Psycho what? It may sound like some complex concept that some book worms created but I promise that psychological safety is a very real and powerful concept for building deep relationships.
Psychological safety is the invisible glue in all thriving families and teams.
Specifically, psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished. But it’s SO much more!
Oh, how I love thee…..let me count the ways…..
Freedom to speak your mind
Talk about a key to being able to be authentic! Raising kids to be comfortable speaking their mind and doing so in a respectful way will do wonders for our future generations. Then, when they get to the workplace, they’ll already know what it looks like to bring their whole selves to the job.
Room for risk
Although I’m not a big risk taker, nobody wants to think that any type of mistake will result in reprimand or a bad reputation with the bosses. If you’re a company that needs to move quickly then there must be room for risk-takers and not-so-perfect outcomes (see how I avoided the word failures right there, sneaky, I know). As a parent, I see this as opportunities for kids to learn some lessons themselves before the consequences get too high. But be warned, this requires mad self-control on your part to not intervene and “rescue.”
Creative minds welcomed
When there’s a deep trust that exists within a team then even the wildest, craziest, cockamamy scheme is up for discussion. Those are not typically the golden ideas but the conversations and ideas that get thrown around after can often lead to great new avenues.
I won’t say welcomed because we all know that “one” that takes it too far but there is room for humor and more willingness when there’s psychological safety. This makes me happy because my mouth can’t help but crack a “that’s what she said” joke in the middle of meetings.
All of the goodness from above creates an environment that feeds our oxytocin levels and keeps our motivation running.
Think about the last time you were so miserable at a job that you dreamed of just quitting (or literally quit)? How many qualities of the above love list (aka psychological safety) did they possess? I’m guessing none or only in a small pocket of friends you had at work. Those friends that made it bearable because the team did not operate at this level.
I’m a big believer in grass-roots movements but it’s hard to see a clear path for a company to build psychological safety without the leaders being fully engaged. That’s because so much of the safety aspect comes from not feeling at risk about your job because you stepped into something new and risky.
It is possible, however, to break down the trust within a team even if you’re the new kid on the block and don’t have any people management responsibilities.
What NOT to do if you want to keep the love list alive
Speak first, listen second
If you want people to feel secure in expressing themselves honestly, then they need to feel heard. That means true active listening and then responding in meaningful ways. I literally had a new boss that came into town (I was hoping that some face-to-face time would resolve our disconnect) and in his conversations with me he would not acknowledge my presence. He did not make eye contact and when I would finish speaking he would just proceed with whatever was on his list of topics. I had never been so insulted in my career. Don’t be that person 😉
Don’t hunt down “who” made the mistake
We all know mistakes will happen but sometimes managers react as though it should never happen. That, unfortunately, creates an environment where people start hiding and keeping “their heads down.” Some managers’ knee-jerk reaction is to find out “who did it” and barrage them with questions about why. Instead, when we tackle the why instead of the who, we leave room for people to acknowledge and reflect without feeling attacked.
Say you’re available for your team then never be available
Having an “open door” policy doesn’t do any good if you don’t actually live it out. Not only is it frustrating for people but it teaches your coworkers that you don’t mean what you say. Not good for building a strong and trusting team.
“You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes.”~John Wooden
Owning mistakes takes vulnerability but it’s well worth the reward when your team sees that the behavior is not only expected but lived out. Blaming others is petty, childish, and unproductive (my 3 least favorite things).
There is a lot more we could explore on this topic but we’ll keep this one to the basics. Many of the qualities on the “not to do” list are things I’ve exhibited at different points in my career. As I reflect back on those experiences I definitely see a pattern where I match the environment I’m in. That makes me a little disappointed but I know that I’m stronger now and more comfortable being the odd one out, especially if it means that I can encourage others to also embrace their authenticity.
What aspect of psychological safety is hardest for you to embrace?
P.S. This is not something that comes easily or quickly. If you’re in need of this kind of culture then schedule a 30-minute consult to ask me whatever questions you have. No strings attached!