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Team Effectiveness

Nurturing Risk-Taking Through Psychological Safety

Nurturing Risk-Taking Through Psychological Safety

Does Your Team Feel Safe to Take Risks? 

Encouraging employees to step out of their comfort zone is more than simply rebranding your organization’s core principles or pushing your team to take bold initiatives on a new project. It requires an environment of consistent, rewarded vulnerability, where people can regularly speak up with ideas, voice questions or concerns, and make mistakes without fear of negativity. By establishing a high level of psychological safety amongst your team, you nurture risk-taking and vulnerability, driving better results in your organization. 

Is it Worth the Risk? 

When you think of risk-taking, what immediately comes to mind? For some, their thoughts wander to the more adrenaline-filled activities in life—extreme sports, such as skydiving, rock climbing, or whitewater rafting. For others, risk is associated with more mild, everyday activities, such as taking a different route to work when running late, skipping an umbrella on an overcast day, or ordering a new menu item for lunch.

Risk-taking is very rarely associated with where we work, yet we often find ourselves taking the most risks in the workplace, whether we realize it or not. Consider these questions: 

  • Have you ever pitched a new idea to your team?
  • Have you ever taken on a task outside your scope of work?
  • Have you ever disagreed about a project, suggesting a different approach?
  • Have you ever spoken up in a large meeting to reaffirm your opinion?
  • Have you ever given a peer constructive feedback, unsure of their reaction? 

These examples, and many more, are all small yet significant ways you take risks at work every day. Risk-taking is inherently connected with being vulnerable—defined by Dr. Brené Brown as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”—and takes us out of our comfort zone. When taken thoughtfully, risks can lead to positive outcomes, including personal growth, improved teamwork, and innovative solutions to workplace challenges.  

There is Uncertainty in Vulnerability 

The core of risk-taking is vulnerability. When we put ourselves out there or expose ourselves emotionally, especially in a work setting, there is always a chance of something not working out. Questions can linger in your head before taking the risk, your act of vulnerability, such as:

  • If my team doesn’t like this idea, will my job suffer because of it?
  • If I take on this task outside my scope of work, what happens if my workload becomes too much for me?
  • If I disagree and suggest a new approach, will my job be in jeopardy if the project direction doesn’t work out?
  • If I speak up in this meeting, will they think I am being pushy and brush me off?
  • If I give my peer honest feedback, will our relationship be damaged?
The most challenging part of risk-taking and vulnerability is the idea of potential suffering, consequences, or repercussions. No one wants to work in an environment where constant fear of negativity limits them from achieving their full professional potential. People want to work in an environment where they can be courageous, which can only be achieved when the workplace has a high level of psychological safety.  

Courage in A Psychologically Safe Workplace 

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™, developed by Dr. Timothy Clark, describes psychological safety as an environment of rewarded vulnerability – to have psychological safety means that you don’t feel embarrassed, punished, or marginalized for your ideas, even if you are “wrong.”  It opens you up to innovate by allowing you to take risks, redefine boundaries, and rethink the status quo – without fear of reprisal.

Psychological safety, risk-taking, courage, and workplace vulnerability are all interconnected. Without one, there is no other, so establishing psychological safety on your team is essential.

Leadership Development Consultant Amy Savage outlines the four key steps to achieving psychological safety on your team:

  1. Accept Each Person On Your Team, Equally. At its core, leadership involves embracing the fundamental belief that every individual deserves acceptance, irrespective of gender, race, religion, or other affiliations, fostering an inclusive environment where employees feel safe, valued, and accountable for their actions.
  2. Encourage Your Team to Grow. The second step in the process involves creating a secure environment for team members to learn and grow, emphasizing the importance of employees feeling safe from repercussions when making mistakes, encouraging open communication, and leaders modeling a safe space for learning by sharing their own failures and overcoming them.
  3. Help Your Team Make a Difference. Creating an inclusive and growth-oriented environment sets the stage for your team to contribute meaningfully to the company, but as a leader, facilitating this may involve relinquishing control and accepting diverse approaches to tasks.
  4. Help Your Team Make Things Better. The pinnacle of psychological safety in a team involves the freedom to voice opinions, challenge the status quo, and contribute to organizational improvement, fostering a fertile ground for creativity and innovation.


Innovation is fueled by ideas and risk-taking, and by deviating from the status quo. Without a culture that rewards vulnerability, teams are less likely to embrace risks, hindering their ability to innovate and remain relevant in today's fast-changing world.

Encouraging risk-taking within your team requires a strong foundation of psychological safety. If you are looking to nurture risk-taking in your organization or amongst your team, ensure that you are fostering an environment that is safe to do so. Consider prompting your team with questions that encourage alternate perspectives, such as:

  • What innovative ideas or approaches have you been considering but haven't had the chance to share?
  • In what ways do you think we can push the boundaries and try something new in our projects?
  • Is there a project or initiative you've seen elsewhere that you believe we could adapt to benefit our team's growth and success?
Leaders must actively work to create an environment where employees feel empowered to take risks without fear. By doing so, organizations can unlock the full potential of their teams! 

With better psychological safety, every leader, employee, or team member can contribute, challenge, and bring the best of themselves to your organization. Psychological safety training is a proven tactic for creating engaged teams who trust one another, commit to common goals, and achieve bottom-line results. Follow the link below to explore how psychological safety can positively impact your leaders, teams, and organizations:

Learn More About FlashPoint's Psychological Safety Offerings

Kara Janssen

Kara Janssen creates engaging content that connects our clients to the FlashPoint brand and mission, helping them grow as leaders.