Ep 164: Transforming Workplaces Through Trust and Safe Failures with Steven Van Cohen

  In this episode of Bridging the Gap, Matt Reiner and Steven Van Cohen delve into the importance of creating a psychologically safe and inclusive workplace. They explore the many elements that are crucial to fostering a supportive work environment, such as addressing feelings of loneliness among team members and emphasizing the need for genuine connections. Steven opens up about how loneliness at work manifests and how leaders can identify and address it through regular check-ins and clear communication. They stress the necessity of permitting young professionals to ‘fail safely,’ a concept that encourages learning through mistakes within a supportive framework.

This discussion ties into the broader theme of psychological safety that Google has identified as essential for team success through its own meta-analysis. Steven’s passion for the topic is evident, as he draws from his experiences and references books to underline the power of influence without being overly prescriptive. He emphasizes the need for intentional time investment in building connections, akin to allocating time for exercise or meals, as a means to combat disconnection and loneliness driven by busy work schedules.

This episode opens up about how leaders should invest in weekly informal one-on-one check-ins with their team members to significantly increase engagement and retention, creating opportunities for young professionals to fail safely can foster a culture of learning and growth, helping them develop resilience and problem-solving skills, and building genuine connections through activities like team check-ins, validating questions, and clear communication can alleviate loneliness and enhance team cohesion and productivity. The episode concludes with actionable advice on how leaders can maintain engagement and foster a sense of belonging within their teams, enhancing productivity and employee well-being in the process. Tune into this episode with Steven Van Cohen to learn more about how to elevate your team and encourage team engagement.

Timestamps From This Episode
[15:30] Creating a supportive work environment with clear direction is essential. Making team members feel valued and providing positive recognition are important investments in team dynamics. Despite their significance, the author finds it challenging to prioritize these efforts among other tasks.
[20:53] Psychological safety fosters trust and open communication, ensuring team members feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of negative consequences. Trust is built through positive interactions, forming the foundation for a supportive and collaborative team environment, as illustrated by Bernie Brown’s “marble jar” analogy.
[21:48] Building trust relies on numerous small actions that accumulate over time, akin to filling a “marble jar.” Each interaction, whether positive or negative, contributes to this deepened trust. The dynamics within a team, including the behavior of both team members and leaders, all affect the level of trust. It’s important to be mindful of these interactions and offer feedback to nurture a positive and trusting environment.
[26:19] Fostering inclusion through authentic leadership and empathy. Leaders demonstrating genuine care for their team members, fostering an environment where mutual care and respect are cultivated, thus making inclusion a natural outcome.
[34:17] Meaningful connections arise from intentional, caring communication. Genuine interactions create memorable moments of connection.
[36:06] Regular one-on-one check-ins significantly boost engagement and retention, creating intentional connections and providing valuable feedback opportunities.

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Bridging the Gap is a financial podcast hosted by CEO Matt Reiner focused on bringing together leaders from the finance and the technology industries to focus on innovating the financial services industry.