5 Leadership Habits That Create a Psychologically Safe Workplace

What do we mean by Psychological safety?

According to Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, it is “the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. It is also the most studied condition in group dynamics and team learning research.

A company’s ability to create a safe environment for employees, as they try to implement priorities, can be impaired if their sense of empowerment, team orientation, and process for agreement is unclear. So how do leaders create a psychologically safe workplace?

Here are 5 habits for leaders to incorporate into their day-to-day operations to create a psychologically safe workplace.

1.) Prepare for difficult conversations.

“What are the possible objections and how would I respond to those counterarguments?”

Prepare the conversation by imagining it beforehand. Imagine that you must implement a new process that you know will be met with objections. What could those objections be and why? Think about the top 3 concerns the team might have and how you can respond to each of these constructively – and write these down.

  • What do you want to say to them?
  • How might they respond and what might cause this reaction?
  • Think about each possible scenario and how you could respond to each.

2.) Trust is Key.

Fostering trust in your team starts with you. Here are some tips to build and maintain trust.

  • Speak from your human heart to theirs. Be open and share your vulnerability and doubts to build trust and model the behavior that is desired from all team members.
  • Approach conflict within the team as a method for collaborating rather than opposing.
  • Ask them “How can we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?

3.) Ask your team to give you feedback.

After your next team meeting, try to ask one of your team members for their feedback by using any of the following questions:

  • What worked and what didn’t work in my delivery?
  • How did it feel to hear my message?
  • How could I have presented it more effectively?

Listen intently to their answers and work on incorporating their feedback into your next team meeting.

4.) Try to make failure “cool and safe.”

As a leader, you need to lead the way and talk about your failures first. This will not only show that failure is OK but also that you are human and vulnerable, just like your team. Here are some ideas that we’ve seen teams do across the globe:

  • Have a “Failure of the week” item on the weekly huddle – remember to go first.
  • Create a “Wall of failure” where people can stick up post-it notes where they have described their failure and the learning gained through it.
  • Give a “Heroic Failure” award to employees that take ambitious risks and fail.
  • Hold an “Idea Funeral” sharing lessons you’ve learned and saying goodbye to the idea or project.

5.) Make failure a learning process.

The fact is that when we learn from our failures, we get stronger, and we will eventually achieve the results we want. Unless you as leaders expressly and actively make it psychologically safe to fail, people will automatically seek to avoid failure. If you make it a habit to talk about it, you can grow as both individuals and as a team, learning from each other’s failures to enable collective success.

And remember:

  • Keep track of the record of failures, so learning does not get lost.

To read more about Psychological Safety check out “Let’s Get Pragmatic About Psychological Safety” by Catarina Kakko and Karen Jones.

Recent Posts

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing, you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.