Category: Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Why trust and psychological safety is so important in a team

It is safe to say the majority of us can relate to working in an unproductive team. One that met regularly but didn’t achieve anything. One that had no alignment of purpose, vision and values. Unfortunately, we can probably all relate to one where we didn’t feel ‘psychologically safe’. Where we couldn’t be authentic and true without the fear of negative consequences. Where we were punished for our mistakes, rather than being encouraged to learn and innovate from them.

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. People can admit their mistakes, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help when it’s needed.

Research shows that when there is trust and team members feel safe, innovation improves, team members learn quickly from their own and each other’s mistakes, problems are overcome more rapidly, and employees are more engaged.

Google spent two years, researching 180 multi-disciplinary teams, of varying degrees of productivity, across many areas of the business, and the data they collected concluded that psychological safety was the number one attribute of team effectiveness.

Building trust and psychological safety in the team is an essential first step for any team to be healthy and achieve great things. But it is not a set and forget exercise. It is ongoing work that requires commitment and focus. It takes time and preparedness of all parties to be vulnerable. Building trust in a team requires the team leader to actively build a culture that allows people to feel safe and bring their whole self to work.

So how do we enable trust and psychological safety in our teams?

First, everyone in the team needs to be reliable. Do you do what you say you are going to do? Can your colleagues trust that if you say you are going to do something you will do it?

Second, you need to be accepting. Do you acknowledge the ideas and opinions of those who are different from you? People want to be accepted for who they are; not judged, criticised or made to feel inferior.

Third, you need to be open. This is about being ‘real’ and vulnerable. Telling it how it is, sharing information and being prepared for people to see who you really are. People who are open are able to give and receive feedback freely.

Lastly, the team needs to be congruent. It needs consistency between the goals, values and attitudes stated and the actual behaviours observed. People need to trust that you are going to behave with integrity.

In the ADAPT Team Model, Trust and Psychological Safety is the first of six attributes of an effective team that we explore. We work with varying types of teams to implement a learning and development program, supported and enabled by our technology, to help achieve the best outcomes possible.

We invite your teams to complete our free ADAPT Team Assessment to gauge where your team is currently at, and how we could help you to improve.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Who champions the culture in your organisation?

You can manage your finances, your calendar and even your time, but can you actually ‘manage’ people? People have emotion, intelligence, initiative, motivation and passion. These are the very things that make businesses successful, so why do we think that people should be managed like finite resources? What’s the alternative?  Well, what about leadership? People can be lead, and many people are inspired by leaders who can articulate a clear purpose that reflects their values, concerns and philosophies.

One of the biggest problems with corporate culture today is a view by employees that they are simply assets for use by the organisation. Engagement surveys report a startling lack of engagement within organisations.

Statistic on culture and employee engagement

In the ADAPT method, Cultural Leaders are the trusted ‘champions’ within the company who have been mentored and entrusted with the company’s culture. They uphold the culture and values of the organisation with the intent of bringing out the best in others by being role models.

The Role of a Cultural Leader

Cultural Leaders form a dedicated leadership group who act as advocates for both the employee and the organisation. It deliberately departs from contemporary management styles that promote management is exclusively about the business.

Employees are matched to a Cultural Leader. These leaders hold quarterly face-to-face “catch-ups” with employees which last between 30 and 90 minutes. Employees can also request a catch-up if they need to.

An employee’s Cultural Leader should not be their team leader. They are not assigning tasks, setting objectives or assessing performance levels. Their role is to discuss the concerns, issues, ideas and aspirations of employees in a way that serves both the individual and the collective goals of the organisation.

Cultural Leaders are required to bring awareness and compassion to the role. This does not mean that Cultural Leaders avoid difficult conversations or avoid challenging an employee about their motivations, behaviours or even their “fit” within the organisation. As an advocate for both the employee and the organisation, the Cultural Leaders role is about understanding the context and the interplay between the employee’s career, their skills, their life outside work as well as the collective goals of the business.

It Takes Conscious Effort to Build Trust

A lot of research has been published in recent years about the intended (or unintended) consequences of toxic cultural environments caused by the negative effects of fear in the workplace.

Genuine leadership creates a safe place for employees to be honest and share their concerns while helping them feel empowered to take risks without fear.

These types of leaders share similar traits:

  • They are prepared to be vulnerable
  • They routinely suppress their self-interest to focus on collective outcomes
  • The embrace accountability by addressing difficult issues
  • They seek alignment and commitment from others by striving for clarity and closure
  • They exhibit curiosity rather than defensive behaviour when engaging in debate about ideas, issues and problems

Organisations that seek to promote leaders from within their ranks have a good chance of being able to coach and mentor prospective Cultural Leaders by identifying those employees who consistently demonstrate these traits. When deciding on your Cultural Leaders, look for people who genuinely care about others while paying attention to results. These are employees who are aware, have a presence, and they have compassion needed to take on this role.

As trust is built between Cultural Leaders and their cohort, and between employees and the organisation, you will find that more and more employees are willing to share information without the requirement of ‘confidentiality’. It’s one of the changes that demonstrate that the leaders are creating an environment of trust.

Cultural Metrics

When it comes to insights into your organisation, its culture and people, nothing beats real data. There is no point trying to measure cultural attributes if the information has no useful purpose or any practical way to analyse it.

Some of the most useful data comes from being able to analyse trends over time for an employee and being able to compare the changes. This necessitates a system designed for this purpose and allows for analysis and detailed investigation of individual and collective data sets.

Cultural metrics can include:

  • Engagement ratings with your role, team or organisation
  • Connection ratings with your peers
  • Satisfaction ratings with your career path
  • Adequacy of peer recognition, mentorship and training options
  • Adequacy of employee remuneration & benefits
  • Connection to the corporate purpose

Cultural Leadership Tools

The ADAPT platform has three measurement tools which our customers can use.

  • The Career Valuation Tool (or CVT) captures an employee’s intrinsic motivation aspects, career and role related information
  • The Cultural Index, (or CI), captures the overall satisfaction or happiness level of their employment
  • Peer Catch-Up captures the quality of peer relationships measured on an honest bi-directional judgement of Engagement, Connection and Contribution.

All three tools serve to capture digital, date related information that can be stored for further contextual and trend based analysis.

If you would like to know more, get in touch.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Recruiting for values and cultural fit

The environment businesses operate in today has never been more dynamic. There is a growing societal demand for businesses to be more conscious and to reflect more sustainable attitudes.

Why then, do many recruiting ads and agencies emphasise qualifications and experience, when businesses are interested in a candidate’s capability and their ‘cultural fit’ with the organisation?  We believe that this is because it takes more time and conscious effort to determine these attributes, and that is at odds with the world that insists solutions must be fast and simple.

Recruiting is one of the most important tasks any organisation routinely engages in.  I doubt many employers would argue that who a business invites into their organisation has a massive impact on their culture and productivity.

When we say ‘values and culture’, we mean those values and behaviours that best describe how a company interacts with their stakeholders, both internal (employees and partners) and external (customers, suppliers and the community in which it operates). A company’s culture is often implied and tends to evolve over time.

The problem with a focus on recruiting for qualifications and experience is that this approach is transactional.  It might be efficient, but there are fundamental problems with the effectiveness of this strategy. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Almost all businesses can attest to having recruited experienced and ‘suitably’ qualified individuals, only to have them exit a short time later because they didn’t fit the company culture.

A transactional recruiting approach assumes that business is a static entity with narrowly defined requirements. The logic seems to be that by simply filling the vacant position, the business needs will be solved.  The fact is, all businesses are comprised of human beings, and it is these human characteristics – our capacity for connection, ingenuity, passion, diligence and purpose – that creates a successful business.

What if there is an alternative? Recruiting the way professional sporting teams do, adopting a more systematic approach. Many highly successful sporting teams start by accepting that the overall performance of the team depends on how all the parts fit; not how the parts perform separately.  The focus is on an individual’s potential to grow, perform and contribute to your teams.

Because team and cultural behaviours are so important in today’s workplace, matching candidates that align with your company’s values and purpose is key. It demands the business consider sustainability and focus on the recruit who is likely to be a better fit for your organisation now, and in the future.

Recruiting for values and cultural fit also includes important reciprocal aspects. As much as the candidate is expected to sell themselves to an organisation, the organisation is also selling themselves to the candidate.  In a globally competitive marketplace, where motivated employees are looking for a career, they want to know that your organisation can deliver by matching their aspirations with your own.

So, what’s the catch? Actually, there isn’t one.  However, this approach does require a good deal more conscious thought, planning and effort.

How do businesses select candidates based on cultural fit?

Before assessing a candidate, it’s a good idea to invest the time to create a detailed task map of your recruitment process, as it:

  • Enables better estimates of the time and resources
  • Allows you to communicate the process to all those involved, including the candidates
  • Ensures role clarity and accountability
  • Ensures commitment by decision makers
  • Improves your ability to treat candidates with fairness, respect and professionalism

Recruiting for values and cultural fit involves both process and technique. In terms of process, this is divided into several stages. As a minimum we suggest that the candidates are interviewed separately for their capability (competence and capacity) as well as their cultural fit factors (values, philosophy and alignment).  If the role is crucial for the business, we also suggest employers consider conducting an additional role-play scenario, so that the candidate is assessed in a simulated team environment.

It should be emphasised that capability is subordinate to cultural fit.  It’s not that capability isn’t important. Determining a candidate’s capability is a fundamental step in the screening process, but the overall hiring decision should be based on the capable candidate who is assessed as having the best alignment with your company’s culture.

What happens in situations where candidates successfully ‘game’ the interview process?  It is possible for a candidate to give a convincing ‘performance’ during the interview stages, but it is much less likely that they will be able to sustain a performance in the long term. A mutual assessment period is a useful discretionary tool. Employers should only be prepared to offer permanent employment if they are convinced that the candidate is a good fit for their organisation. Employees also have the time to decide if the organisation is a good fit for them.

What factors should be evaluated when assessing cultural fit?

Determining cultural fit factors is about technique. Most organisations can describe the values and behaviours which are important to them and that they rate highly.  This is less dependent on role specifics and more on a candidate’s alignment with your organisations purpose and philosophies. Explicitly stating these will help guide the recruiting process and assist you to formulate useful interview questions and selection criteria.

Our Tips

  • Make use of your organisation’s purpose and guiding philosophy
    • Help the candidates understand why you do what you do
    • Promote your point of difference
  • Make use of your values
    • State what the values mean to your organisation
    • Give examples of how you use them in your business
    • Use them as a reference for interview questions
    • Create interest and curiosity around your values
    • Ensure your values aren’t confused with business objectives
  • Use a Career Valuation Tool to establish what’s critically important to the candidate and what their intrinsic motivations are.

If you would like to know more about how we can assist your business in finding well aligned candidates using our method and unique measurement tools, then please get in touch.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Why role clarity is key in any organisation

Employee retention is a persistent issue for all businesses, and according to the results of the latest Pulse Survey of the Australian Human Resources Institute the average level of staff turnover was around 16%.

For many, this rate is considered too high, with more than two-thirds of the respondents believing that turnover of 10% or less would be ideal. The survey also indicated that almost 60% believed turnover in their workplace had a negative impact on workplace productivity.

What is interesting, is that more than half of this turnover came from younger workers (35 years of age or less) and was highest among those occupying entry level, graduate or junior roles. Although you might reasonably expect younger employees to exhibit higher turnover, the results from the AHRI survey show that younger employees are leaving their employers at a rate that is at least 2.5 times greater, compared to all other positions and ages.

These results indicate that there is a lot of unproductive recruiting, especially among entry-level jobs. If that is the case, what can employers do to reduce turnover? One solution is greater role clarity.

In an article published in 2012 by the Harvard Business Review, author Tammy Erikson argues that without clear role descriptions employees are more likely to waste their energies negotiating their roles within their teams rather than focusing on their productive tasks. To paraphrase the article, without role clarity, employees often get involved in unnecessary politics and turf wars.

More importantly, the research also suggested that collaboration improved when roles were clearly defined and well understood. The reasoning behind this conclusion was the finding that team behaviours improved when employees felt that their roles had clear boundaries, and that allowed them to do a significant portion of their work independently.

Renewed focus on role clarity

In an increasingly dynamic and connected global economy, new businesses are constantly being created and existing businesses are re-inventing themselves. In response, jobs and job roles have been changing at a frenetic pace. Employers are expected to meet and embrace these changes, but often without any consideration of what the new role expectations are for employees.

Many businesses also assume that their employees understand how their roles directly affect the success of the company. What then, is the likely outcome if those roles are not well defined (or at all) and the responsibilities and accountabilities are unclear?

The benefits of role descriptions

The advantages of adopting a systematic way to create and sustain role descriptions go well beyond simply reducing role confusion and improving collaboration.

Specific role descriptions can be very useful when used in the following ways:

Recruiting and attracting talent
  • Ensures that the position is well defined and understood, first by the business and then by the potential recruit.
  • Assists the recruiting process by helping to frame interview questions and conversations with role candidates.
  • Explains how the recruit can contribute to the organisation and vice versa.
  • Demonstrates that the business is structured and well organised.
Handovers, induction & training
  • Promotes alignment with, and provides context for the company’s culture, values and purpose.
  • Provides a valuable reference for handovers and assists an incumbent to introduce the new role recipient to the breadth and depth of all their role tasks.
  • Introduces development and training required for performing the role tasks.
  • Creates objectives to assess the performance of new recruits within a probationary period.
  • Provides clear role responsibility and accountability.
  • Reduces confusion by eliminating unintentional job overlap.
  • Defines how the role fits within the business and how it intersects with other roles, workflows and teams.
  • Explains how the employee can help the business execute their product or service offering.
  • Improves collaborative behaviours by providing a secure framework for employees to work independently and creatively.
Performance management
  • Defines what the expected performance in the role should look like.
  • Establishes an objective basis for measuring and managing performance.
  • Provides a useful reference for counselling employee disputes and discipline issues.
Innovation and knowledge management
  • Provides a contextual framework that will assist employees seeking guidance.
  • Facilitates the sharing of stories about why a company does the things it does, in the way that they do them.
  • Promotes the capture of ideas on how to improve current processes so they are more effective in the future.
Career development
  • Supports the idea that the role is part of a career, rather than a simple placeholder for a job.
  • Provides a factual basis for managing career progression and succession planning.
  • Helps establish the networks available to the employee for advice and mentoring.

Creating & sustaining role descriptions

How a business creates, manages and maintains their role descriptions is a significant issue. When they exist, most role descriptions are stored as static documents, either in hard copy or Word documents. When the role and role tasks change, and they often do, how then does a business capture these changes to reflect the new role descriptions without the time and effort spent in locating and updating these documents?

The answer to this problem lies with technology and being able to link role descriptions to task maps instead of linking them to individuals. By consciously separating “roles from souls”, a business can use task maps to show where capabilities are lacking or duplicated for employees, for teams and for the organisation.

The benefit of using task maps for this purpose is that they also provide a visual representation of your business processes and workflows. Given that business processes tend to change more often than employees, it makes logical sense to innovate around workflow rather than attempt to react to every change that impacts an employee’s role.

ADAPT by Design has created a cloud-based task mapping system that links directly to a role description. Whenever any task map is updated, all the role descriptions associated with those tasks are updated dynamically. An employee can have multiple roles, which will show all their tasks on their personal profile giving them clarity of their position within the company.

If you would like to know how to create and dynamically sustain effective role descriptions matched to your business requirements, please get in touch.

  1. Australian Human Resources Institute, October 2015; AHRI Pulse Survey – Turnover and Retention (19 pages).
  2. Harvard Business Review, April 5, 2012; The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make with Teams, by Tammy Erikson.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

What is Total Systems Succession?

Never in our history have we lived in such a fast-changing and complex environment. Products, markets, customer wants, technology and attitudes towards work and career are all changing. Traditional hierarchical approaches to organisational design and leadership simply don’t work anymore.

At ADAPT, we believe in a Total Systems Succession approach. This means the practice of consciously designing, building and sustaining an organisation for the long term. It is the integration of a healthy culture, systems thinking and continuous succession, that creates an environment for organisations to sustain and flourish.


Healthy Culture

We start with culture because an unhealthy culture means an unhealthy organisation.

For you to be happy and healthy there are many systems in your body that need to work together: respiratory, digestive, skeletal, just to name a few. For your mental health, we know that having purpose and being part of a social network is important. In a similar way, a healthy organisational culture requires that we pay attention to all our systems, as well as our behaviours and our organisation purpose.

It means that we give a shit!

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking refers to understanding how those systems influence one another within a complete entity, or larger system. It is viewing the organisation as a whole and not dis-integrated parts.


Then we have Succession, the handover of roles, knowledge, wisdom and eventually ownership of an organisation.

Succession is not an event. It is continuous in all levels of the organisation. It enables owners and organisation leaders to move from working IN to working ON the business and provides a framework for mentorship and effective role handover.

So, what do we think the future looks like?

As the rate of change escalates and traditional leadership and organisational design models struggle to deliver, we look to see what IS working. A lot of ADAPT’s Method was established in the building of aQuire, a software development company that recently celebrated 20 years in business. But we also continue to be informed by observing and learning from many great thinkers and great organisations, including Frederic Laloux’s research outlined in his book Re-Inventing Organisations.

Laloux researched many exceptional organisations over a three-year period. He found that highly productive and purposeful organisations have three things in common:

  1. A lack of hierarchy. A flat self-managed organisation compared to the more traditional pyramid structure. He notes that this is essential in complex systems. Yes, you need structure but perhaps not so many bosses!
  2. The idea of wholeness. These organisations embraced the wholeness of people and created work environments where people can be truly human and authentic. Imagine meetings without ego!
  3. Evolutionary Purpose, which is more than the purpose statement pinned on the office wall. This is a world where the people within the organisation are constantly listening and adapting the purpose of the organisation.

We believe that the application of Total Systems Succession will provide an approach to deliver on these three capabilities in a business.