Dr Paige Williams

Episode 3

How successful leaders lead through Partnering not Power

with special guest

Dr Paige Williams


In this episode author, researcher and PhD in Organisational Behaviour Dr Paige Williams provides some timely tips to help people experiencing the current flood disaster cope with the challenges confronting them. Cynthia and Paige then discuss the leader’s role in cultivating accountability in their team, the importance of experiencing natural consequences and what gets in the way of an accountability culture. Paige shares how she believes leadership in its current form is broken and that a new paradigm of leadership that she calls Partnering is what effective leaders need to practice in these challenging times. We also have a conversation about the new amendments to the OH&S Act that require legally leaders and employers to identify and manage psycho-social hazards in the workplace and what leaders need to know.



Website: www.drpaigewilliams.com

Hashtags: #leadership, #leadwithlove, #antifragileleadership, #leadershipdevelopment, and #accountabilityreset




Cynthia (00:06):

Hello everyone. My name is Cynthia Mahoney and I’d like to welcome you to the Cultivate podcast. The podcast for leaders who want to cultivate healthier, happier, and more human workplaces and lives. So in the Cultivate podcast, I’m going to be chatting to leaders who are going to share their experiences and their tips about what makes a cultivating leader. So listen on,

Cynthia (00:40):

Welcome everyone to the Cultivate podcast. The podcast for leaders who want to cultivate healthier, happier, and more human workplaces and lives. I’d like to acknowledge that I’m recording on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. And I extend my respect to any First Nations people we might have listening today, I am so excited to be interviewing one of my favorite people and absolute superstars, Dr. Paige Williams. And Paige is an author, researcher, and PhD in organizational behavior, a trusted advisor and mentor to senior leaders across business, government, education, and beyond. She uses a potent blend of neuroscience, psychology, and her own 20 plus years of international business leadership experience to surface uncomfortable truths. Ooh, and help leaders see the rules they need to break in order to break through and lead themselves, their teams and their organizations to thrive.

Cynthia (01:52):

And she’s seen dramatic and measurable results. She’s an honorary fellow of the Center for Wellbeing Science and an associate of the Melbourne Business School. She has released her first book Becoming Antifragile, Learning to Thrive through Disruption, Challenge and Change. And that was published in 2020 to Wider claim and her latest book Own It Honoring and Amplifying Accountability Explores why accountability is the strategic imperative in the post covid economic landscape and how to get it. In addition to talking about Paige’s work and particularly her new research and her new leadership paradigm around partnering over power, we’re also going to be talking today about change amendments to the O H N S legislation around psychological safety and what leaders will need to be aware that they are now accountable for. So they’re now accountable for just as they are for their staff members, physical safety. They’re now also accountable for their team’s psychosocial safety. So we’ll talk a bit a bit about what that means and learn more about the implications for leaders of that. So Paige, welcome.

Dr. Paige Williams (03:15):

Oh, thanks so much Cindy. You forgot to mention that we’re great buddies as well. I should add that to my cv. Great buddy to Cynthia Marni <laugh>. It’s the most important part.

Cynthia (03:26):

Very true. And I’m so lucky. So lucky to have fabulous person like yourself in my friend network.

Dr. Paige Williams (03:33):

I feel the same.

Cynthia (03:35):

Great to have you here today. Now before we get into the main points of why you’ve come to talk with us today, I wanted to address the current issue that is facing a lot of people in Victoria and New South Wales in particular. And that is the issue of the floods. Now I have a family member who lives in Echuca and so it’s been weeks of waiting. They’ve said it’s been excruciating waiting for the flood to creep up and that it’s been mentally exhausting and it’s been a, a wonderful time in the community in terms of community spirit and people getting in and helping each other. But there’s also been some fractures in communities as well. And I was just wondering, Paige, from your expertise as a psychologist, just if you had advice for people on strategies to look after themselves, particularly in a disaster where it’s going on for a long time and there’s a lot of uncertainty.

Dr. Paige Williams (04:41):

I think it you, you’ve nailed it there since, and it’s the, so the slow creep nature of this disaster that is almost our, our most undoing quite often when we have disasters, there’s a something that happens, it’s big in scale, it’s significant in impact sometimes, you know, it is disastrous in impact. And so our natural responses to that, which is our heightened stress response meets the energy need of that situation beautifully, right? Because we’re pulled to action, we’ve got fight or flight, we’re able to use that energy and channel it somewhere. Now the slow creep nature of what we’re experiencing at the moment is we get that response triggered because we know something is coming. But then we’ve almost got, we’ve got nowhere to channel that energy and it’s quite a natural stress response is what we’re wired to do. But the slow creep nature of it means that we’re almost like fidgety in our own skin.

Dr. Paige Williams (05:36):

We know it’s coming. We can’t do anything about it yet because it’s not at our doorstep yet. We’ve got the sandbags out, we’ve done all the things and we’re just waiting. I live in on the south coast of Victoria and so we don’t often get this, but I remember in the bushfire season, a few, quite a few summers ago now, there were bushfires all around us in the fields and we, it wasn’t time for us to move yet. And yet we here we were on this heightened state of alert and what felt like days and, and the thing is right now for these communities, it really is days. So what’s the, what’s the things I’d recommend? One is to, is to recognize that what you’re experiencing in kind of this heightened on edgeness is perfectly natural. Like you’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong in you experiencing that.

Dr. Paige Williams (06:18):

It’s absolutely what we’re wired to do. The second thing is that that energy then how can we use that in a constructive way rather than just letting it kind of fizzle inside of us? How can we use it in a way that means that we are maybe engaging in this in a, what’s the learning, what’s the challenge in this that I can learn from then that might not be so appropriate? And so this community response might be the way that we channel this energy in terms of, okay, I know I’ve done everything I can now. How can I reach out and help others get to this same place that I’m at? And so it’s a way for us to channel the energy that takes it outside of ourselves once we know we’ve kind of done everything we can to get ourselves in, in as good a position as we can be knowing that it might not play out exactly as we think it’s going to, but we’ve done the best we can with what we know for now.

Dr. Paige Williams (07:14):

And then the third thing I’d say is I coached a lot of teams and senior leaders around this during Covid and it’s understanding what we can control, what we can’t control and what we can influence. Yeah, and it’s that classic circles of control piece. And I’ve heard you write on this as well in your beautiful newsletter synth and, and it’s doubling down on what we can control. And that is how we are showing up the self-care that we are providing for ourselves, how we’re showing up in relationship with others and how we’re supporting others. We can completely control that. We can influence what goes on in our, perhaps our family or in our, our physical environment. And then outside of that, like what are the things that we can’t control and acknowledge that those are the things that, it might be hard, but they’re the things we kind of need to let go of. Because if we stay attached to those, it’s just a black pit for our en energy, for our effectiveness, for our wellbeing. And so understanding what do I actually need to let go of because I can’t control it and it’s not helping me to stay attached to that right now.

Cynthia (08:17):

Yeah, and I think that is a great point about really what you focus on expands so that if you are focused on a lot of things that you can’t control, it adds to the stress and, and we know that emotions are infectious page.

Dr. Paige Williams (08:34):

That’s right. This idea how we show up, that’s the thing we can control most. But understand it doesn’t just stop with us. You know, as a parent, how you are showing up in this moment fundamentally affects how your children feel, how your partner feels as a community leader, as a business leader in a community, how you show up will send ripples, emotional ripples, stress ripples or not through the people that you are most closely in connection with. We have things in our brain called mirror neurons and we, we respond to what we see because, and we reflect that back. So understand that collectively we can create what I would call an antifragile community by each of us stepping into what helps to make us more antifragile in each moment and understand the ripples of connection that come out from that. And that’s how we create collective antifragility.

Cynthia (09:27):

And I think that’s just so important right now because that takes a degree of self-awareness, doesn’t it? Page like. Yeah. And when we are stressed, it’s hard to be, sometimes we’re on default mode because that’s all we’ve got the energy to be. So, so that’s why that focusing on what you can control and giving yourself enough energy to do that is really important. Yeah. And there’s a lot of people out there who, you know, don’t have high degrees of self awareness and so they are very reactive. Yeah. And that’s where the people that do have those skills can be very important.

Dr. Paige Williams (10:04):

Yeah. I found a really useful activity to do around these is, and you can do this for yourself, but equally if you’ve got a friend or you’ve got a family member that you can see is really in the stress bubble in the stress cycle and they’re not helping themselves, they’re not kind of taking care of themselves in that because they’re so in it. And you can do this literally or metaphorically, but um, as in just talk it through in a conversation. Draw four columns on a piece of paper and in the first column headed up can’t and say like what are all the things that are most frustrating you about this? And generally the things that we’re most frustrated about are the things we can’t control. And kind of put those in the first column. What are the things that are absolutely 100% in your control about this?

Dr. Paige Williams (10:46):

And invariably they’re the things as I say that are to do with us. What questions are we asking? How are we showing up? How are we showing self care? How are we putting on our own oxygen mask? And then one of the things I can influence, I can influence what my family does in this sponsor. This I can influence what actions we take as a collective, whether that’s a family or a business or a community. I have an influence, I have a voice in that and that what degree is that high, medium or low? And then come back from that look across that whole picture of can’t control, can control influence and to what degree, And you know, from a, I’ve only got a limited amount of time and energy, where am I best to focus that you kind of double in on the control column and you cherry pick the most highly influencing pieces in the influence column.

Dr. Paige Williams (11:35):

And when you think about this is a strategic game, this is a game where it’s a slow creep scenario and we wanna be okay, not just in two days, but in two weeks and two months, we’ve gotta channel our energy and our attention and our focus to what’s gonna serve us best in reaching that point with a level of wellbeing as well. And that means putting some of these things that are frustrating us most, that are outside of our control, actually knowing that we, we need to put those down because that’s just gonna take us on the most direct pathway to burnout.

Cynthia (12:10):

Thank you so much for that. That’s just a really timely check in and hopefully something that’s been really grounding for anyone listening that does need a little bit of, I am really struggling, what can I do? And your advice there. It it is relevant really for any challenge in life that we’re facing. But we wanna acknowledge, we just wanna acknowledge that this is a particularly really tough time because of the unknown slow creep, slow, it’s a terrible term to use, slow burn nature of the flood. We’ve just wanted to devote a bit of time to this episode to talk about that.

Dr. Paige Williams (12:48):

Absolutely. Our hearts go out to everyone who’s, uh, just watching, watching and waiting.

Cynthia (12:53):

Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. So Paige, just to, uh, for people who dunno you to get a little bit of insight, can you tell us about your current role and what you love about it and, and also a little bit of a, how did you actually get to be doing what you are doing? What brought you here?

Dr. Paige Williams (13:12):

Yeah, okay. So I have the absolute honor and privilege to work with senior leaders, so CEOs, senior leadership teams, and look in the most general sense, I help them be better leaders and that can mean different things to different people at different times. So, um, sometimes it’s a coaching relationship because there’s something that they, they wanna rethink about their identity as a leader or there’s something that they’re moving towards in terms of a, a leveling up. And they, they wanna understand how might they, what’s the self-awareness and reflection they need to do to get there. Equally though, I often work with senior leadership teams to un fog the dynamics, get rid of the plastic, fantastic culture that there can be in executive teams and really get them to work as a system rather than in silos so that they are

Cynthia (13:59):

A click on that plastic. Fantastic. Tell us more, what’s that?

Dr. Paige Williams (14:05):

<laugh>. So that’s when we come into a meeting and we’ve got, we say all the right things and we are very nice to each other and we’re very polite and then we walk out of the meeting and either nothing happens or there’s a BMW in the, in the corridor, there’s bitching, whining and moaning in the corridor

Dr. Paige Williams (14:20):

<laugh>, there’s not a clean culture in the senior leadership team. And because there’s not that, that then kind of come cascades down into the next layer down into the next layer down. And that’s where we get this fog around accountability and lots of naming, blaming and shaming. But we have to clean that up at the exec team first because that’s where it begins. And so I do a lot of work around that. And then also I love working with leadership teams kind of at the senior leader, but at the middle leader level as well around things like how are we creating culture? How are we cleaning up accountability? What does it mean for us to be antifragile? How do I put my own oxygen mask on first so that then I can enable others, um, and create anti fragility in and with my team. So that’s kind of what I do through my practice.

Dr. Paige Williams (15:11):

Dr. Page Williams, I’ve been playing in this space for about 12, 15 years. My PhD in an organizational psychology or in in positive psychology, I did at Geelong Grammar School. And that was around creating systems of thriving using leadership as the leverage point. So I’m also involved in systems thinking and in positive systems science at the University of Melbourne. But prior to that I’ve been a senior leader, I’ve managed organizations, I’ve managed team, I’ve had people and profit responsibility. I worked in Europe where I was in the hospitality industry. I had 500 people across seven countries. So I understand the nature of of managing people that, uh, you don’t, you can’t walk around the office to see. So this, this kind of hybrid working thing that we’ve been playing with and is very front and center now in our workplace is, I haven’t had hybrid work, but I’ve certainly had dislocated work where I’ve been overseeing people and, and helping people that are not directly in my sphere of, um, of touch.

Dr. Paige Williams (16:11):

And my background is in business studies. My first degree is in business studies. I have postgraduate studies in change and I’m originally from London in the UK. So that’s kind of a, a touch point of how I’ve got to where I am. I feel like I’m on my, maybe my fifth or sixth career, um, I’ve been an aerobics instructor along the way. I’ve done lots of waitressing and bartending and managing restaurants and, and equally I I was working at Geelong Grammar School for 11 years, so I have a deep understanding of of business, of education, of nonprofits and, and I love the variety now that’s in my work because this idea of leadership as a leverage point in systems, whether that’s family systems, even whether it’s communities, whether it’s businesses, I think that’s the most potent leverage point that we have. And I don’t mean formal leadership, I mean us showing up in what I call in my first book becoming Antifragile Leadering. How are we stepping up in our leadership day to day moments to moment?

Cynthia (17:09):

Yeah. Because leadership’s an activity not a position.

Dr. Paige Williams (17:13):

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a verb. It’s leadering not leadership. So that’s how I like to think of it. Yeah.

Cynthia (17:19):

It’s so empowering isn’t it Leadering Yeah. Rather than leadership because it recognizes the awesomeness of everybody

Step up and lead in whatever way makes sense for them.

Dr. Paige Williams (17:32):

Absolutely. And it comes down to sitting in your own sovereignty, asking for your own autonomy. And we’ll come on and talk about this as we talk about partnering. So how is it that you are partnering with life and you are partnering with others, uh, rather than feeling that you are having it done to you or for you. And there’s a certain amount that each of us has to own in establishing those relationships.

Cynthia (17:55):

I love that, that discussion around accountability. And I know that um, Marshall Goldsmith for example, has a great theory of engagement where he says that it, yes, part of the equation is the organization engaging the employee, but the other half of the equation is how is the employee engaging themselves as well and that we need to have both. We’re we’re all accountable.

Dr. Paige Williams (18:23):

Absolutely. Everything is a choice. Yeah. I often speak to leaders about, they say, How can I motivate my team? I’m like, you can’t. You can create a context for motivation, but whether a person chooses to be motivated by the context that you are creating is absolutely up to them. And it’s the same with accountability. I talk really clearly with leaders as we set up a context for clean, clear accountability conversations. Not every accountability story is gonna have a happy ending because whilst you can create a compelling invitation to accountability, you can make really clear the consequences if what we’re setting up here is not followed through and doesn’t have the outcomes that we’ve discussed and agreed here, as long as you make those consequences clear and you make the invitation compelling, whether people choose to step into that invitation is absolutely theirs. And so the time that that accountability becomes an issue is when those consequences, those natural consequences is not that people are punished, but it’s when those natural consequences aren’t allowed to unfold. And so people don’t ever experience the consequences of them not fulfilling expectations that have been agreed and are reasonable. And we’ve had the right conversations around what’s being asked of people. So this idea that actually we can only ever set up a context, it’s then for people to choose. We can’t ever force people to do things particularly in organizational dynamics.

Cynthia (19:52):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Yeah. That’s so valuable. And Paige, what gets in the way of the consequences not being followed True? What gets in the way of that?

Dr. Paige Williams (20:01):

Yeah, so it’s fascinating. I think that as I’d research the book own it and there’s lots of different research around accountability. Like there’s a psychological perspective, there’s a social perspective, there’s something called the phenomenological perspective. And I look to all of them, You’re welcome because you guys, you don’t have to do any of that now. It’s all in the book <laugh>. But there are three things that get in the way of accountability. The first thing is confusion. We are so sloppy with language around accountability. We use the word accountability and responsibility and ownership. When I run accountability master classes and when I do this work with leadership teams, I say Right, okay everyone let’s define accountability. And so we do it around the room and sure enough, whilst there are things that are fairly common, there are things that are fundamentally different about the, the definitions that come out.

Dr. Paige Williams (20:51):

And because of this, because we haven’t got a clarity around what we even mean here. Am I going doing accountability one way over here in my team since? But you are doing it in a really different way. And if I’m being quite kind of firm and quite ask and letting consequences and having those follow up conversations and asking people to step into their accountability and you are not, then I’m at risk of being the bad cop and you are at risk of being the good cop. And we are wired for connection and belonging as we know. And so this idea that, well I, I do this, no one else is doing it, so why am I gonna be the one that carries the load for this when no one else is. So the first thing we need to do is clear up what do we mean by it?

Dr. Paige Williams (21:35):

How are we gonna go about it to get some consistency? Cause once we’ve got that, we can feel more confident about having the conversations about how we’re gonna set things up for success. So once we get rid of confusion, we build confidence and then we create a context, we create a culture in which accountability is just the way we do things. It’s not the monster under the bed anymore, it’s the way we work together. And it’s quite a natural part and it becomes something that’s embedded in the culture of the team or of the organization. So is those three things, it’s confusion, confidence and context and they all build on each other and if they’re not there, that foundational one confusion is the thing that starts off that spiral of of issues

Cynthia (22:20):

And Paige. So does that relate then to your partnering theory of leadership and would you Like to tell us a little bit more about that?

Dr. Paige Williams (22:29):

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s funny as you think about what’s the narrative thread through your thinking. And so I started off with a few years ago thinking about becoming anti-fragile and anti-fragile is this idea of how is it that rather being broken through disruption and uncertainty, How is it we can in some way be better coming out of it? And this was pre covid so it wasn’t that it was in response to Covid because we had big systems dynamics that were going on pre covid that meant that we needed to move beyond resilience. Like resilience wasn’t gonna get us through what what we are experiencing. And it’s the original work of Na Nicholas Tar Lab and he studied it in terms of economic systems. So how is it in um, share markets as they go through the ups and downs? Some organizations come out of that better.

Dr. Paige Williams (23:17):

I thought, okay, what’s that mean for human systems? Because that’s the space I play in. And so as I did that work and we thought about anti-fragile being, how can we improve through disruption and uncertainty and challenging change, I had a look at, well what is it that makes and keeps us fragile because we need to remove fragility before we can become antifragile. That’s what brought me to accountability because issues with accountability most often make can keep us fragile. And then as I did the research around what enables successful accountability, it’s two factors. One is clarity of expectations and the second is the quality of relationships. And in the book I talk about fruitful versus Barron accountability relationships. And that actually when we get clarity of expectations and we get fruitful accountability relationships, we really create an accountability partnership. And as I kind of double clicked on the partnership aspect of this, it’s that there is a equal power dynamic between the account or the person asking for accountability and the account, the person being asked to deliver on accountability.

Dr. Paige Williams (24:30):

And so it doesn’t become a, I’m doing accountability to you or I’m taking away your agency and saving the day by not letting consequences kind of naturally follow through. It’s actually no, you own what’s yours to own and I’ll own what’s mine to own and we’ll partner in this to achieve the outcomes that we need and want to together. So as I came away from finishing off the book and looking at that in that kind of microcosm of accountability and I started to think about I’ve, I’ve had this thing around leadership is broken for the longest time because it is what we thought good leadership look like really isn’t serving us anymore. And that was embedded in in Antifragile and it came through when I looked at it through accountability and then as I came out of the own it, I was like actually do you know this is the new leadership paradigm that we need.

Dr. Paige Williams (25:21):

Leadership is broken and I knew that but I, in all the research I’ve been doing, I haven’t kind of gone, So what is it that we need to do? I’m certain now that this partnering paradigm is where we need to move to. And so it moves our leadership power dynamic from a figure of eight to an infinity sign. And it’s absolutely what I just kind of unpacked through an accountability lens. We don’t do it to people, we don’t do it for them. We are with as we go about the work that we need to do together. And it’s a fundamental shift. And when you think about things like Black Lives Matter, when you think about me too, when you think about the diversity agendas, what sits underneath that is a pushback against this figure of eight power dynamic. That’s what actually sits underneath all of those. And they’ve got different flavors and they’ve got slightly different, if you like, manifestos to them, but at their roots it’s an imbalance in power that is being pushed back against. And this partnering as leadering is I believe what gives us another way to be that will meet that need.

Cynthia (26:33):

Paige, that’s interesting about the power because my mind immediately goes to the reality of the power in a hierarchical organization of the accountability ask.

Dr. Paige Williams (26:47):

Yeah, the account hall,

Cynthia (26:48):

What did you call it?

Dr. Paige Williams (26:49):

The account hall? So like an employer, The account. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (26:53):

And the account.

Dr. Paige Williams (26:55):

Yeah, like an employer. Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1 (26:57):

So how does this actually in reality get around that kind of hierarchical power dynamic?

Dr. Paige Williams (27:07):

Yeah. Okay. So some of this speaks to getting really clear on what the expectations are and being prepared to have a dialogue about those. So if we look at the partnering dynamic specifically through the lens of accountability, it gives us a can applied lens through which to explore that shifting power. So one of the things that we know leads to accountability success is clarity of expectations. We can’t as an account or who traditionally might be at the top of that figure of eight, I suggest that we don’t have a right to ask others for accountability until we are a thousand percent clear on the expectations that we have around the accountability that we’re asking for. And so once we are clear on what those are, then we almost have a right to enter a conversation, whether it’s with another individual or with a team around what’s the work that we need to do here, right?

Dr. Paige Williams (28:02):

And what are the expectations that are wrap around that in order to do this work, achieve these outcomes together. Now we can come in and make clear what it is that needs to be done. I have a clarity in our minds what it is, but as we enter that conversation, it’s exactly that. It’s a conversation We’re setting up effectively a psychological contract. And it’s not about this is what you’re gonna do without there being an ebb and flow of this flow in terms of the dialogue. Now what we need to do is having got super clear on what our understanding of the expectations are, we then need to become completely unattached. And that is about what we co-create in that space needs to include what also comes back from the account. This is again that partnering dynamic because what might be realistic for them right now might not be what we have in mind is the expectations.

Dr. Paige Williams (28:59):

And so it has to be a dialogue, particularly recognizing the reality now is the matrix structures we have in organizations. We might not even have sight of what else this person has got on their plate. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So it’s, it’s a bigger conversation, but there are three needs. There are the business needs or the organization needs, there are the team member needs and then there are our needs as an individual. And so the business has needs, which is that we deliver on this piece of work, whatever that is, the individual or the team members have their own needs and you have a need as a leader or an account or Right. And at some point we reach a spot where it’s not compromised, but we’ve expanded to a place where all of those needs are met. Mm.

Cynthia (29:45):

And I’d imagine Paige, that this is a, that a lot of leaders might need a lot of help with how to have these conversations and create the environment where they can be a genuine partner.

Dr. Paige Williams (29:57):

Yeah. Yeah.

Cynthia (29:58):

To get out of that head space of more transaction, I’m telling you to do something.

Dr. Paige Williams (30:04):

So in the book what we talk about and as I work with leaders, I talk about, right, are we clear on what we’re talking about As in accountability, If we got rid of the confusion, are we clear on the expectations? And have we built a quality of relationship now even if we’re not there now, because that can take time. And so how is it that we can start investing in that and creating a space where there is enough safety? I talk about the five safety questions in the book. Am I safe to slip up and learn? Am I safe to show my weaknesses? Am I safe to shine in my strengths? Am I safe to grow and succeed and am I safe to be authentically me? Which speaks to our diversity agendas. And if we can consistently say yes to all of those five questions, most of the time understanding it might not be a hundred percent of the time, but most of the time then we’ve got a fruitful accountability relationship.

Dr. Paige Williams (30:59):

We don’t need to be best buddies, but we need do need to be able to have the right conversations at the right time. Once we’ve done that, once we’ve got our expectations clear, once we’ve got our intentions around building a fruitful accountability relationship, then the mindset that we go into those conversations with is have I owned what’s mine to own? Which is am I clear on what I am asking? Am I unattached in that? I understand that might not be what it looks like by the time we come out of this and have I got the best interests of the collective and am I willing to hand over, if you like, my power, my formal power to the group power as we have this conversation? And so that’s kind of the work that the account or leader needs to do before they’re even in that conversation.

Cynthia (31:49):

And I know a lot of people know what they don’t want, but actually being really clear about what they do want is very hard. So no wonder it’s confusing.

Dr. Paige Williams (32:01):

Yeah. And and in the book I outline, you know, these are the things, it’s basically the six Ws, who, what, when, how, why, where, and if we can answer those, like using that as a framework, can I do that? Can I explain that? Can I explain that? Can I explain that then we are pretty clear on our expectations on what we’re asking of others, but if we can’t do that, then we’re almost, we’re not ready to have that conversation yet.

Cynthia (32:24):

And it’s unfair then to employees because like you said, the confusion then rain.

Dr. Paige Williams (32:31):

Yeah, it just multiplies and it’s such a waste of energy. Like we’ll get double handling and other things will be falling through the cracks and the drama that comes out of that. So it’s a bit of upfront work to get a lot of downstream benefits.

Cynthia (32:46):

And Paige, what, what have been the, in terms of the organizations that you’ve worked with seeing this, where this partnering approach has been embraced, What have they noticed has resulted?

Dr. Paige Williams (32:58):

Well one is there’s a lot less drama, there’s a lot less time wasted. People feel more confident. So one of the things that I talk about in the book is how accountability triggers a lot of our avoidance responses in our brains. So beautiful model by Dr. David Rock called the scarf model talks about what are the threat responses that we can get in our brains? And scarf stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. And any of those are a hotspot in our brains. So if you feel like your status is being threatened, you get into fight or flight. If you feel like your relatedness, your connection, which is what I spoke about earlier, or I’m gonna, I’m the bad guy, Cynthia’s a good guy. Then again a fear response. And the second one, the sea is certainty. And there’s beautiful research around this as we came out of, at the beginning of the year as we move from kind of working from home to back in the office, it was by McKinsey.

Dr. Paige Williams (34:02):

And it showed that as we were in this kind of transition point, what people wanted was information. And so even if it was for leaders to say, We haven’t made a decision on this yet and we’ve got nothing to share with you, but in two weeks time we will have that gave people a sense of certainty and far more confidence than just nothing at all than no communication at all. So what clarity of expectations does is it gives people a sense of certainty about what they are being asked to do and allows them to let go of what they’re not being. So it’s a bit like that what’s in our control, what isn’t in our control? Because our default can often be if he haven’t been told what’s ours and what isn’t ours, some of us can assume it’s all ours. And that’s what leads to a sense of overwhelm and a sense of burnout.

Dr. Paige Williams (34:52):

And I’ve been involved in research in Australian workplaces in the last six weeks or so, and we asked just over a thousand, a thousand Australian workers randomly selected representative of our demographics around the world around the country. 68.5% of them said that they were experiencing burnout now at subjective measure because we didn’t then go because these are the symptoms of we asked them, but that means two out of three people in your world, right? That’s a lot of those. We asked some what is it that’s contributing to your burnout most? And the first thing was unreasonable job demands. The second thing was poor quality workplace relationships. So when you think about the factors we’ve talked about, leader, accountability, success, firstly clarity of expectations which can help us understand that we haven’t got unreasonable job demands because actually we’re not being asked to do that and that, or if we still feel we have, we can have the right conversations about them. And then that quality of relationships piece is speaks directly to the poor workplace relationships. This idea that accountability is the monster under the bed. If we do the work to clean up and reset accountability, there are all kinds of other benefits that spin out from it because it’s so foundational to how we do and how we coordinate together.

Cynthia (36:10):

And then I, I’d imagine too that again, when we’re under stress and feeling that burnout, our brains aren’t making great decisions and we don’t have the resources sometimes to have those conversations because they take energy and also we’re in that threat mode anyway, so

Dr. Paige Williams (36:28):

Exactly. So the way that we’re seeing things are not through kind of clear lenses, we’re seeing them through the threat response lens. Yeah.

Cynthia (36:36):

So really leaders need to put a, even though they’re stressed themselves, but the research shows doesn’t it, that often leaders aren’t as stressed as their teams.

Dr. Paige Williams (36:46):

Yeah. Well this was super interesting since, because as we then dived underneath that burnout figure, this is the first time that actually we’re seeing leaders are least likely to be thriving with ease. Only 12% of them. And that’s actually different than their team members. And what we recommend that is, and certainly I’m hearing this a lot from my clients and I’m sure you are too, is that we’ve got a workforce that have been wrapped in Covid cotton woo for a couple of years and quite like that. We’ve got businesses and organizations that have been out of covid now for eight to 12 months or so, and they’re really ramping up and leaders are having to fill this tension or, or bridge this tension between operational needs that are being asked to ramp up and a workforce that have changed their ideas around what good looks like in terms of the role of work in their lives.

Dr. Paige Williams (37:41):

And so this stretching of leaders is something that’s really showing because we know that everyone’s feeling a sense of fatigue and burnout and we’ve got covid and we’ve got weather and we’ve got world politics and we’ve got all kinds of things that’s at the macro level, let alone what’s going on in your community, your family, your workplace, your team. But this, this is, this stretching of leaders is what we’re seeing really come through in this research, which is why the psychosocial safety legislation, which I know we’re gonna talk about as well, which firmly, firmly places responsibility for the management of the psychosocial culture in an organization with leaders. We’re like, oh, okay, how can we support leaders to find the most effective ways to do this? And really get their heads around what this means for them because there is a legal requirement now that there, there is a tension paid to this in workplaces. Yeah.

Cynthia 1 (38:35):

So Paige, just very briefly, what does psychosocial safety mean?

Dr. Paige Williams (38:40):

Right? So we’re probably all familiar with the health and safety and the kind of risk management side of things and that there’s been a compliance piece around that and a compliance requirement for organizations for quite a long time. Many organizations will have a health and safety manager or a safety and risk manager. And so that’s kind of been embedded in the structures of organizations for a while now, since you and I have played in the wellbeing space for a long time. And we know that that’s been like the sprinkles on the icing on the cake for a while kind of got down from the sprinkles to the icing on the cake during covid and it became more organizations recognized it was more important. But for the first time, now we have legislation that almost takes that health and safety compliance and expands it to include psycho psychological safety and social safety in a workplace.

Dr. Paige Williams (39:36):

Psychosocial safety is exactly that. Mental safety, psychological safety, relationship safety. Mm. It comes from a, an international standard and the standard is 45,003. It’s a global standard and it’s about psychological health in the workplace. So what happens is an international standard then gets implemented at a national level, which in Australia is through work Safe Australia. And on their website they’ve got a model code of what this could look like. Because even then for us in Australia comes down to a state by state implementation, right? And so New South Wales already have something, a code of practice under their Work Health and Safety Act. And Victoria, they’re about to have something that becomes legally enforceable in Victoria as well. And the other states this will roll through throughout the rest of next year. So effectively, uh, psychosocial hazard is any factor in the design, in the systems, in the management or the carrying out of work that may cause an employee to experience a negative psychological response that creates a risk to their health in safety. And psychological response means personal or work related relationships as well.

Cynthia (40:52):

That is absolutely huge page,

Dr. Paige Williams (40:56):

It is huge. It means that wellbeing and mental, mental health, mental health first aid has been in the health and safety bucket for a while, but it expands it beyond that. So it’s things like things that we would expect in this psychosocial hazards, bullying, sexual harassment, aggression, violence. Okay? Yet we’d expect that to be there. Exposure to traumatic events or content, low or high job demands, right? So this is where we speak to the job demands and resources. How much do I feel I’ve got to give versus how much is being asked of me? Which is why clarity of expectations and partnering around accountability is gonna be fundamental to this lack of support or organizational justice. That could be a very subjective piece. Role clarity, poor environmental conditions including remote or isolated work. These are all considered hazards. Poor organization management, poor change management, low recognition and rewards and poor workplace relationships. All of these things are included as psychosocial safety hazards.

Cynthia (42:07):


Dr. Paige Williams (42:08):

Whoa indeed. Yeah, it’s big.

Cynthia (42:10):

My mind is blowing. It’s, it’s like exploding right now. And because so many of those issues are issues, Paige, that you and I work with teams and organizations on. So what does this mean for leaders in what they’re accountable for? Just as they would if a, if an employee had a physical injury on the job, what does it mean?

Dr. Paige Williams (42:34):

Well, the legislation places the primary duty of care for managing these hazards on what they call the P C B U, which is the person conducting a business or undertaking. You know, you might have a board or you know, in a large organization effectively that is delegated to the leader and delegated down to kind of the leader on the frontline. So it will cascade through layers of leadership. Mm. It also applies to all types of working arrangements. So yes, a company, an UNCO incorporated body or an association, but equally a sole trader or a self-employed person. So individuals who are in a partnership will both individually and collectively be a P C B U, it’s leaders in all ways, shapes and forms.

Cynthia (43:23):

And you know, leaders are going to need a lot of support to navigate this. And I’m, I’m really excited, there’s actually a real opportunity here, isn’t there? Because we know that if we do all these things a and get that right, then organizations are more productive.

Dr. Paige Williams (43:46):

They are,

Cynthia (43:47):

People are better. So it’s actually a win-win for everyone. But because it involves people and you know, people are unclear and people are not great sometimes at having conversations.

Dr. Paige Williams (44:01):

Conversations. Yeah, absolutely.

Cynthia (44:04):

There’s a real need to, I guess, operationalize this legislation, what it actually will look like in on the ground.

Dr. Paige Williams (44:15):

Yeah. And so what the legislation asks for is that the psychosocial safety hazard is eliminated, or if that’s not possible, reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. So you can imagine one of them was exposure to traumatic events. If you are a first responder, if you’re like an ambo or if you’re working in the emergency department of a hospital or a iry or Yeah, exactly. Do you know, like that’s not gonna be possible to eliminate but reduce it as much as possible. So there is a reasonable person element to the legislation. But what’s interesting is that it’s not just about what, but the legislation prescribes how, and this is where we circle back to partnering and start looking at it through this collective lens because it recognizes that actually team members need to have a voice in what it looks like to create a psychologically and socially safe environment.

Dr. Paige Williams (45:16):

And so it is a duty of leaders as part of this legislation to consult with their people. It suggests that it’s a key element in providing a psychologically healthy and safe working environment. And so this is where we come to, all right, so I get partnering between you and I synth, I get partnering between us and a project team, you know, in terms of getting an idea around accountability. But now we are looking at, okay, how do we do this across an organization to get input around what does it mean to be psychologically and socially safe in our work context? And this is where we come to back to the power dynamic thing of how is it that rather than doing this to people, we create a context where we can have the right conversations to understand what it means from different perspectives. Because when we try and, and do this to people, it’s not a compliance issue.

Dr. Paige Williams (46:13):

It is, but it’s not a tick box compliance answer. We can’t just say we changed the light bulbs so they’re, they’re more appropriate now or we fix them the handrail so it’s not broken anymore. These are complex adaptive challenges that we’re facing. They’re complex and adaptive because they’re human centered and we know that’s the nature of, of those things they ebb and flow. And so our responsibility, our leadering in this is that we are listening, we’re consolidating, we’re integrating ideas rather than trying to coming in with an idea of what good looks like that can’t be changed.

Cynthia (46:50):

Mm. And I just love the sophistication of this that it really does, it really signals very strongly, doesn’t it, that we are in a new paradigm of working that the old industrial or the 1950s transactional you just a labor unit, your, and that’s all we expect. That our workplaces are a lot more complex. Where people are fully, we want them to be fully human. And this is recognizing that our people and our workplaces will benefit if people are able to be fully human. Which means looking after their psychosocial safety

Dr. Paige Williams (47:28):

And how we go about doing that is a critical signal about what good looks like for us as a team. So I love, um, Mary Parker of poll is one of my heroes around this partnering work. She lived at the turn of the century, literally the late 18 hundreds. And she talks about power with versus power over. And it was in researching my next book partnering that I discovered Mary. And I was like, Oh, everything old is new again. Come on Mary, let’s bring your work to life. Because she was shut down by scientific management and tailorism at that time and by the fact that she died in 1922. And by that stage we’d already had World War I, we were heading towards World War I two and power with doesn’t really work in the trenches. What you want are people who are gonna follow orders, right? So she, her work was closed down, but she talks about this idea of integration as we do this work and that actually what we wanna come out with is a more expanded idea than what we go into a conversation with. So that we don’t go in trying to force our ideas on others, but we come out with everyone’s thinking expanded and with an expanded solution or an expanded way forward because there’s been an integration rather than a squashing and a winning um, or a submission.

Cynthia (48:43):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s not A or B, it’s like a

Dr. Paige Williams (48:47):

It’s C, which is an expansion and something other than A or B I use colors, I go, if I’m blue since and you are yellow, how is it that what we come out with is green, which is bigger than either one of us, but could only be created by us coming together. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, that’s kind of the partnering mindset that underpins how we go about this psychosocial hazards work in and with our teams.

Cynthia (49:14):

Ah, that what a perfect metaphor. Love that Paige. I just saw, I saw the colors then

Dr. Paige Williams (49:20):

<laugh>, I’m a visual learner. Synth always love a a good picture. Me

Cynthia (49:24):

Too. Me too. So look, I think that is a really fabulous point to bring our conversation today to a close. And I feel like we could just keep talking forever because well

Dr. Paige Williams (49:39):

We could, that’s without a doubt,

Cynthia (49:42):

<laugh>. Yes we could. And oh, there’s just so much to digest. So I’m gonna be going back and listening to this again and we might have you back in season two page to explore this new legislation

Dr. Paige Williams (49:57):

And would love to and look, I can send you some links. There’s a link to a newsletter I did recently around this and I say 45,003. I can send you a link to the report from that research I talked to. Um, and there were free downloads for both my books becoming Antifragile and on it on my website. So the first part of both of those books, people can just, um, dive in and have a read off. So I’ll send you those.

Cynthia (50:23):

Great. What’s your website page?

Dr. Paige Williams (50:25):

It’s Dr. Page williams.com.

Cynthia (50:28):

Are there any other resources or that you wanted just to bring to people’s attention besides what you’ve mentioned?

Dr. Paige Williams (50:34):

I developed the Antifragile survey. So if you’re interested to see how you’re going with your own anti fragility, that’s a free survey it takes or 10 minutes to do and you get a personalized report that helps you see how are you going with what’s being asked of you and what you feel you’ve got to give because it’s the difference between those two things that creates a fragility gap and it unpacks some of the ideas from the book in terms of principles that you can use to become more antifragile and how you are going with your antifragile energy, antifragile attitudes and antifragile mindset. So that is the antifragile survey.com, um, and takes less than 10 minutes for you to do and you get your own report, personalized report coming out from that.

Cynthia (51:16):

Oh, fabulous. That sounds wonderful. And one final question page, Is there a question that I should have asked you and I didn’t?

Dr. Paige Williams (51:24):

Yes. What’s the best red wine I’ve drunk recently

Cynthia (51:28):

<laugh> and what, what is the answer to that question, Paige?

Dr. Paige Williams (51:34):

Well, it’s a beautiful Shara out of the McLaren Vale, um, and it’s called Five Geese and it’s amazing. I think it’s the 2017, it’s less than 30 bucks a bottle and it’s beautiful. So that would be my recommendation for everyone.

Cynthia (51:51):

Wow. That was something that I didn’t expect from There You go. This conversation


Dr. Paige Williams

<laugh>. Well, too often I’m asked about my favorite book, so I’m like, no, I’m gonna share my favorite wine. Yeah,

Cynthia (52:03):

Great. I love it. I love it. So for all the drinkers out there have a go at that. And for those who are teetotalers like me, just keep drinking the tea, the mocktails.

Dr. Paige Williams (52:16):

So there I recommend t2 tummy tea. It’s amazing.

Cynthia (52:20):

I love it. Kate, thank you so much for being so generous today and sharing your amazing wisdom and knowledge with us. And there’s, like I said, just so much to digest there and a lot for leaders to gain from listening to you today. So thank you, thank you, thank you,

Dr. Paige Williams (52:41):

Thank you. It’s been beautiful being with you. Thanks so much.

Cynthia (52:45):

So that is it for today’s episode. If you’d like to keep the conversation going and connect with other like-minded people, you can hop on over to the Cultivate podcast Facebook group, just search for the Cultivate podcast where you can ask questions, share information, and carry on the conversation. And you can also go to my website, www.cynthia.com au to listen to other episodes of the Cultivate podcasts. Subscribe to my blog, check out my leadership team and coaching programs, and even by my book, Cultivate How Neuroscience and Wellbeing Support Rural Leaders to Thrive Now does say rural leaders on the cover, but it, it is absolutely applicable for any leader. There’s a lot of gold in there. So thanks so much for tuning in. Remember to stay happy, healthy, and human, and I’ll look forward to our next conversation on the Cultivate Podcast. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. If you’d like to keep the conversation going and connect with other like-minded people, please hop on over to the Cultivate podcast Facebook group. Thanks for listening and see you next time.


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