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Podcast: High-performing foundations

Ever wondered why a meeting ended in silence, or why rumblings of discontent reached you long after your team agreed on a strategy? It could come down to the psychological safety of your workplace, and chances are it’s impacting your team’s performance.

In this episode of the Elevate Podcast with Elite Agent Managing Editor Samantha McLean, Marianne explains what psychological safety looks like within an organisation, the benefits it offers, and the strategies leaders can use to embrace it. She explains the importance of psychological safety and how it can unlock five times greater performance in your team. LISTEN  NOW.

Psychologically safe workplaces deliver results

A personal story – Using volatility and disruption for growth

Navigating to Psychological Safety: Aim for the Clear Water

Simplifying psychological safety governance requirements to transform organisations

Psychological Safety is not a new concept

Mental Health First Aid Australia estimates the annual costs of work-related mental ill-health in Australia

Psychological Safety and ROI

When the masks come off … or do they?

This article briefly explores the need for leaders to be authentic when building psychologically safe work cultures.

People acknowledge the need for protective masks in these COVID days, but still one of the most common comments I hear in workplaces is “I’ll be glad when I can stop wearing this mask”. So say all of us, but removing a physical mask doesn’t mean we’ve taken off the psychological masks that we all wear.

Psychological masks—the personas that we project to others—are not intrinsically wrong; indeed, they can help us to set appropriate boundaries while we assess whether we trust a person or group of people enough to reveal more about ourselves and our beliefs. However, this can become unhealthy when any one of those masks is overused intentionally or out of habit, because it can keep us overly distant from others (e.g., see the Therese Borchard article on The 10 Masks We Wear).

A particular challenge for leaders endeavouring to build psychological safety is how to avoid hiding behind a defensive mask. That is, how to be authentic in their dealings with their teams, peers and their own leaders, who may all be wearing their own defensive masks until trust is established.

Doing so opens a leader to being more vulnerable, which requires courage. Is it worth taking such a risk? The short answer is “Yes”, provided the leader is adequately equipped to mitigate the risk and consolidate gains.

Human experience and formal research point to the benefits of investing resources in building psychologically safe work cultures. Our own insights as humans living in the world will support the notion that if we feel safe to express our views in a work setting without fear of being embarrassed or punished, then we’re more likely to be engaged and committed. Research findings validate this, with the benefits of psychological safety including better decision-making, lower absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’, higher productivity, and a solid return on investment. Additionally, organisations characterised by psychological safety are likely to be employers of choice for quality candidates.

So, the journey is worth it, but where to start?

My business partner Marianne Hynes and I (Mike Speter) can assist. We draw on our experiences as senior executive leaders, who have successfully built psychologically safe work cultures ourselves, to equip other leaders to navigate the path to psychological safety for their teams and organisations. These pragmatic insights are complemented by our tertiary education, training and associated work in the fields of psychological processes, adult learning and change management. Please feel free to contact either Marianne or me if you’d like a no-obligation discussion to explore your needs.

Psychological Safety: What It Is and Why It Matters

High-performing teams where people thrive do not exist without psychological safety.

Psychologically safe environments, teamed with performance metrics and accountability, will improve your business’ performance.

Various studies, including Google’s Project Aristotle – a two-year study on features of effective teams –  show that teams with higher levels of trust and cohesion achieve better business performance and growth than teams with lower levels of those attributes.

But what exactly is psychological safety?

In simple terms, psychological safety is where team members feel safe to engage in interpersonal risk‐taking behaviours in the workplace. These behaviours involve feeling safe to challenge the status quo, speak up, and constructively disagree with others.

When team members feel psychologically safe, they communicate more openly and speak more freely within the team environment. Additionally, they feel that they will not be shamed if mistakes are made, creating an open and thriving environment for performance, growth, creativity, and innovation.

How do you create psychological safety?

Psychological safety starts with us as leaders ensuring that we model the behaviours needed to build the right environment, including:

Replacing hierarchical/transactional leadership with a values-led, open, and authentic approach. Don’t underestimate the power of essential (soft) skills such as deep listening, presence and empathy.

Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities. Mistakes enable teams to be more creative, learn, innovate, and develop better outcomes. Noting that mistakes differ from underperformance, which needs to be addressed in a timely manner.

Leaning into tough conversations and replacing ‘blaming and shaming’ with curiosity and openness. This will go a long way to building trust.

Develop a shared vision and goals, and discuss these regularly as a team.

Create a culture of accountability, feedback and continual growth.

If you would like support creating psychologically safe environments as the foundation for high-performing and thriving teams, then my business partner Mike Speter and I (Marianne Hynes) can assist. We draw on our experiences as senior executive leaders, who have successfully built psychologically safe work cultures ourselves, to equip other leaders to navigate the path to psychological safety for their teams and organisations. These pragmatic insights are complemented by our tertiary education, training and associated work in the fields of psychological processes, adult learning and change management.

Please feel free to contact either Mike or myself  if you’d like a no-obligation discussion to explore your needs.

(Thanks to Mike Speter for review feedback on this article.)

Part 1 of 5 – Psychological Safety Overview

In this series, we discuss psychological safety, and how in a COVID-impacted world, we can move from surviving to thriving as organisations by building psychological safety.

Part 2 of 5 – Psychological Safety: PsychSafety Solutions and The Impact of Not Having Psychological Safety.

We discuss the foundations of PsychSafety Solutions Pty Ltd and our passion as leaders ourselves for equipping leaders to build and sustain psychological safety.

We also discuss the impact of not having psychological safety and how it can be detrimental to staff wellness and organisational performance.

Part 3 of 5 – Psychological Safety: Risk Factors

We discuss the main risk factors impeding the building of psychological safety in organisations. In addition to being morally right and a legal requirement, it is also a commercially savvy thing to do.

Part 4 of 5 – Psychological Safety: Benefits (e.g., ROI) and Compliance Considerations

We discuss the benefits of psychological safety to organisations, including important compliance considerations. We also touch on the impacts to business of the ‘Great Resignation’.

Part 5 of 5 – Psychological Safety: The Role of Leadership

We discuss the critical role the leader plays in building and sustaining psychological safety.