Creating Psychological Safety with Randy Conley

“Five areas contribute to creating a psychologically safe environment in the workplace,” says Randy Conley, expert on building and maintaining trust. He joined Chad Gordon on a recent episode of the Blanchard LeaderChat podcast to discuss the importance of creating psychological safety.

Conley defines psychological safety as the beliefs individuals have about how others will respond when they are vulnerable and put themselves on the line. He describes the five most important areas to consider:

  1. Leader Behavior. Leaders are always being watched; they set the example of preferred behaviors. In addition to being available and approachable, leaders must not only explicitly invite input and feedback but also model openness and fallibility.
  2. Group Dynamics. Team members tend to assume certain roles, such as the “father figure” who offers sage advice, the “favorite” who can do no wrong, or even the “black sheep” who tends to stir up trouble. The interplay of these roles creates the group dynamics that will either encourage or inhibit psychological safety within the team.
  3. Practice Fields. This term was coined by Peter Senge and described by him as one of the hallmarks of a learning organization. Just as sports teams, pilots, and even surgeons practice and work on skill improvement prior to the game, flight, or surgery, organizations need to create an environment where it is safe to learn and make mistakes without fear of being penalized.
  4. Trust and Respect. Supportive, trusting relationships promote psychological safety. When team members and leaders are respected, individuals are willing to be vulnerable and take risks. A lack of respect shuts down communication and innovation.
  5. Supportive Organizational Context. It is the responsibility of the organization to give employees access to resources and information to help them perform at their best. Working in a “need to know” environment creates suspicion, tension, and stress. Helping people feel safe creates a healthy, ethical culture where everyone can thrive.

Conley advises us all: “Don’t underestimate the personal influence you can have within your own team and the organization. Psychological safety starts with each one of us.”

To hear more from Conley’s interview, listen to the LeaderChat podcast and subscribe today.

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