Recently I had a conversation with a high-level leader about psychological safety. She told me, “This sounds like HR fluff and honestly, it would never fly here.”
I appreciated this person’s honesty, but at the same time she epitomized exactly why psychological safety is critically important in the places most resistant to it. Had I been an employee of that high-level leader and brought an idea to her, I would have felt shut down and dismissed by her reaction. Whether my idea was good or not, it would make me hesitate to come forward with new ideas in the future. This is not the environment for innovation or productivity.
Instead of shutting me down, a leader who creates psychological safety would have said things like:
Help me understand why you believe this would make me a better leader?
How does this translate to measurable results?
I don’t understand what psychological safety is. Could you explain it?
Leaders don’t have to agree what is being said or implement the ideas being shared, but if leaders listen without dismissing, some beautiful things happen. One, employees feel accepted. Two, employees return with more ideas, perhaps one or two that can lead to real benefits for the business.
This is one of the most important manifestations of psychological safety: leaders who can be curious about new information. Even if you don’t like the idea, or you don’t see how it might be implemented, or you think it’s a waste of time, seek to understand it. This will keep your employees feeling they can come to you with new ideas and new information to drive your team forward.
Need some help to become a curious leader? I can help. Just reach out.