Great Leaders Create Psychological Safety during challenging times. Great leaders create the right conditions for their people to feel safe and do their best work. They do that by listening to their teams, allowing opinions to be expressed and crucially give permission to make mistakes and create opportunities to learn from that experience.
It is important that we remind ourselves that leadership is all about impacting the people around us and it is our responsibility to be of service and empower them to grow. This allows teams to thrive and companies to flourish.
During my career as a people manager and a leadership coach, I learned that good leaders are extremely comfortable being authentic. They are also comfortable being vulnerable. They are not afraid of showing that they too are human and they can make mistakes, just like anyone else. Most importantly, they do not have all the answers.
This creates an environment where people feel safe and connected to one another.
On the flip side, what we can often see is managers putting pressure on their people, displaying signs of micromanagement. They blame others because they feel insecure, under pressure themselves and they only do what makes sense to them in that moment. It is really important that leaders feel safe themselves so they do not exercise poor judgement, show anger and project their own fears towards others.
So how do we create the right environment where people feel safe and valued, which leads to high performance?
One of my clients asked me how he can share his mistakes or insecurities with his team and not damage his reputation. He believed like many others that this would lead to him being judged for his shortfalls and make him feel incompetent.
My answer might surprise you.
I said: “Your reputation is really based on your willingness to be transparent with your team. How much you show them about the real you and how much you share your successes. Your reputation is also based on you sharing any key learning points, as well as your mistakes. If your people see a willingness to be vulnerable in their leader, then you open the door for meaningful human connection and a deeper level of engagement with your team.
If you do this more, what do you think will happen with your people?”
After some reflection and seeing the impact of this he said: “Well, they will get to see the real me, feel more comfortable, be more trusting and feel safe. And, I would feel more comfortable and confident in myself too”.
It is a very human trait to fear judgement (we all experience this on a daily basis), however the more we are willing to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves and others, it becomes obvious that it holds the key to deepening our connection with others and creating a safe place in the workplace.
Great leaders create psychological safety
Google did a study for over two years called Project Aristotle, which included 180 teams to find out the characteristics of effective performance, which allow people to collaborate and be productive. The study concluded to everyone’s surprise that psychological safety was one of the top five characteristics of high performance and successful teams.
What I have experienced time and time again, is that psychological safety cannot be learned in a classroom, it is something you have to experience yourself. When we feel safe, we then naturally share this with others, we become present and clear minded, which affects our decisions and the relationships with the people around us. All humans ever really want, is to feel listened to, valued and know that someone has their back.
What is also really interesting is that just by being aware of our own thoughts and emotions, when we are feeling insecure, changes everything. Once we are aware of what is going on internally we are less likely to create a wall between ”us” and ”them” as well as transferring those feelings onto others in our communication.
Given that we are heading into uncertain times right now, practising social distancing and working from home, it is even more important to create trust, lead with integrity and show your people you are willing to head together into the unknown.