Let me start by admitting I am astounded by two things - firstly - how few people know about Psychological Safety and secondly - how many people know about Psychological Safety. When you spend your time speaking to people about it, both realizations carrousel through your brain on an hourly basis.
This is, of course, common for all new ideas and concepts that are just about to enter the day-to-day vernacular of our professional lives and the term in itself is undoubtedly at a tipping point, where not a day passes without some form of mainstream media publishing some articles on it and some other new sign of adoption cropping up be it a book, a seminar or a business school including it in the curriculum.
All you need to do to realize the term “psychological safety” is here to stay and make an impact on how we think of teams as well as the wellbeing of the individual and the future of work, is set-up a couple of Google alerts on the terms and you’ll have a full reading list. In fact, if you’re interested in this, truly I would suggest you do just that.
Granted, since the concept is in its adolescence, the vast majority of the articles will be a repeat of “this is what Prof. Dr. Amy Edmondson wrote” and “this is what Google’s Aristotle found” but the more the theory is coming of age, the more the discourse will shift into actionable details and focused research on “impression management”, “psychological safety influencing factors”, “techniques to diagnose and improve it” and more.
When we designed the software for PeopleNotTech’s Psychological Safety Works we spent a lot of time researching and postulating what goes into it - deconstructing it into the components that create it or hinder it and, more importantly, devising ways to improve it. We knew that all the knowledge we’re amassing from this exploration will be useful in general but also too massive to consign to the resulting software solution only and that there has to be some other way to deliver this to the business as well, perhaps through a series of workshops.
Personally, I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with workshops and change programs for transformation.
While supremely useful and important as nothing replaces the 1-on-1 moment of serendipity when two parties look into each other’s eyes and resonate, for someone as impatient as I am, not affecting change at scale is nothing short of painful and workshops are about quality, not quantity.
This is what has caused me to abandon any number of valuable methodologies I have created over my many years in business as there is no way to mass deliver and I eternally return to “there must be a way to accomplish this same thing through software and in that case have it change things for more people”.
As our team was working on Psychological Safety with a view to moving it from theoretical “oh yeah!” to actionable “oh yeah so then we should do X and Y” we realized that we may need both. At least at first.
On the one hand, the software helps every WPL (“Woke People Leader” - figured we should up our acronym ratio to play in the big league;) diagnose where their team (or department, or even enterprise) is in terms of their current status quo of having Psychological Safety and also helps them monitor progress and learn how to better it, but for these internal Superheroes to make a lasting big change, they may need more support than that, and all we’ve learned and discovered during our research can help them:
Demonstrate the value - there are clear business benefits in hard numbers to be had by having teams that feel psychologically safe. Higher productivity and more innovative output are quantifiable benefits that can and should be translated into cold, hard $ signs. This is not a “nice to have” that warms already fuzzy hearts. This is the correlation between people and deliverables KPIs that powers the likes of Google and Amazon!
Bring everyone on the same page - getting buy-in for people topics is extraordinarily hard. A testament to this are the hundreds of terms all depicting the same thing around making and keeping people happy for better results and the graveyards filled with good intentions and change programs from HR leaders that either gave up and left or, -worse still - gave up and stayed.
Re-create teams - the higher one goes in a complex organization the less Psychological Safety in the management layer which is hardly a surprise if we stop to consider there is hardly a team to speak of. We all can agree that at the very top in enterprises, the meetings of the boards and executive teams are so riddled with impression management they are closer to a dog show or a collection of peacock dances than a sit-down with communication and problem-solving.
So with those goals in mind, we have created three different things:
A Knowledge Injection - a day of download on Psychological Safety and ways to understand and affect it. What to read (hint at a minimum Teaming and the Fearless Organization), what anecdotes to keep repeating to the business, what to consider and measure and what to watch out for productivity and innovation wise- aimed at HR, IT and Operations professionals who already get the value but need to know more and articulate it clearer;
A Hand-Holding Program - a focused co-creation exercise to find ways to show the value of Psychological Safety in the KPIs (or OKRs or even, P&L) of your own respective organization customized to your specific goals and aiding your particular company in delivering it from designing a program to communicating and measuring it;
A “Psychological Safety @ The Top” Workshop - a one day feast for leaders focused on re-building the management team through hands-on exercises to see them truly communicate and relate; find and enhance their empathy; stimulate their intuition; recharge their curiosity about bettering their people’s work lives; developing enough self-awareness to stop impression management; reignite their passion for their purpose; and make them a better leader, a better human and a better part of a team.
There’s a team of wonderful professionals delivering these and we’re growing fast. Between all of us we have been working with changing organizations and bettering work culture for a combined good hundred of years (for instance check out the work of the amazing Ffion Jones) and we are all betting on Psychological Safety -and its many intensely human implications being the answer to returning to what matters work wise - the human so if you are a WPL ;) and agree but need a little more help showing the value to the business and bringing them along on the journey, please reach out, we’ll be moving mountains together.