E-Notes: On Caring Managers, Psychologically Safe Cultures, and Tracking Tasks, People, and Ideas

Thank you to everyone who has already completed the Reader Survey from a few weeks ago. Didn’t get a chance to share your thoughts yet? I’d still love to hear from you.

Thanks to long runs and a little driving, I have been catching up on some podcasts. That’s great news! The one downside is I have a ton of new ideas to share and distilling down podcasts is harder than articles and blog posts in my opinion. Thank you in advance for your patience as I get this information compiled and shipped out to you.

You may have noticed it’s been a couple weeks since I last posted. My training volume has increased dramatically, work has gotten busier, we’ve been blessed with mostly gorgeous weather so I’ve been outside soaking it up as much as possible, and because of the increased training I have needed more sleep. Beyond writing the post itself, I also have to carve out time to read and listen to content in order to curate posts for you, my dear reader.

I was staying up until the wee hours on Tuesday nights/Wednesday mornings to get something published each week. That was no longer sustainable. Therefore, I had to shift my expectations and priorities.

I will continue to post as often as possible and keep The Repository updated as well (look for the date stamp of each update in the feed). I am letting go of any weekly regularity. I encourage you to subscribe to the blog (there should be a link at the bottom of the page) so you are always notified about new posts. New posts will also continue to be shared on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Part of the delay with this post was that I was trying to cram way too much into one missive. Instead I’m shipping the first part and then I’ll share the rest in future weeks. Let’s get to it!

Caring Managers

Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, has worked hard to change the company’s culture since he was promoted internally to the CEO role. One of the changes that Microsoft implemented a couple years before the pandemic, was a managerial framework called “model coach care.”

Satya was interviewed by Adam Grant for Wharton’s virtual Future of Work Conference (which was amazing!). That conversation was also shared on “Taken for Granted” – Adam’s podcast with the TED Audio Collective. Satya said the following about the care component of the framework and the state of work today:

The reality is all of us have different histories, different backgrounds, different daily events impacting us. And so being able to deeply have empathy for that and then making sure that their voice is heard in a meeting, that flexibility we talk about is being exercised to help people do their very best at work while they can take care of everything that’s needed in their life. That is what I think is the big thing that I think we’re all–I would say we’re much more capable today just because of what the trauma of the pandemic has taught us. Now the question is how do we exercise it? I think the impact of what’s happening broadly in the world on any employee at this point cannot be separated from how the employee feels at work.

Satya Nadella, on Taken for Granted with Adam Grant

Later he revisits care, the recognition that everyone has their own “tail events” as he calls them (a rare, difficult to anticipate event), and the importance to empower middle managers to support their teams:

…it’s a little bit of creating that safety, right? When you have the need, let’s just create an environment where people come to support you…I always think, I’m going to be spend a lot of time at work, and work needs to be the community that even supports you in your life. And how do we create an environment that allows for that natural flow?….Unless we create the empowerment, the space, that capability in the middle so that they can care for their people, it’s just not going to happen.

Satya Nadella
An image of two males seated at a table with snacks and bottles of water. They are having a conversation where one person is listening and the other is talking with his arms open and palms up.
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Psychologically Safe Cultures

Adam Grant shares that he has long admired Satya’s humility and vulnerability as a leader. Satya models that you don’t have to have all of the answers as a leader and he also admits when he has been wrong or made a mistake. In his answer describing how he developed the confidence to do these things, Satya talked about his confidence and vulnerability being tied to psychologically safe teams:

The psychological safety that one creates around you, especially the more senior you are, becomes, I think, super important. And to your point, one technique of that is to share your own fallibility because that gives confidence to others. Feeling secure leads you to be more vulnerable. But then the real issue is systemically how do you help people feel secure? And so that is where the cultural element of having psychological safety as being a first class thing that’s talked about, where people are not jumping down people’s throats the first time they admit a mistake…which by the way, I do sometimes and then I have to check myself, right? In my last staff meeting someone asked me this question, ‘Hey, when somebody sends a mail, where you know something’s wrong, what do you do?’ And I thought about it for a while. And I said, you know, the first thing that comes to mind, of course, is I want to send back a flame mail to the next person, but then at good times I check myself and say, God, you know, all that will do is cause that person to be more stressed but I’ve got to really look at the systemic issues here and then help them recognize to fix it. So the more introspective we are in creating these safe zones and psychological safety as a cultural thing, as opposed to any one individual being vulnerable from time to time, I think is probably the most important thing.

Satya Nadella, on Taken for Granted with Adam Grant

Tracking Tasks, People, and Ideas

One last nugget from this interview is Satya’s description of his father’s journal. Every day, his dad would write the following in his journal:

  • Tasks done
  • People met
  • Ideas generated to act on

We’re all familiar with the to do list and people like Seth Godin, Chase Jarvis, and James Altucher talk about writing ideas lists. Having a list of the people you met and on which date is incredibly helpful as well. I’m good at remembering names compared to most people but having a written list would make it even easier to remember names. Plus you could document a little tidbit or memorable detail about them.

This dovetails nicely with an idea that author and executive leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith shared on “The Knowledge Project” podcast with Shane Parrish. Marshall recounted a story from one of his clients improving his recognition skills. The client made a list of everyone that was important in his life (friends, family, colleagues, direct reports, etc.) Then twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, he checked the list and asked himself, “Did anyone on this list do anything this week that I should recognize?” If they had done something, he would send a quick note, call them, leave a voice mail, send a card, etc. This is the kind of goal I want to achieve!

What are your thoughts on today’s ideas? How do you improve the psychological safety of your teams or incorporate empathy into your management style? Have you used a different tactic to deliver recognition or to help you remember the people and ideas that pop up in your life? I hope you all are safe and getting to enjoy a little bit of summer. Until next time…

One thought on “E-Notes: On Caring Managers, Psychologically Safe Cultures, and Tracking Tasks, People, and Ideas

  1. I really love the journaling and recognition prompt ideas! I’m setting a reminder in my Google Calendar to keep “Tasks done, People met, and Ideas generated to act on” as a regular prompt for myself.


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