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How To Help Your Employees Become Their Best Selves

This article was based on episode 133 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get 50% off 15Five’s Best Self Management program when you become a member at

Friction, hurt feelings, and drama between colleagues can so quickly drag down a work culture. In order to combat this, David Hassell, co-founder and CEO of 15Five, teaches leaders the best way to transform work environments: by helping their employees become their best selves. His science-inspired Best-Self Management methodology combines psychological safety with growth mindset to create powerful, fulfilled teams.


Psychological safety, a term coined by researcher and professor Amy C. Edmondson, is "a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes." In order to achieve an environment of psychological safety, there are critical actions managers should and shouldn’t do.

Approach 1: React Well To Feedback

Employees need to feel like they can speak honestly without fear of negative repercussions. Otherwise, your staff may share as little as possible, even when it’s good news. To foster psychological safety, institute a structure and process for feedback to normalize this type of communication. Then, do it frequently.

Most importantly, model that you can react to challenging news with curiosity and kindness instead of defensiveness or blame. As your colleagues see your willingness to listen and learn, your team will be encouraged to open up even more.

Remember, though, that your employee has many other things going on in their life besides work. Even if you are doing everything right to encourage psychological safety, an employee might still not feel comfortable opening up. This could be due to any number of factors, including prior experiences and personality.

Approach 2: Reflect on Whether You Are Above Or Below The Line

No matter how carefully we select our words, if our mind is filled with feelings of blame, our team will sense this and react defensively. David recommends a mindfulness technique to move from the Victim-Villain-Hero Triangle into a space of curiosity called the Coach-Creator Mode.

When we go into a meeting with a sense of certainty of what the problem is and who’s to blame (referred to as a Below The Line mindset), our team members will likely feel like they are under attack. Instead, consciously shift to a more detached place of curiosity (Above The Line) to invite an open, honest dialogue, so that neither party goes into fight-or-flight mode.

Before an interaction, stop and ask yourself, “Am I Above or Below the Line?” If you discover you’re below the line, pause and set aside what you believe to be true and enter the conversation with a willingness to just listen.


Growth Mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, says that “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.” This concept can be applied to how we view others in addition to ourselves. Managers should believe in their team members’ ability to develop and act accordingly.

Approach 3: See The White Space

As David puts it, if every manager realized the power of simply believing in their employees, the world would be dramatically different. We often see only what’s in front of us, what someone is currently capable of. ‘Seeing The White Space’ means recognizing an employee’s strengths and the potential for who they could be. Your belief in them can even help employees overcome their own crippling self-doubts that hinder success.

Approach 4: Focus on Strengths

Your team will enjoy much more success if you focus on developing strengths rather than improving weaknesses. Dan Sullivan’s concept of Unique Ability teaches how to find the Zone of Genius where our natural talents overlap with our passions. If we concentrate our energy and attention on the things that are most energizing and natural to us, we maximize our strengths, and feel more fulfilled.

You can help create a strength-based team by speaking with each person about their strengths and passions. David encourages us to be wary of the Zone of Excellence in which we fall into roles that we are good at but aren’t passionate about. This is where many get stuck, ultimately stifling one’s potential.

Approach 5: Embrace Your Imperfections

You’re never going to be the perfect manager. While best practices helps us anchor to our ideal managerial role, we too are a work in process. The more self-compassion you can have when you trip up, the more you can develop compassion and empathy for your team members. Bring a beginner’s mind to all things and commit to showing up each day, fresh. Admit your own vulnerability to your team, and show that you are journeying together. You are all seeking to become your best selves.


Growth mindset only works when combined with an environment of psychological safety. If you have high expectations of your employee, without psychological safety, it can backfire. An employee might feel it’s impossible to live up to your expectations and therefore dread coming to work. Or, he might not feel comfortable asking for your help because he’s fearful of your response. All of these things can impact culture and productivity. When employees feel like you believe in them, talking about mistakes can be an eye-opening and productive - rather than painful - conversation.

By creating a safe space for feedback, believing in our employees potential, and helping them focus on their strengths, managers facilitate an energized, actualized team. One might even say that a manager’s most central job is to enable their team members to become their best selves.



Twitter: @dhassell

Podcast: Best-Self Management podcast -

Get the 50% off 15Five’s Best-Self Management program when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at Purchase an individual episode guides at to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.

This article was based on episode 133 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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