I was excited to announce earlier this week that my recent article on psychological safety (co-authored with Alex Fleksher) was printed up in Mishpacha Magazine (you can find the online version here - https://mishpacha.com/unsafe-unsound-unsupportive/ ). The topic of psychological safety is not well known and has only become more recently widespread because of Amy Edmonston’s work in the last few decades. The goal of psychological safety is to create a space where others are comfortable speaking up – for good and for bad, where they feel safe to offer their opinions and feedback and know that although not every idea will be accepted, they will be treated with dignity and respect. Every person has a perspective to contribute and feeling safe enough to share that perspective leads to tremendous growth in a company, organization and even one’s home.
There is added dimension here that was not included in the article yet fits in perfectly in my blog. If you are trying to innovate and reach creative solutions as a team, you will only be able to do so if you already have a psychologically safe environment. Imagine you are sitting in a brain-structuring session (remember, classic brainstorming isn’t effective) and the moderator asks the group to list the benefits of the damage that was done on their production line (think all their chocolate chips melted or all the caps cracked off their water bottles). Without a safe space where everyone’s opinions are valued, staff wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking up. Perhaps the 1-2 most outgoing people would speak up, or maybe a few others would make a suggestion, but if the moment after someone shares a lukewarm thought, they immediately feel embarrassed and discouraged, they will not choose to share again. But if the environment was one of acceptance and growth, more staff would offer their opinions, and continue to offer them, even if they weren’t spot on. And the more staff that offer their thoughts and suggestions, the more likely a company to reach innovative solutions.
Of course, creating a safe space doesn’t start when you sit down as a team in front of the whiteboard. Building trust and an encouraging environment begins day 1 at the office, when the staff join for training. Are their questions welcome or are they belittled for not ‘getting it?’ Is more positivity paid to those who seem to be ‘going places?’ Are employees praised for contributing to group discussions or are their comments glossed over in hope of a ‘better answer?’ By simply paying attention to our reactions, we can help set the stage for an environment where employees feel safe to contribute. It goes without saying that companies with active, engaged employees produce faster, better results. Invest in your company by investing in your employees. Do it by making sure they feel valued, heard and validated appropriately.