The Problem: Many leaders are not clear on specific action they can take to create a more psychologically safe workplace. Let’s work from the premise that you’ve reviewed the research and you’re convinced that you want to move your organization forward on this very important matter. However, you don’t know what do next. Read on.
Story: I recently had a phone call with an executive leader responsible for company safety, who wanted to kick around my last blog on adding a psychological component to an overall physical safety focus. His concern was that my viewpoint caused people like his boss to embrace this idea at the risk of diluting REAL safety (ie.physical). My response was that I hoped the opposite might be true, that the broader definition would result in a much more effective, productive, adaptive, innovative and comprehensively safe place of work. I’m not sure how convincing I was. Too often leaders, especially middle management, embrace inertia as their best strategy. A cynical leader may view “Psychological Safety” as a trendy topic at best, or mush-headed weakness at worst. Subsequently, rather than digging in and understanding, these leaders prefer to avoid or discount. At the end of our conversation he asked me: “So what the heck do I do next?” Amy Edmondson, widely recognized as the leading expert on the matter, gives us some guidance. I referred my caller to the following, and wanted to share the same recommendations with you.
What are some actions you could take?
Consider Edmondson’s guidance as taken from her book, “The Fearless Organization.”
“1.0 Setting the Stage
Framing the work
Have I spoken of failures in the right way, given the nature of the work? Do I point out that small failures are the currency of subsequent improvement?
Have I articulated clearly why our work matters.
2.0 Inviting Participation
Have I made sure that people know that I don’t think I have all the answers?
How often do I ask questions of others, rather than just expressing my perspective?
Systems and Structures
Have I created structures to systematically elicit ideas and concerns?
3.0 Responding Productively
Do I acknowledge or thank the speaker for bringing an idea or question to me?
When someone comes to me with bad news, how do I make sure it’s a positive experience?
Sanction Clear Violations
Have I clarified the boundaries? Do people know what constitute blameworthy acts in our organization?”
Consciously setting the stage, intentionally inviting participation, and thoughtfully responding proactively will move you, your team and the organization a long way forward down the road. Start with asking leaders to self-assess and act accordingly.
Think Big, Start Small and Act Now,
One Millennial View: I think what could stump many about something like “Psychological Safety,” is the difference and relationship between being uncomfortable and feeling safe. Let’s say someone happens to be terrified of speaking in public and their job requires them to give presentations. Well, then they likely will never feel 100 percent comfortable, and that’s ok, but they can still be in an environment that makes them feel psychologically safe.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis