16 June 2024

How well are you providing psychological safety for your team?

A reflection exercise for leaders

Timothy R. Clark defined a framework for psychological safety which describes the needs we all have as humans at work as four stages: to feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn and make mistakes, (3) encouraged to contribute and (4) safe to challenge. Each of the four stages builds on the previous one, so as a whole they create a solid foundation for psychological safety.

This requires people to feel respected and that they have permission to engage with their team in each of these four different stages. Giving respect but no permission leads to restriction, and giving permission but no respect leads to exploitation.

Illustration of the 4 stages of psychological safety from Timothy R. Clarke, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, Berrett-Koehler publishers, 2020

As a leader, how can you tell if you’re creating psychological safety in your team?

Here are some reflection questions you as a leader can ask yourself to evaluate how well you’re encouraging psychological safety at work:

Stage 1: Inclusion Safety
  1. Belonging: How active am I in ensuring that every team member feels like they belong, regardless of their background or role?
  2. Acceptance: How quickly are new team members integrated and made to feel part of the group?
  3. Diversity: To what extent do I celebrate and leverage the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of my team?
  4. Visibility: How frequently do I make an effort to include everyone in discussions and decision-making processes?
Stage 2: Learner Safety
  1. Mistake Handling: How do I respond when team members make mistakes? Do I treat these as learning opportunities?
  2. Encouragement: Do I encourage questions and curiosity without showing frustration or impatience?
  3. Training Support: How supportive am I of my team’s continuous learning and development? Do I provide adequate resources and time for learning?
  4. Feedback Environment: Have I created a safe environment for receiving and giving constructive feedback?
Stage 3: Contributor Safety
  1. Idea Valuation: How well do I show that I value and actively seek out contributions and ideas from all team members?
  2. Openness: How comfortable do my team members appear to be about expressing their opinions, even if they differ from my own?
  3. Participation: How effective am I in ensuring that all voices are heard during meetings, not just the loudest ones?
  4. Recognition: How do I recognise and reward contributions and innovative ideas?
Stage 4: Challenger Safety
  1. Encouraging Dissent: Have I created an environment where challenging the status quo is welcomed and not punished?
  2. Handling Disagreement: How do I handle disagreements or conflicts? Are team members afraid to speak up?
  3. Openness to Feedback: How open am I to feedback, even if it is critical of my decisions or leadership style?
  4. Safety Mechanisms: Do I provide mechanisms for anonymous feedback and ensure that it is acted upon constructively?

Reflecting on these questions will help you gain insights into how you behave as a leader and its impact on the culture within your team.

Interested in finding out more how TNM Coaching develops leaders to enable them to create psychologically safe environments where all their team members can thrive? Simply book a discovery call for a no-obligation conversation with one of our expert team.

Written by TNM Coaching


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