The process of creating psychological safety within an organization is designed to meet the global demands and needs of today and the future, especially as multiculturalism becomes a dominant feature in the workplace. The process is designed to meet the needs of stakeholders and to create an internal community and culture that recognizes the dignity and honor that is due to each individual. The epistemological notion underscores that when individuals feel psychologically safe in groups, teams, and in their organization – higher commitment and better performance are the result. The primary premise is to build many concepts into the training program to expand the tool set and skill set of individuals while putting them in environments where a new mind set can be cultivated.
The systemic assessment of developing and creating psychological safety represents a construct model that requires the intervener to have a sense of appreciation, love, honor, dignity, and respect for life and others in order to create the space whereby psychological safety can flourish. By coupling the internal state of the intervener with the processes and sources of psychological safety it is the organizational context where this takes place as the social system begins to function effectively as a social system. Therefore, a distinction must be made within the dynamics of systems, because an organization is in fact a social system yet it can function as a mechanical system using Newtonian methodologies by treating people (employees) as parts. The Newtonian mindset utilizes people to fuel economic empire building by discarding employees without fully considering what that means to the employee as an individual, their family, and the community they belong to. Thus, a more holistic approach should be utilized that focuses upon how effective are the functional interrelationships between all employees, leaders and stakeholders.
One aspect of creating psychological safety is that no one is penalized if they admit a mistake or ask for help. In the competitive marketplace where one-upmanship is usually the social norm – people are less willing to take risks that transcend these bounds. However, by fostering an organizational culture of respect, unity, and mutual responsibility – the perceived risk in creating social bonds that are actually healthy and edifying is lowered thus allowing an individual greater likelihood to fully commit and contribute to their organization with the help of proper support systems.
The need for leadership will be evident in the creation of psychological safety as a change initiative. The type of leadership needed in the 21st century will be an emergent type, similar in nature to the contingency approach and situational leadership articulated by Hersey and Blanchard while being aligned with the new sciences and Otto Scharmer’s idea of learning and leading from the future as it emerges. Emergent leadership will draw upon the rich knowledge base and form an integral unity of mindfulness; appreciative inquiry; emotional intelligence; various coaching methodologies; servant, spiritual and transformational leadership principles; systems thinking; and strategic intervention. The development of the field of leadership will in essence require leaders to develop followers into self-led leaders and inspire followers to tell truth to power and to hold others accountable.
Creating self-led leaders is about personal mastery whereby individuals become responsible and mindful about their thoughts, emotions, words, and actions and thus seek to create integrity within their lives. This integrity is formed by aligning their espoused theories with their theories-in-use, as developed by Chris Argyris. Closing the integrity gap in mind, heart and will is about being response-able individuals. This awareness when coupled with a commitment to creating the process for psychological safety to flourish is necessary, because intention represents a core driver for change, according to Boyatzis’ model of ICT. Therefore, when an individual or group is intentionally focused on creating the space for trust, openness, honesty, and respect-the collective dynamics of the interconnections ripple out generating emotional contagion to take root as people sense, appreciate, and reflect upon the emerging social field.
This essentially means that reality from a sociological perspective is socially constructed when people dialogue together, because meanings of the immediate reality are formed, shaped and constructed by what people focus upon. The future organizational environment calls for open and honest collaboration and dialogue among all stakeholders, and in order to create positive and healthy communication, stakeholders must hold the space of appreciation, respect and dignity-which ultimately leads to psychological safety in a turbulent world. Although there is constant change and complexity taking place in the world, there should be a “relationship constant” in the workplace whereby people can come together in unity to solve problems, address the rate of change in their marketplace, resolve conflict quickly, develop strategies for a desired and shared future, and build community.
Therefore, creating psychological safety within an organization is tailored to individual and group needs built around the premise of deepening the social awareness of others and their needs, and how to work with an empathetic and generative heart to address the needs of stakeholders. Below are some basic steps for creating psychological safety.
1. Be humble, empathetic, humane, and authentic
2. Acknowledge the value of other people’s contributions
3. Acknowledge the dignity of each person as an individual
4. Be accessible and committed to forming a community
5. Have the ability to be open, honest, and take risks-both psychologically and socially
6. Work within the framework and skill of inclusion, collaboration and dialogue
7. Radiate love, appreciation, respect, caring, and curiosity to others, as well as yourself
8. Confront unjust actions-speak truth to power
9. Acknowledge the risks in making the first steps to build community and appreciate another, and be courageous enough to take the risk
10. Create dyadic groups and small groups to build coaching communities
11. Do not show arrogance, deceive, breach commitments, shift blame, or avoid helping others
12. Seek first to understand, then to be understood – Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits.
13. Encourage everyone’s contribution
14. Listen deeply together for patterns and insights
15. Acknowledge the interconnections and interdependency
16. Learn the process of suspending, redirecting, and letting go/letting come – Otto Scharmer’s Theory U
The process of creating psychological safety is not simply the implementation of a laundry list, but it results from an open mind, heart, and will that appreciates and respects life in general, and humanity in particular. The above steps are presented as basic requirements that create and hold hospitable space for people to access deeper more authentic levels of themselves as they work together in relationship-in all social contexts. Creating coaching communities and organizations with a culture that is psychologically safe takes time and risk taking. However, the dyadic group and larger group formation is designed to speed up the process as people dialogue together. This dialogue consists of what honesty, trust, honor, dignity, respect, appreciation, caring, and love mean in the workplace and how these qualities can be amplified in the organizational culture to deepen commitment, gain greater competitive advantage, and work together in unity as change and uncertainty abound.