Sunflowers & Psychological Safety at Work

Have you ever heard of Sunflower Bias?

My Dissertation chair mentioned this to me the other day.

It turns out that we can learn a lot about Psychological Safety by considering how sunflowers operate.

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If you look out in a field of sunflowers you will find that they all typically face the same way.

The majority of them follow the sun.

The majority of them follow the leader.

And that’s what a lot of our team meetings look like.

Most folks turn towards “the brightest source in the room”.

Which typically ends up being the leader, the expert, the boss etc.

But this can actually be detrimental to our growth.

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Why? Because… just because someone is an expert doesn’t mean they’re always going to get it right.

We all have room to grow and learn. And we all have opinions and insights that could make a difference if we

  1. Created an environment where it felt okay to speak up and
  2. Actually spoke up when we had the chance.

So here’s a quick check in exercise for you today:

If you’re typically the “brightest source in the room” ask yourself if people tend to share ideas with you or if you find that you’re the one always doing the talking.

Now, if you do find that you’re always yapping away try the following:

  1. Hold off on sharing your opinion until after others have shared theirs
  2. In the event you do call on someone else, don’t immediately jump to call on other experts in the room to speak
  3. Consider exploring why others don’t tend to speak up around you. This self awareness will take you far. Perhaps the more you dig or witness yourself in these moments you find that you unintentionally intimidate others or shoot down ideas that aren’t yours.

And let me just say that if you do find things about yourself and the way you’re handling things at work that you don’t necessarily love.

IT’S OKAY 🖤.

It’s just information (you’ll hear me say that a lot) and this is an inflection point, an opportunity to decide that moving forward you can/will try things differently.

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The other side of this is if you aren’t necessarily the leader…

This is your time, love bug.

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You’re brilliant and you’re in that room for a reason. So here’s what I want you to do.

  1. When the “leader” is speaking their opinion, don’t jump to align with it! Check in with yourself first. Do you actually agree? Did you come up with a mind blowing alternative while you were on the stair master that morning? Do you foresee the obstacles that everyone is missing? – Take a deep breath and share your brilliance, especially when you’re asked and there is genuinely a space that is looking for feedback.
  2. Practice this over, and over, and over. Practice having opinions and expressing them. Because the more you practice something the stronger you get at it. Whether it’s a recipe, or a dance routine, or expressing yourself.

Here’s the thing.

When I told you about the sunflowers.. I said most of them turn towards the sun. Not all of them.

Mature sunflowers stop turning to face the sun and find their own chosen position.

WOW.

Do you know how much value that sunflower (you) could provide simply by being willing to see what’s east while everyone else is facing west????

So that’s what I want to leave you with today. Consider your sunflower behavior on your teams.

If you’re the sun, will you support and celebrate your sunflowers in finding their mature position?

If you’re a sunflower, will you lead by example and show others the power of finding and expressing their authentic selves?

Let me know your thoughts on this and create a great day!

Amanda + Team Makomindfulness