Think about a time when you felt most comfortable sharing an idea at work. Was it during a brainstorming session? Or perhaps in a one-on-one with your manager? Now imagine if that feeling of safety, that freedom to take intellectual risks without fear of judgement or ridicule, was the norm and not the exception. Welcome to the world of ‘psychological safety.’

Coined by Amy Edmondson, an American scholar of organizational learning, psychological safety is the shared belief that a team is a safe place for interpersonal risk-taking. It’s the fertile ground from which sprouts adaptive, innovative team performance.

When we can ask for help, share suggestions, or challenge the status quo without fearing negative consequences, we unlock the true potential of our teams. Google’s Project Aristotle, a 2012 initiative to study what makes some teams more successful than others, found that psychological safety was the number one predictor of team performance.

So how do we, as leaders, cultivate this psychological safety within our organizations? Let’s explore some practical tools:

Inclusive Decision-Making: Encourage diverse viewpoints and ensure every voice is heard. Implement an ‘Idea Box’ for suggestions and host periodic roundtable discussions where everyone gets equal time to share their thoughts.

Embrace Vulnerability: Promote openness and vulnerability. Organize monthly ‘Fail Forward’ sessions where everyone, including leaders, discusses a mistake they made and what they learned from it. Create a space for leaders to share personal stories or challenges they’ve faced in their careers.

Feedback Mechanisms: Set aside weekly ‘Open Office Hours’ when team members can approach leaders with concerns, feedback, or suggestions. Use tools to gather anonymous feedback about team dynamics and leadership.

Flatten Hierarchies: Make organizational structures more horizontal to encourage open dialogue. Rotate team members across different projects or departments and organize ‘Skip-Level’ meetings where employees can directly communicate with higher-level leaders.

With these tools in hand, it’s time to embark on a continuous cycle of self-awareness, concern for team members, active solicitation of questions, providing multiple ways for employees to share their thoughts, showing value and appreciation for ideas, promoting positive dialogue and discussion, and being precise with information, expectations, and commitments.

Remember, building psychological safety isn’t a one-time project—it’s a journey. It involves constant iteration, improvement, and most importantly, a commitment to making your organization a fortress of trust.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace isn’t as simple as declaring, “Let there be trust!” It takes conscious effort, strategic planning, and a toolbox full of the right tools.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into this toolbox:

Tool #1: Self-Awareness: This is the cornerstone of psychological safety. Recognizing your thinking patterns, biases, and emotional responses can help create an environment conducive to open dialogue. Try using tools like 360° reviews or assessments like the Emergenetics Profile to crank up the self-awareness dial.

Tool #2: Appreciation: Create a culture where all ideas are valued and appreciated. Remember, you don’t have to implement every idea, but acknowledging and thanking people for their input can significantly boost psychological safety.

Tool #3: Positive Language: Encourage the use of positive language. Simple word changes like “have not yet” instead of “can’t” or “opportunity” instead of “challenge” can foster a positive mindset and inspire open conversations.

Tool #4: Explanation: Whenever there’s a change, explain the reasons behind it. Understanding the ‘why’ can help employees navigate the change more comfortably and confidently.

Tool #5: Genuine Concern: Show your team you care about them as people, not just work machines. Ask about their weekend plans, their favorite band, or their pet’s antics. A little concern goes a long way in making employees feel comfortable enough to speak up.

Tool #6: Active Solicitation: Make it a habit to pause during meetings and ask for questions, different viewpoints, and ideas. This encourages everyone to contribute, especially those who need a little more time to formulate their thoughts.

Tool #7: Precision: Be precise with information, expectations, and commitments. Transparency and reliability build trust, which is essential for psychological safety.

Tool #8: Multiple Communication Channels: Not everyone is comfortable voicing their thoughts in a meeting. Provide alternative channels like email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams for employees to share their thoughts.

Ready to embark on this journey? Visit our website by CLICKING HERE and book a strategy call. Discover how David Couper Consulting can help you build a psychologically safe organization, where innovation thrives and employees flourish.

Do you have a great example of psychological safety in the workplace? We’d love to hear about it! Share your stories via email at Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And remember, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.