What Is Psychological Safety And Why Is It Important?

Lucid Leadership by Rowan B Colver

Confidence is important and psychological safety is directly related to this. When we have a goal to achieve at home or at work, confidence helps to motivate us and get the best results. It gives us the drive to learn the best techniques and use them, it makes us willing to take on projects and do the necessary work. Under-confidence can demotivate us, make us underachieve, and prevent us from asking the right questions. It can cause us to settle for mediocre.

What does psychological safety mean? To feel safe in our mind, we need to feel valued and dignified. Safe means not living in fear. Some people are frightening. Some people find others frightening even when they don’t intend to be. We need to identify the nuances between the interaction that matter and ensure genuine respect is shared. Imagining problems is problematic and not accepting genuine ones is also problematic.

What kind of things are genuinely frightening and feel unsafe? The most common issue people have is verbal abuse. Raised voices, accusations, ascribing blame, and singling people out for failure is all a part of this. If a mistake is made or a misunderstanding in the procedure is presented, it’s not a crime and you’re not a sergeant major. Just make amends in a considerate way. You have to take responsibility for the effects of your communication on those around you. Making a mistake in the work process is one little thing, removing someone’s psychological safety can destroy that person’s ability to perform overall.

Employees and team members can be in a better position than their superiors at times. When they see things a certain way that improves an ability to work, it’s worth listening. When someone is unsure of what they need to do, they have to ask. If you present as an unreckonable force then these vital functions can’t take place. The authoritarian approach fails to see people for what they are, individuals who all rely on each other to thrive. We need to be able to take criticism and listen to counter-arguments to our agenda without feeling personally attacked. A friendly but firm approach is the only real way to deal with negative input that holds the team together.

We know that diverse teams are able to unlock greater market segments by bringing in an understanding of customer motives and social practices. Our customers are not a culture or a race, but a type of individual who can be found anywhere. So by including other cultures and races in our procedures we naturally increase our marketing potential. Other cultures have different moral structures and thinking processes. There will be plenty of disagreements if given the space, so it’s important to remember that all colleagues need to feel safe. It is much better to focus on shared beliefs and virtues and form social alliances based on these principles.

When teams feel safe to think for themselves, they are more able to innovate and use inventive methods. The world is changed by innovation, lives are made easier with each step forward. All the technology we use is intended to make life easier for all of us. A process or procedure is a type of technology in itself and if your team can improve the idea based on what they have learned, they need to feel able to suggest it. Time and space must be given to people in our teams to identify problems for themselves and present them in ways that matter to everyone else.

Valuing everyone’s opinion and input makes the team work harder with more inclusive results. By setting an example of respect and appreciation from the top down, the whole workforce can follow in their footsteps. When individuals feel isolated and under-appreciated, they are not given the right environment to thrive, work hard, and learn. They are not in the right environment to use their initiative.

Treating people like people and not units or robots is easier said than done when overloaded with work. Taking the time to talk to people as individuals with their own lives as rich and diverse as your own takes intelligent leadership. Great leaders take responsibility for how they make people feel with what they say and how they act. If a team under-achieves or doesn’t bring issues to the front then your job is to make sure people feel safe and welcome to talk and open up about their issues. We have to be strong enough to be grateful for the feedback even when it rains on our picnic.

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Music writer and humanities educator from Sheffield in England. Democracy of philosophy, comments are welcome. ko-fi.com/rowanblaircolver

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Rowan Blair Colver

Rowan Blair Colver

Music writer and humanities educator from Sheffield in England. Democracy of philosophy, comments are welcome. ko-fi.com/rowanblaircolver

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