Psychological Safety – The Next Frontier on the Journey to Better Leadership

Better Leadership

The best leaders today connect with each individual in terms of their unique psychological, emotional as well as social, and cultural distinctiveness. They are and expect multidimensional people. Their focus is on becoming better, tied to their unshakable commitment to growth and change, both for themselves and others. Psychological Safety training becomes the bedrock of D&I and Belonging sustainability. 

Mentioning psychology can cause even courageous leaders to step back. The terminology conjures up us having to dabble in mental and emotional issues. Visions of having to confront the daunting task of eradicating deep-seated trauma, in individual or group settings, surface. However, this is not the case. We simply need to understand some basics, applied by psychologists, that have therapeutic application at work. Some psychological aspects of treatment that makes us whole, allows us to feel worthy and unlock our potential to contribute fully.  

Naturally, if we were not assured of care and psychological safety we would avoid sharing freely our deepest and most authentic selves. Why would it be different in a work setting?

Care – The Liberating Protective Circle

 Within a caring context, we become free to speak our truth. We are encouraged to “show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or career” (W.A. Kahn) etc.  Others seek to understand rather than hurt and criticize. We feel “okay” because imperfections and making mistakes are acknowledged by all. Freedom arises as fear subsides knowing we are seeking the best for each other.

No Judgement – A Freedom for Constraints

As with the psychologist’s couch, in a psychologically safe space we become empowered. No judgement facilitates honesty. Suddenly we “feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions or ideas” (Amy Edmondson). Interpersonal bridge building fuels our creativity and feeds our curiosity. We are more likely to venture opinions that may not be mainstream or even controversial. We become comfortable to stretch ourselves. With no judgement, feedback becomes less threatening and we are likely to become more responsive in our collaboration.

Respect – The Key to Trust

Respect shapes engagements. It is the cardinal rule in Psychologically safe environments. We show we value every individual and unconditionally accept them for who they are. Everyone comes to the table as equals, minimizing status and social differentials. Giving and receiving respect increases our propensity to eliminate bias and prejudices that influence us. Ultimately respect makes exposing true identifies easy. Self-esteem and well-being in interactions flow.

Leading – Keeping the Door Open

As with psychologists, leaders practicing Psychological Safety training, see trust grows with each encounter as these practices are demonstrated with integrity. Better and better functioning is established as people copy the modeling by leaders. Soon it became clear. To be whole human beings, we all need to be open to being better.  

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