Author Liz Wiseman


The debate around whether workplaces should permit political conversations has forced leaders to take a second look at how to create workplaces that are both safe and encourage creative thinking. Liz Wiseman, author of the New York Times bestseller Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, argues that one key to elevating morale and stimulating conversation is creating a safe and stretch environment.

Wiseman, a thought leader on leadership, describes the concept of "safety and stretch" — a delicate balance between creating an environment of comfort and one of challenge. By creating a haven for employees to feel appreciated and confident in their professional roles, risk-taking and open dialogue can be encouraged. By coupling this with "holding people accountable, high expectations, and challenging questions," teams can find that sweet spot of motivation and progress.

The recent news around companies such as Basecamp and Coinbase banning political conversations in the workplace has Wiseman cautioning leaders to approach this strategy carefully. In her discussion with, Wiseman points out that pushing specific topics underground can backfire and harm workplace morale and professional growth.

Rather than avoiding conversations that could be uncomfortable or not agreed upon, Wiseman advises leaders to guide how to approach these conversations while still delivering value. "If we bring enough of an open mind and a willingness to learn to our work, then even when we hear things we disagree with, we can still learn."

While specific organizations impose rules on what can and can't be said, Wiseman believes self-monitoring is essential for any leader. Leaders can create an environment rooted in safety and stretch by providing feedback and setting challenges. By closely monitoring conversations, leaders can also ensure that conversations remain respectful and productive and don't cross into offending team members.

The challenge lies in creating a culture that allows everyone to express their thoughts while still establishing boundaries. For Wiseman, it's a constant push-and-pull of balancing values, providing differing opinions, and keeping the team competitive while still respectful. "People have to be held accountable," Wiseman says, "but not so rigidly that they stop wanting to be creative and innovative."

For Wiseman, the key for leaders to create a culture of safety and stretch lies in providing the right amount of transparency. Allowing employees to join forces, come to the table with differing opinions, and collaborate on solutions requires leaders to be transparent about their intentions and plans. As Wiseman notes, this begins with explaining why decisions are made. By providing context around beliefs, leaders can create an environment of trust and understanding and allow teams to explore the unknown, be brave in their tasks, and branch out from the boundaries of the 9-5.

Liz Wiseman argues that allowing employees a safe, open, and inspiring work environment is the key to creating a culture of safety and stretch. By providing that extra nudge of accountability, high expectations, and challenging conversations, teams can explore the unknown and reach heights they never dreamed possible. By allowing space for individual thought and differing opinions from respected professionals, leaders can enhance their workforce and create an environment full of creativity, innovation, and progress.

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