Blog 5.4

In our fifth blog series, we will discuss Tal Ben-Shahar’s book, The Pursuit of Perfect:  How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a RICHER, HAPPIER Life. Our final blog on this book will focus on the importance of leaders creating an environment that is conducive to Optimalism.

Ben-Shahar discusses the importance of “psychological safety” in groups, teams, and organizations as critical to Optimalistm.  Psychological safety ensures that team members feel comfortable sharing their mistakes and are not embarrassed or punished for making mistakes.  Ben-Shahar cites research indicating that groups who demonstrated psychological safety and felt comfortable enough to openly report their errors may appear as if they make more errors.  In reality, they were willing to report their mistakes more accurately and actually made less errors because they had an opportunity to learn from what they reported.  Just because mistakes aren’t being reported doesn’t mean they aren’t happening! 

The most effective teams and organizations seek out people who will provide constructive feedback and report errors.  Ben-Shahar stated the U.S. Air Force has a policy that pilots are not penalized for errors if reported within 24 hours.  If errors were hidden and later found out, the pilots would be punished. Furthermore, Google just released information about its most effective teams and claimed psychological safety as the critical factor.  More information on this study can be found here: 

Ben-Shaar further elaborates on what is called the “CEO disease,” in which there is an information vacuum around a leader because people withhold important information the boss should be aware of. This inevitably hurts the entire team and organization because the coach or leader does not have the data to make quality decisions.

Any coach would likely tell you that they prefer to coach athletes who focus on the process, look for benefits/positives when faced with adversity, and are open to feedback for the sake of learning compared to athletes who are only focused on the results, defensive when facing feedback, and frequently find faults and play to avoid failure.  However, coaches and leaders might inadvertently send mixed signals with certain communication, vocabulary, and expectations.  Coaches tend to be passionate and have standards, which is exactly what is needed to win.  However, the best coaches are able to exude this passion in a way that athletes still feel comfortable discussing their areas of growth and not feel compelled to hide mistakes for fear of punishment.

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