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Developing your team’s Psychological Safety Card

Reading time: 3 minutes

“Welcome aboard Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please could we have attention for your safety briefing…”

All over the world, anyone who has ever been on an airplane has a common understanding on how we play our role in protecting each other and ourselves in case of an air-emergency. Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a guideline of how to promote psychological safety in the workplace?

What would it be worth… if every team member in your organisation had a safety checklist for this? A set of guardrails to ensure that every passenger has a brief on how to maintain their own and their fellow traveller’s safety on the mission?

If this was the case, what would the ground rules be?

Here is what a psychological safety card might look like:

What is it?

At work psychological safety is essentially the sense of safety in that environment to take risks and be vulnerable in front of teammates.

Why is it important?

Being psychology safe could be the reason everyone chooses to give their best and go above and beyond the call of duty.

A low level could also be the reason people choose not to engage fully or choose to leave the team.

How does it work?

Get all in:

  • It requires a team commitment. No one gets to sit the warm-up out if this is going to work.
  • Align on what it is- formally and informally over coffee. Reflect on the benefits. Reflect on the dangers of low safety.

Fully understand:

  • Help everyone understand this isn’t a scared kind of safety- this is a brave kind of safety. Like the crossing-guard making sure that our precious kids get safely across the road to school and out of harm’s way.
  • This isn’t about treading on toes. This isn’t about hugs and singing ‘Kumbaya, My Lord’ together.
  • This is not about avoiding. This is about leaning in.
  • Is not about fearing tough conversations, its enabling tough conversations to happen frequently and consistently with constructive outcomes because we have created a safe environment to explore, risk and innovate.

What you can do

  1. Soak it in: Get the spirit of it. Try to understand it in your world.
  2. Check your attitude: Work on your attitude to being vulnerable. For me, that means to be okay to accept intense or disruptive emotions and process them without trying to suppress or avoid them. Also explore your attitude to mistakes and failure as a necessary ingredient for innovation.
  3. Reach out: Reach out to your teammates and help be a champion for the cause. Communicate how much you value safety and acknowledge vulnerability.
  4. Develop some skills: Have a few key skills you want to work on to play your part. Working on how you listen; how you give and take feedback; how you support others to have their say; how you respond to individual or team mistakes or failures could be some key skills to try.
  5. Drop some habits: Start to call out your own habits that block courageous safety from occurring. Avoiding conflict; cutting off tough conversations; using technology as a barrier for dealing with tough stuff; not calling out the big and little things that undermine safety etc.
  6. Praise and Acknowledge: What gets praised and acknowledged will likely get repeated and become part of your team rhythm and ritual. This works both ways…bad behaviours ignored or tolerated will persist. Good behaviours that increase the sense of safety getting acknowledged and praised will become team-triumphs to be celebrated and will likely embed as part of the culture.