Leadership Strategy To Creating Workplace Psychological Safety
Leaders that offer an environment in which employees can develop self-awareness at work create organic engagement and high performance. When encouraging employees to take interpersonal risks in the workplace, leaders benefit from the results of aligned workplace culture and authentic leadership.
Clarity and authenticity are traits that often define great leaders. When helping employees feel comfortable to be their authentic selves and engage in open discussions, a collective belief is created that allows employees to feel safe for being vulnerable with their peers and themselves.
Here are a few ways you can go about creating psychological safety in the workplace through leadership strategies and behaviors for long-term success.
Teams need to know that their organization and leaders care and understand how they are feeling, as well as value their perspectives and opinions. To demonstrate understanding, leaders should repeat what employees have shared. This confirms a commitment to understanding their thoughts and feelings and offers an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings when communicating.
Body language is also very important when offering opportunities for open conversations. For example, eye contact and nodding during discussions to acknowledge what you’re hearing, as well as leaning forward confirms interest and engagement. Facial expressions are equally important as any misinterpreted expression may be internalized as a message that their idea was not received well.
To demonstrate engagement, leaders need to ensure they are present during meetings. Removing distractions such as emails or text messages from devices or laptops and focusing all attention directly on the conversations that are occurring can support a positive impact on your team’s psychological safety.
Engagement also refers to active listening and really hearing what employees need to say. Leaders should commit to asking questions to actively engage their team’s differing ideas and opinions. By doing so, you create an environment in which employees feel encouraged and safe to speak up. This strategy is important for workplace cultures that are focused on innovation and new product development, as teams must feel safe to take these interpersonal risks without fear of ridicule or judgment.
Building trust for open communication and discussions requires using collaborative and engaging language with a focus on solutions. By allowing negativity or pessimism, leaders risk the team’s motivational environment and collaborative efforts. Trust begins by ensuring that any negativity from employees is shut down before it becomes contagious.
Leaders should also build opportunities for self-awareness and self-reflection, which also helps build trust within themselves. Once employees recognize and understand how they work and communicate best, they can learn to understand what is important for them to be recognized. Often, organizations administer behavioral assessments to support employees in developing self-awareness, and research indicates that this tool is very effective in creating psychological safety in the workplace.
Leaders who consult their team and ask for input or feedback are on the right track to developing a collaborative culture. These actions help support the organization with its decision-making process, which eventually can lead to better outcomes and overall profitability. To encourage employee collaboration, leaders should explain the decisions that are being made as well as the reasons that led to those decisions. This shows employees that their ideas and thoughts were factored into the decision-making process. Employees can also appreciate the honesty and transparency behind how the decisions were made.
When communicating decisions, leaders should also be sure to highlight specific contributions from their team, celebrating good outcomes and acknowledging creativity and contribution. Being open to feedback also displays confidence in a leader’s responsibility, including the flexible and collaborative approach to decision-making.
Research indicates that employees who feel empowered often also feel comfortable creating solutions independently while offering guidance to other employees and peers to support their growth. Leaders that invite their team to challenge ideas and perspectives open the door to healthy conflicts and stronger accountability. Sharing failures and what has not worked offers leaders the opportunity to engage in discussions with vulnerability, confirming that actions led by the feelings of empowerment lead to development and learning.
Empowering employees to lead by example supports both their personal and professional development. For leaders, sharing their employees’ successes can be rewarding as this increased visibility offers credit to employees authentically, engaging them and helping them continue to feel empowered.
Building psychological safety in the workplace is a strategy that is built through effective leadership behaviors. Empathy, engagement, trust, collaboration and empowerment are foundational to an employee’s holistic experience in an organization. The impact of committing to these strategies and behaviors affects the overall health of an organization’s culture. And both organizational and employee performance improves as a result of creating a strategy for psychological safety in the workplace.