Have you ever been brushed off, ignored, demeaned, silenced, or humiliated? These painful and memorable experiences trigger the self-censoring instinct that is within us all and effectively neutralises performance. When social friction exists in a team the predictable approach to our work is one of caution, preventing people from bringing their whole self to work.
This has become even more important now that our teams are dispersed and it is becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to continue to build and maintain relationships. That’s why I was so impressed by the this response from the Western Bulldog’s management team in relation to an incident involving the head coach and a sports reporter, in which the head coach verbally attacked the reporter:
“The Western Bulldogs Football Club cannot and does not condone senior coach Luke Beveridge’s handling of his post-game press conference exchange with Tom Morris last night. The Club sincerely apologises to Tom for the incident. It is important to us that Tom is ok.”
You can read the full article here and come to your own conclusions on whether the reporter deserved it or not but look at the last line in that statement again. “It is important to us that Tom is ok.” Tom, the reporter, isn’t even part of their team! It’s clear that the Western Bulldog’s have a very strong culture and set of values around inclusion and psychological safety which is essential for any high performing team.
So let’s talk about the steps you, as a leader, can take to implement psychological safety into your team and your workplace.
Psychological safety consists of four stages:
- Inclusion safety
- Leader safety
- Contributor safety
- Challenger safety
Rather than go into the detail of each level (which would make this a very lonnnnnng email) I thought I’d give you a few pointers to think about and if you and your team(s) would like to know more about how to implement these into your specific environment, you can find more information here.
Inclusion safety can be one of the most confronting levels for leaders because we often forget what it’s like to be new to an organisation or that others don’t think the way we do or value the same things. Our role is to ensure everyone in our team feels physically and emotionally included in the team; not because of they’re skills or the value they can add but because they are a person and they are worthy of respect. We need to become aware of our biases (and this can be the tricky part for people). Here are a couple of confronting questions for you…
- Do you honestly believe that everyone is created equally?
- Do you judge a person’s worthiness on their appearance, social status, material possessions, rank?
Learner safety is the second level and involves the feeling of being safe to fail without the fear of repercussion, safe to make mistakes without the fear of embarrassment or punitive actions. Here are a couple of things to think about:
- Encourage the learner to be a learner
- Let them know that failure isn’t the exception, it’s the expectation
- The most important signal in granting learner safety is the leaders response to bad news or dissent
- How can you lower the barrier of learner anxiety?
Contributor safety occurs when the person confidently moves from learning (although this should always be part of their role) to contributing and this occurs when the person is willing to be held accountable for their work and mistakes. In summary, this level is largely about an exchange of autonomy of results for performance.
Lastly, we come to challenger safety which can also be quite challenging (pardon the pun) for leaders. How comfortable are you when a subordinate (choice of word intentional here) tells you that they think you’re making a poor decision? How you make them feel in this moment is the difference between true psychological safety that we live and breath and psychological safety that we just talk about. Here are a couple of tips for you when you get to this stage:
- Develop the expectation that everyone disagrees – don’t assume agreement.
- Failure is part of the process – let everyone know this
- Don’t make it emotionally expensive to challenge the status quo, encourage it
So, , what are some small steps you can make in your team to ensure everyone starts moving through the different levels? What are your biases when it comes to other people? How do you react when people make mistakes?
I hope you find this useful, and if I can help you in 2022 in anyway, please sing out at any time. Also, if you know of anyone who continuously makes commitments to themselves but fails to follow through, feel free to send this onto them – you never know what impact a small act of kindness can have on another person.
If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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