number of other things he said, this is what we’re for sure not gonna touch now, maybe later, but not now. Any other topics you come up with just start experimenting in your part of the organisation and see if you can make some progress and create a better workplace for you and your colleagues. I think that’s important to be so clear about the things that people can come up with and also very clear guardrails to say, okay, this is what we’re not gonna touch.

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah. I was gonna say, it comes back to your sports metaphor around having those rules, right? Like it’s not fun if you just try and look at everything, but actually if you’re like these are the guardrails, these are the things as you say that we are not gonna look at, as you say, maybe later, but they actually, I think, can make people more creative if you set those guardrails right? Because actually otherwise it can just feel a little bit too overwhelming. 

Pim de Morree: Yep. Yeah, for sure. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Okay, nice. One thing that you mentioned there was around kind of having that honesty, openness, being able to challenge and I guess my brain automatically goes to that psychological safety piece, which is a massive buzzword and a phrase that I think gets overused and misused quite a lot in this kind of conversation. But keen to get your thoughts on what do you understand psychological safety to mean and how would you translate that and that topic relating it to these kinds of conversations around high performance, change, and progressive organisations.

What part does psychological safety play in high-performing teams and progressive organisations?

Pim de Morree: Yeah. It’s vitally important and I agree with you, it’s a bit of a buzzword these days and a lot of people are abusing it, I think. But yeah, the concept is extremely valuable. And research shows this time and time again that successful or high-performing teams have high levels of psychological safety. They feel comfortable to not just make mistakes, but also challenge one another, challenge the status quo, and existing norms within the team, which is a really hard thing to do to get to that level, but the organisations that succeed in this also reap the benefits. And it’s not just a more fun and motivating way of running an organisation, but it also leads to a lot higher performance. So yeah, these organisations, the pioneering ones that we’ve been researching, focus very strongly on this. From very small things that they do, for example, having more equal talk time in meetings. So avoiding just a few people in a team or in a meeting room dictating the conversation because either they’re more extroverted or they’re the most senior people in the room. You wanna avoid it because you want to hear everyone’s voices. Also, the more introverted or the more junior people. So that’s why, for example, they talk in rounds. Sounds super childish but they just in a meeting you go one by one and you add to what other people have been saying and it forces you to listen also to what other people are saying. And this is a really important, simple, but very important step to boost some of that psychological safety in a team and to tap much more into the collective intelligence. And other organisations go further and they, for example, have routines around celebrating the mistakes that people have made, talking very openly about them, regularly reviewing the mistakes that people have made and how they can avoid making those mistakes in the future. Focusing much more on really transparent and open feedback to make people more and more comfortable with sharing their perspectives and how they feel their team members are performing. So a couple of important things need to be put in place. For teams and organisations to really build this psychological safety. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Nice. Yeah. At Clarasys we have the f*** up championships once a month where everyone submits the mistakes that they’ve made that month, and then we vote and that person wins.

Pim de Morree: And do you feel that that helps to bring psychological safety into the organisation? 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, it’s great. And I guess the way we position it is, one, you want to make it okay to fail, everyone f***s up. Right? And whether that’s in a pretty big way in terms of, I don’t know, invoicing or whatever, or in a smaller way around people locking themselves out of their house while they’re in a meeting, whatever. It varies in the lessons learned I suppose. But yeah, it gives you that it’s okay to fail and mess up and actually that’s fine, but also there are useful lessons to be learned, like having your wait room on your Zoom so that someone doesn’t join your meeting unexpectedly, for example. All of those kind of things, so it’s good. 

Pim de Morree: Nice. Yeah. We see the same in our company. So every first Monday of the month we have, uh, or no, we moved it actually to Thursday recently, because then we can combine it with a Thursday afternoon beer; we have our team day, so it’s a full day of sharing financials, discussing feedback, but also sharing successes and failures. So exactly like you said, even the small things can be really helpful in making people feel more comfortable to share things that didn’t work out, and then also try new things or challenge other people more really helps. And in most cases, also quite fun to talk about it. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Yeah, exactly. In most cases, sometimes it’s like, ooh nope, that one was punching. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Okay, nice. I guess the final area that I wanted to get your thoughts on is, so we are a consultancy, we go and work with clients in a whole range of different areas. Do you have any advice for companies like ours where we obviously have our own internal culture and we are trying to continuously be more progressive internally, but we often go into organisations that are I guess less progressive, more hierarchical and where cultures are different and obviously you are trying to create a team very quickly, often in high-pressure situations. Is it the same principles that show up or is there anything that you can do that’s a little bit more, our culture might look different back home, but we are kind of conjoining to create this, I guess, temporary team for X period of time and we still need to deliver something.

The importance of agreeing on team ways of working  

Pim de Morree: Yeah, it’s challenging for sure because it’s not just about influencing your own company, which you have the power to do, but it’s also working constantly with other teams that have no understanding of new ways of working, more progressive ways of working, and that are only used to organizing more traditionally.

Pim de Morree: I think it is still very important to kind of create clarity on how you wanna work as a team. Even if things are created under high pressure and there’s maybe just short period of time, I think you will easily make up for the time and the effort you put into it, that you invest into this as you work and collaborate with that team.

Pim de Morree: So, just a couple of simple things can be done. Like many of the teams in progressive organisations have a very clear handbook. So a team handbook that states how they work. So what is our purpose? What are our values? How do we make decisions? Which roles do we have? Who picks up those roles and is then responsible for them? How do we share information? How often do we meet? What is our rhythm? All these kinds of things and doesn’t need to be very elaborate, but these are some of the main topics. If you write those down so you can create a sort of rules of engagement of the team, it can really help to speed things up once you’ve done so, and really build much more connection among people and much more clarity around how you do things. So you don’t need to waste a lot of time, constantly going back and forth on how we’re actually addressing this. How do we make decisions on this, et cetera, et cetera. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: So I tend to work more with individuals obviously and how individuals show up within teams. But on top of that, and maybe as part of that, I always encourage people to share as a team, like, what do you look like at work? How do you like to work? If you are stressed, what are your stress behaviours? What does that look like? Because I think that gives that safety for people to say, hey Pim, I’ve noticed that you are maybe engaging in some of these behaviours that, in my notes on you, you said show up when you are a bit stressed. I think that gives that safety to actually be able to not call it out, but acknowledge it and actually say, check in a more deliberate and intentional way, I think, rather than making assumptions or guessing, which I guess is similar to that wider team handbook. 

Pim de Morree: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. So then you would actually, so we talked a lot about organisations and how they should clarify how they work. So that’s then the organisational handbook more or less. Then teams can tweak things and of course, talk more operationally about how they do certain things with a team handbook, and then even on individual one, would be interesting to have this in a team, especially if you work with each other for a long period of time. Yeah. I like what you said to kind of understand it also on an individual level, what people’s motivations are, how they behave in certain situations. Yeah, I like it. I think it’s a great addition to add to a team as well and to an organisation. 

Suzie Mossman Monk: Awesome. Cool. Well, thank you so much, Pim. That has genuinely been fascinating. Thank you so much for your time. 

Pim de Morree: Oh, thank you. Enjoyed the conversation as well. 

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