Psychological safety is the foundation, basis, and secret ingredient for creating thriving, innovative, learning-oriented, and above all resilient organizations.

In the age of the knowledge economy, it remains crucial to create environments in which our employees and teams can unleash their full potential to foster the necessary creativity and build vibrant and adaptive communities. We’ve been hearing that psychological safety is at the forefront of creating a powerful, effective team ever since the publication of Google’s Project Aristotle.

What is psychological safety?

Research shows that psychological safety is a key factor in capturing social phenomena such as speech, teamwork, team learning and organizational learning. This means that a team member knows they are safe to speak up and put forward ideas without fear of being ridiculed, blamed or rejected by other members of their team or organization. All mature, successful teams must be able to have healthy discussions. To dare to argue, you need a healthy dose of psychological safety. A group dynamic requires trust and mutual respect. When you feel safe, you can be yourself!

Being yourself at work … is this possible?

We tend to want to put forward the best version of ourselves, a person with all the answers, good results, a flawless roadmap… but what’s the point of hiding yourself and camouflaging your little quirks? It takes far too much energy to hide our true selves and constantly be trying to make a good impression. We have everything to gain by being ourselves, daring to say what we think and challenging the status quo! By being polite and respectful, we can all get along. No matter what, we have to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and raise our concerns without fear of repercussion for daring to speak our minds. Nowadays, organizations must encourage each and every one of us to dare to challenge ourselves and speak out. However, this initiative must be catalytic, meaning that the ideas raised must allow the debate to move forward without indulging in immoderately rethinking the organization. That’s not the point.

 

Good practices to improve virtual communications

Especially during the pandemic, we want to make sure that our employees and teams feel safe and free to express themselves. The rise of remote working is certainly not conducive to in-person meetings and makes it a little more challenging for us to decipher our colleague’s non-verbal behaviour with their camera off because of a “bad hair day”. There is, however, a variety of small tools and tips to improve our virtual communications even during a pandemic.

 

  • Leave your camera on! Who cares about your dark circles, it’s nice to see your smiling face;)
  • Raise your hand to speak using the various emoticons that replace a real raised hand. However, you can still raise your hand if you wish to add a point to the conversation or ask a burning question.
  • Use the comments box to add information or ask a question.
  • Polls are also useful, both through Mural and Zoom. Why not send small anonymous polls to put together some good feedback?
  • For larger groups, it may be a good idea to create these so-called “breakout rooms” and divide them into smaller groups to encourage more meaningful discussion and help build trusting relationships.

Another very relevant point gleaned from the article published in the Harvard Business Review is to make a few simple gestures before and after a virtual meeting to foster a safe space and create trusting relationships. For example, you might get into an informal conversation with a member who had been rather quiet during a meeting.

 

The importance of being a close-knit, supported team

A sense of belonging is also a key element to consider in creating safe spaces and amplifying feeling psychologically safe. Team members need to feel included and feel that they are an integral part of the team; otherwise, they won’t feel safe at all. This is how everyone can muster up the courage to say that they don’t have the answer to every question, nor the solution to every problem.

In these strange and tumultuous times, with our talent weakened by the former lockdown, fearful of a second wave, and with fatigue, stress and anxiety, it is crucial to foster spaces where everyone can express themselves freely and without fear of repercussion. Executives and managers must ensure that their employees feel secure if they want to see their organizations thrive.

Surprisingly, many teams have become more productive and focused since the pandemic began and some even report feeling closer to their colleagues, despite the distance. In the face of a somewhat invisible opponent, we stick together! What can our managers and executives do? They can show their emotional support, open up to others and engage in sincere and meaningful conversations. If you’re not naturally inclined toward a servant leadership philosophy, get into practice mode! Be radically present and curious about others. Transparency is a must. Emotions are contagious and senior management generally has more influence and impact on the members of their organizations! So be aware of your state of mind and try to be of service to your employees, your colleagues and the members of your community. By collaborating and building with them, we’ll stay on track to face new challenges.

 

A strong, shared sense of purpose, a key concept for resilient organizations.

It is high time for today’s leaders, especially in times of crisis, to co-create a strong, shared vision to rethink how tomorrow’s organization will thrive in a somewhat uncertain future. We mustn’t manage using goals, targets and objectives that only keep our employees in states of stress, overstimulating their sympathetic nervous systems. Goals and objectives don’t engage individuals and teams; rather, they insistently focus on accomplishing the task, but they certainly don’t allow us to dream outside the box or stimulate learning. Together, a strong, shared purpose, a dream, a self ideal, generate hope and an engaging direction. It is the ultimate weapon of any leader. This strong sense of purpose will lift hearts—not just minds—and create meaning at work. Nevertheless, this strong sense of purpose needs to be revisited, as indicated by Amy Edmondson in this article by McKinsey. Let this sense of purpose not be frozen in time. Everyone must feel that the purpose makes sense in their daily lives, within their reality, so that they feel that they can contribute to the advancement of this idealized future. And why not co-create this vision with the entire organization?

For advice and coaching support, please consider using our services and browse our human resources and management programs as well as the introduction to facilitation course or the Agile HR- Agile People course!

Read other similar articles:

Sense of psychological safety in times of crisis

Nothing is permanent except change

Finding peace (AGAIN) in the heart of the storm

The appreciative retrospective

 

To delve deeper:

Psychological Safety: The History, Renaissance, and Future of an Interpersonal Construct:

https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-031413-091305

 

Creating Psychological Safety with Amy Edmonston https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUo1QwVcCv0

The role of the positive emotional attractor in vision and shared vision: toward effective leadership, relationships, and engagement:

Richard E. Boyatzis, Kylie Rochfordand Scott N. Taylor

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439543/

 

 

 

 

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Zélia Lefebvre

Passionnée par l’être humain sous tous ses angles et détentrice d’une maîtrise en gestion du développement organisationnel des HEC, Zélia est passée par l’enseignement à titre de chargée de cours à l’UQAM et œuvre désormais auprès de diverses organisations comme coach agile et conseillère en développement organisationnel.

Elle propose un style de coaching et de consultation basé sur de solides bases académiques et pratiques, ainsi que sur une approche de psychologie positive. Elle est certifiée pour l’utilisation des outils MPO (tests de personnalité, styles de communication et talents) afin d’aider les ressources humaines à mieux recruter les candidats et accompagner les individus et les équipes à collaborer et gérer les conflits efficacement.

Reconnue pour sa curiosité sans limite, son sens stratégique et sa créativité, elle met toute sa bienveillance et son enthousiasme au service des clients pour qu’ils osent s'engager dans une évolution viable et durable.

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