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Psychological Safety

What does psychological safety do?

Your company can throw the most epic parties, your team can have massive amounts of fun and hang out in the coolest offices, you've got nothing you can truly hold on to if you do not have psychological safety.

Psychological safety is the place where creativity, inspiration, thinking outside the box and genuine feelings of flow and belonging stem from.

It is simply essential to any group, team, or community wanting to collaborate and create any kind of value in a healthy and thriving environement.

In a 1986 study on the Sense of Community Mc Millan and Chavis define [Emmotional] Safety as one of the five attributes of membership (itself being one of the 4 elements creating a sense of community).

Simply put, psychological means that you and anyone of your team members are able to show themselves as they truly are, (no masks!) without fearing judgement and negative consequences on their status or career in the company. (It does not mean "not caring", see recipe below).

Without psychological safety, people hide mistakes and withhold ideas. They aim to prove themselves and protect their image.
With psychological safety, people admit errors and voice suggestions. They strive to improve themselves and protect their team.
Adam Grant.

It is easy to imagine what can happen when there is psychological safety in a group: people are not afraid to speak up, share ideas, try new things, innovate, collaborate, solve problems or ask for help. They become more engaged and involved in the overall success/wellbeing of the group and its goal/purpose.

Worldwide technology has an interesting visual adapted to the work environement.

Cocreating Psychological safety.

Psychological safety is not something you just "get", it is something you co-create.

It's like baking recipe where each ingredients has to be precisely measured. Luckily all the ingredients are free and available to all that are willing.

Like everything else with good leadership, it is as much what you say and how you communicate it as what you do, that will leave its mark. For this recipe to be successful, everyone must be encouraged and empowered to participate in the baking.

  • a pinch of vulnerability. This is probably the toughest ingredient to harvest and consequently, the one to start with. Knowing when and how to show vulnerability is extremely powerful in a group setting. Admitting fears, failure or doubts has always been dissmissed as signs of weakness and considered a negative trait in a person, especially in a working environement. What we tend to see though, is that those who know to be vulnerable and open up about their so called imperfection are more enclined to create deeper connections and build trust faster.

  • a spoon of trust. Without trust there is no team. It is as simple as that. It is like an apple pie without apple (and we will stop here with the food analogy). Working without trust means wasting a lot of time ... Trust is not just a one way street. This also means entrusting your team with paricipating in decisions about the company that will impact them. It means empowering them to become actors rather than spectators.

  • a dash of self awareness. An ingredient we always think we have in stock and often seems to be gone missing (oops we did one more analogy). Everyone is expected to show up at the office fully self aware of their own needs and feelings but this is never really adressed within the professional sphere. Finding ways to help your team members reflect and learn more about their own emotions and boundaries, as well as how to express them properly can do wonders for the team spirit.

  • a splash of comfort Not everything needs to be a challenge. Discomfort means not letting people create some routines, not having any kind of consistency, working with poor systems and structures. That being said, it's easy to go overboard here. Let's remember that being too comfortable can also prevent anyone from exploring new challenges. Balance is key!

  • a twist of accountability. Taking/having ownership of your decisions and their consequences is absoluteley essential. In order to create an environement within which people aren't afraid to take accountability for their actions all of the other elements must come together, and communication must prevail upon blame in any case.

  • The secret ingredients? Patience & consistency. You can have all the ingredients ready, it will take time for everything to come together. Not giving up and consistently making sure all these elements are present in the day to day at the [Home] office is what will make Psychological safety. Soon enough the positive impact will show.

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