By Laurie Cure, PhD

There is a lot to fear in our world. Media headlines scream crisis everywhere and ensure we are aware of all the potential catastrophes that could befall us. We have created cultures and environments where problems are magnified, wounds are prolific and our intimacy with one another is often centered around a collective injury that is both real and self-induced. Consider your most recent, common conversations. Do they bring out hope, possibility, and awe or do they continue to reinforce the narrative of crisis, drama, and devastation? In all of this negativity and chaos, how can we, as leaders, quell our own fear and create environments of psychological safety for our teams?

What is psychological safety? 

Psychological safety is the feeling of being safe to take risks, speak up, and share ideas without fear of criticism or reprisal. Teams that work in an environment of psychological safety share a common characteristic: they trust each other deeply. This trust is developed over time. In this environment, teammates trust that leaders, co-workers, and colleagues won’t embarrass, reject, or punish each other for sharing ideas, asking questions, or making mistakes.  When it exists, team members can feel comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their thoughts and opinions. This can lead to a stronger culture of trust, creativity, collaboration, and innovation. 

Why is psychological safety so important? 

Research has shown that employees that have psychological safety have higher job satisfaction, are more committed to the organization, and are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Additionally, according to a study completed by Ecsell Institute, psychological safety also appears to impact a company’s bottom line. Managers whose skills are rated higher in areas like psych safety lead teams who average $4.3 million more in revenue per year. 

How do you create a culture of psychological safety? 

The first step is to evaluate your current culture. Consider the following list. Do you exhibit these behaviors? Even minor reactions such as the following can deplete or erase psychological safety in the workplace. Do you:

  • Raise your voice during situations of conflict or disagreement
  • Engage in sarcastic tones and words
  • Disregard others even in seemingly small ways
  • Withhold information from certain individuals
  • Nitpick the work of others
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Talk to employees about each other
  • Postpone crucial conversations

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As you move forward, if you want to promote psychological safety, you and the other leaders in your organization must make it a priority to:

  • Build trusting relationships
  • Communicate often and with transparency
  • Create a safe space for people to express their opinions
  • Make mistakes part of the learning process
  • Solicit and embrace differing perspectives
  • Encourage creativity and innovation

Changing the culture of an entire organization is a daunting task; however, if leadership is committed to making this shift, it can be done. 

At Innovative Connections, we know our world promises nothing more than continual, rapid change, and we know that change is hard. We also know that creating environments of psychological safety amid this rapid change is equally, if not more, daunting. We would love to be part of your journey as you navigate the successes and challenges that lie ahead. If you’d like a free consultation to talk about how professional coaching, leadership development, or strategy planning sessions can help shift the culture of your organization, we’d love to talk. Contact us for a free consultation by clicking this link: Innovative Connections or calling us at 970-279-3330.