Why is Everyone Talking About Psychological Safety?
Leaders today often work in a disruptive and dynamic environment that requires constant innovation—and more organizations are discovering that innovation can’t thrive without the presence of psychological safety.
From the new demands put on organizations to thrive in a pandemic/post-pandemic world to the great resignation, leaders are facing unprecedented change. Leaning into psychological safety can help forge a path to creating more meaning at work for your leaders.
Make no mistake, psychological safety is not just “being nice” and expecting that everything will fall into place. Creating psychological safety is a continuous process that requires every team member’s ongoing commitment and modeling. There are distinct stages of psychological safety that build upon each other, starting with a feeling of inclusion and leading to a feeling of empowerment and freedom to innovate without fear of repercussions.
Taking your first steps toward bringing psychological safety to your workplace may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. But research has shown that teams with high levels of psychological safety are more engaged and productive. And who doesn’t want that?
Steps to achieve psychological safety with your team
The good news is that psychological safety can be created in small, positive steps that can build on each other to achieve your goal of having an inclusive and innovative workplace.
Here are some actionable things you can put into practice that will put you and your team on the road to a more harmonious and productive workplace:
1. Accept Each Person On Your Team, Equally.
As a leader, you need to internalize this at the most basic level—all humans deserve to be accepted. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and civility, no matter their gender, race, religion, or other affiliation. As you create an inclusive environment, employees will feel safe to be themselves and feel accepted for who they are.
Accepting everyone in the workplace does not mean that employees will not be held accountable for their actions. What it does mean is they are included by the team and have worth for simply being human.
2. Encourage Your Team to Grow
Ensuring your team members have a safe place to learn and grow is the second step of the process. It means that employees need to know that there will not be repercussions if—and WHEN—they make a mistake.
Encourage your managers to allow staff to ask questions or admit they don’t know how to do something with no fear of reprisal at their job. Leaders should share their own failures openly and often, pointing to how they overcame them, in an effort to model that the work environment is a safe space for learning.
When the members of your team know they can take a risk or experiment with new ways of doing something—then they will feel safe to learn and grow.
3. Help Your Team Make a Difference
Once you’ve created an inclusive environment and a safe place to learn and grow, your team may now be ready to use their skills and knowledge to make a difference in the company. As a leader, you are the one who creates opportunity for team members to contribute and create value for the company.
However, allowing your team to take on a bigger role may mean you or your managers will need to perhaps let go or check your egos at the door. Sometimes it means accepting that an employee will finish a task successfully, but not in the same way you or a manager might do it.
4. Help Your Team Make Things Better
The highest level of psychological safety for any working team is the ability to speak up and challenge the status quo to make the organization better. It is at this stage where great creativity and innovation can originate.
Both employees and leaders have a responsibility at this level. For employees, it is to take on the possibly uncomfortable role of challenging the status quo in a way that improves the company. And leaders must also leave their comfort zone and accept a challenge with an open mind.
Creating psychological safety in your organization most likely means a shift in the cultural norms that have grown up around you. Changing a culture takes intentional effort and incremental steps. The result will be a team that is highly engaged and productive.