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Creating Psychological Safety - "Being Human" Series | Article 2

Last week talking to friends and clients about how they were feeling the words that kept coming back to me were "psychological safety". The word "Psychological Safety" may currently be topical, although we have long discussed the "Psychological Contract" within HR and for me the two are very much linked.  Without "the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes", how can any employee or member of staff feel they have a connection to an organisation? The psychological contract refers to the unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship which together with an employment contract define the employer-employee relationship.

Studies show, according to Harvard Business Review - "High Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety.  Here's How to Create It" "that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off - just the types of behaviour that lead to market breakthroughs."

In the current climate, when employees may already have a different perspective of their employer depending on how they feel they have been treated during the Pandemic and working virtually, now is not the time to be a line manager that criticises an employee in front of others, micro-manages them or is dismissive.  This type of behaviour is processed by the brain as a life-or-death threat.  The amyala, the alarm bell in the brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response, hijacking higher brain centres which would consider perspective and analytical reasoning and instead handicaps or prevents strategic thinking.

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As leaders, line and people managers consider how you can create positive emotions like trust, curiosity, confidence and a growth mindset to allow your teams to build psychological, social and physical resources.  For example:

1. Consider conflict in a positive way, use an open and growth mindset to work together with the person and ask "How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?"  A useful tool I have shared with leaders and managers when running development programmes is the Interest-based Relational Approach.  Google employees use even in the most contentious negotiations a reflection phrase - "Just like me", which asks them to consider:

This person has beliefs, perspectives and opinions, just like me.

This person has hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities, just like me.

This persona wants to feel respected, appreciated and competent, just like me.

2. Always speak adult to adult; human to human with respect and curiosity.  Both parties will have an opinion, there will always be reactions, however depending on how something is voiced will depend if those reactions are positive or negative.  Using David Rock's SCARF model can be helpful here.  Be open to this and know how to stop/pause before you respond to show you are curious.  Language and communication are key.  You can also prepare by considering what the worst outcome could be and consider how you would respond to this in a non-emotional, rational way.

3. Ask for feedback to understand your blindspots and reduce them.  What worked well in your delivery?  What worked less well?  How did it feel to hear this message?

People don't leave organisations they leave their line managers, so consider what you can do to create this sense of psychological safety starting now!  Similarly, when looking for their next opportunity that third "C" - "Chemistry" with whoever will be your line manager comes into play. Take a look at our Reflect, re-evaluate and refocus blog HERE.

Take a read of 'How To Increase Psychological Safety In A Virtual Team' further in this brilliant article from Lolly Daskal - https://www.lollydaskal.com/leadership/how-to-increase-psychological-saf...

Realise - your employees/your team may just be reflecting on Morden Station's Thought of the Day - "In the rush to get back to normal, use the time to decide which parts of normal are worth rushing back to???"

Aspire - to be the leader, line and people manager that creates trust, confidence and curiosity; and

Do - create a psychologically safe environment for your team; the benefits of which - higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to deal with challenges issues, better development opportunities and better performance, you actually might want to see!


 

Blog Posts

  • I first met Paul at an The Art of Work Ltd event a few months back and we instantly connected and then realised we had quite a few things in common.  Paul's passion is in delivering mental health awareness to individuals and companies from a heartfelt desire to make a difference.  I am so glad Paul agreed to write a guest blog.  Thank you Paul!

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  • I was on holiday the other week with my family and I was thinking of what we could do to make our “holiday” different from what has become our “normal” working from home (WFH) and virtual schooling.
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  • Sunday morning and it is lovely to not rush up; however, I still reach for my iPhone to read my emails and articles on LinkedIn.  Though perhaps not the best thing to be doing, and reflecting on what is the mental impact on me about doing this??  However, I do read some great articles that give me inspiration and ideas for my blogs.  This morning was no exception!

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    Last week talking to friends and clients about how they were feeling the words that kept coming back to me were "psychological safety". The word "Psychological Safety" may currently be topical, although we have long discussed the "Psychological Contract" within HR and for me the two are very much linked.  Without "the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes", how can any employee or member of staff feel they have a connection to an organisation? 
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    Working with some coaching clients at the moment where their focus is on career transition and catching up with people in my network, it is great to see for a significant number of people - a "new year; new role".  It got me thinking that for a lot of people, last year could have made them reflect about what they do now?  Is their current role aligned to their values?  Or they may simply be saying each day "what on earth am I doing?"