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Intentionally Building Psychological Safety in Your Team: A ‘Twork’ for Leaders

This weekly twork* is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.

benefits of psychological safety and offers actionable steps for leaders to build a trusting and collaborative work environment.
Photo by Bonbon Lang-es

As managers and leaders, one of our key, pivotal roles is to cultivate an environment where our team members feel valued, heard, and safe to express their ideas and concerns. Why? Because time and time again we are told your most valuable asset is your people. And yet organisations, systems and processes often override the input of the human brainpower within an organisation.

Creating an inclusive, safe environment is the bedrock of psychological safety—a term that might sound convoluted but is fundamentally about ensuring your team feels secure enough to speak up, collaborate and share ideas without fear.

Hybrid and remote working adds more complexity to creating psychological safety. Why? Because for years and years, we have designed our work around the four walls of the office.

Culture and ways of working have organically grown and developed through the years and until we intentionally design psychological safety into hybrid and remote working, we will be missing out on creating an environment where our teams can perform at their best 😔.

Why Psychological Safety Matters

At its core, psychological safety enables your team to own up to mistakes, share innovative ideas, and express dissenting opinions without the dread of retribution. It's the secret sauce to fostering a culture of open communication, continuous improvement and experimentation.

When psychological safety is present, teams make better decisions, innovate more, and display higher levels of creativity. It's not just about creating a 'happy-clappy' atmosphere; it's about encouraging constructive challenges that lead to better business outcomes.

The absence of psychological safety, on the other hand, is glaringly obvious. It's seen in the silence that follows when opinions are sought, in the hesitation to admit errors, and in the reluctance to propose new ideas. This not only stifles growth but can exacerbate problems, creating a vicious cycle of fear, underperformance and an imbalance in the share of voice in the room. After all, as a leader, your voice, whether you like it or not is seen to hold more weight than others.

This weeks ‘Twork’ for Better Work is all about looking at what you are missing in your team or company right now! With hybrid and remote work, there are some things you can't replace, but some things you can and intentionally designing for these can help give people in your team and organisation a better work-life balance.

How to Build Psychological Safety as a Leader

Before you dive right into experimentation and building Psychological Safety within your team, consider asking yourself and your team some key questions to help identify areas to start:

  • How are we currently making decisions?  (Who gets to input? When they input is it properly considered?)

  • How are we networking within the team? (How are we promoting and supporting networking within the business?)

  • How are we learning? (What happens when someone owns up to a mistake?)

  • How are we communicating? (Are we having the conversations that need to be had, above and beyond the day to day order of business? Are we transparent? What organisational politics are at play?)

Once you’ve identified some key issues here is how you can start turning the tide:

  • Listen Actively: Embrace alternative perspectives and genuinely consider them. This doesn't mean agreeing with every suggestion but acknowledging the value in different viewpoints.

  • Implement Employee Engagement Surveys: Identify issues within your teams and organisation with engagement surveys. The key here is not just collecting information but responding to it. In many cases, it can be helpful to bring in an unbiased, outside expertise to help uncover unbiased insights (check out our engagement survey options here).

Once you’ve gathered the info, share the results, outline the actions you plan to take, and then follow through. Observing increased participation and openness over time can be a good indicator of growing psychological safety.

  • Encourage Open Conversations: Simply having regular, open discussions where team members can voice concerns and ideas can be incredible effective. It helps intentionally boosting remote work connections and creating water cooler moments within your team.! Moreover, consider your response when someone in challenging you as a leader? How do you respond? Do you shut it down? Are you grateful? Do you show appreciation? Do you subconsciously put a mark against someone's name?

  • Use retrospectives as a tool for group discussion and feedback. No blame, just outcome focused learning

  • Be Transparent with Communication: Keep your team in the loop about decisions and the reasons behind them. This transparency builds trust and reinforces the value of their input, encouraging more open communication. Don’t just assume they know what is going on, just because you do!

Your Role as a Leader

Psychological safety for Hybrid and Remote Teams is not a one-off checklist item but a continuous journey. Start small with one-on-one conversations or team meetings focused on sharing and listening. The goal is to gradually expand these practices until they become part of your team's DNA.

Your reaction to feedback is crucial. When faced with criticism, take a moment to process before responding. Show appreciation for the courage it takes to speak up. A simple 'thank you' can go a long way towards building a culture of trust and openness. Pay attention to your non-verbal cues as well; your body language and tone can speak volumes.

This week, take a moment to reflect on your team's dynamics. How do you currently gather feedback? How do you respond to it? Your challenge is to identify one area where you can improve psychological safety within your team. It might be introducing a new listening mechanism or simply being more mindful of how you react to feedback.

Remember, the key is to experiment and adapt. Ensure there is a regular open mechanism to feedback. What’s working, what’s not, what are we learning, what needs changing and if you need help, reach out or consider purchasing our Hybrid but Better Workbook to help design change in your team that works. 

Learn more about Hybrid but Better workbook here

At A Better Work we work with our clients to make work better and more fulfilling. It's not about happiness, it's about feeling a sense of accomplishment, and building teams that work brilliantly together in good times and bad.

The best bit is all of this is good for your business - for your bottom line, for retention and for customer satisfaction. If you think we can help, reach out for a chat.

Let’s make work better together.

Michelle Wallace


A Better Work


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