• Written by Catalyst Inc

(August 26, 2015)Catalyst, the leading global nonprofit organization advocating for equal opportunities in the workforce, today released its ground-breaking new report on employee innovation in Australia. It offers important strategies for the Australian business community and any company committed to leveraging talent and inspiring breakout ideas.

The key? Making employees feel safe enough to bring their authentic selves to work, propose novel solutions, take on stretch assignments, and speak up about problems and tough issues. Too often, employees hold back out of fear that if they “step out on a limb” and fail, they’ll lose the respect of their managers and peers. Alleviating these concerns is critical to fostering the sense of safety and inclusion that are the hallmarks of innovative and high-performing teams.

“Smart leaders set the stage for innovation by encouraging a supportive work culture where employees feel confident bringing their diverse thoughts to the table and proposing ideas that might seem different, difficult, or even out of the ordinary,” says Deborah Gillis, President & CEO, Catalyst.

When employees feel safe, they:
  • Are willing to take risks, regardless of rank or status.
  • Trust teammates will not act in ways that would undermine their efforts or work.
  • Are confident that mistakes will not be held against them.
  • Freely speak up about problems and tough issues.
Based on a survey of over 250 Australian professionals and interviews with leaders of highly successful teams, the report offers practical strategies, such as:

Provide “Air Cover.” Inclusive leaders can protect and support employees when they encounter difficulties and challenges. Rather than stand by when a direct report’s idea is questioned or dismissed, these leaders provide backing both in the open and behind closed doors with peers and superiors—even when it may not be politically expedient.

Create a Coaching Culture. Inclusive leaders seek out and encourage feedback. Those surveyed mentioned methods like regular meetings, peer coaching, surveying staff, and asking employees to give them a 360º review.

Share Struggles: Leaders can help employees feel safe by being open about challenges, empowering the team to overcome them. They work with their employees to reframe problems and leverage team strengths to help turn things around.
Lead With Heart: Leaders establish closer connections with direct reports by being unafraid to express emotion—a behaviour that has traditionally been treated as taboo in business settings. Leaders who are willing be vulnerable and to share personal feelings, experiences, and stories show others that it’s OK to do the same. Team members feel this support and will want to support other colleagues.

Building on previous Catalyst research, this report shows that companies that embrace the power of inclusion can unlock employee potential and help inspire the very best ideas and results from their talented teams.

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