Have you ever felt uncomfortable when asked to do something that felt somewhat out of your comfort zone? It’s that tinge of anxiety, having your heart in your mouth or that “Oh, Cripes, why did I say yes?” moment.
Perhaps you’ve been called out for making a mistake?
Yep, me too.
Did you survive?
I take it that if you’re reading this, you did.
But did that discomfort help you to do better than you expected?
Did you respond to your mistake by taking responsibility for it and learning from your error?
Come on, I bet you got LOTS of praise and call outs for doing a great job and chances are you didn’t make that mistake again.
Every day brings risks and opportunity. From crossing the road in heavy rush hour traffic, to talking to your boss about your idea to make meetings more effective, to introducing yourself to that person you see as inspiring, to ask if they will be your mentor.
What makes the difference is acknowledging the discomfort and accepting this to grow personally and professionally AND knowing that you have the full support of your superiors and colleagues.
While not taking that risk and staying snuggled up in your ‘Onesie’ in front of the telly feels safe, it can also hold you back from participating fully in life and being the best version of yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not about relentless hustle. Rather it’s about staying true to your goals and aspirations and taking action towards achieving them in a safe environment.
Think of it more as a balance between healthy growth and sufficient downtime, because even Novak Djokovic takes time out during training to rest and stretch.
The key is safety.
Psychological safety is nothing new, but I still meet many people in the business world who don’t know what this means.
The definition put forward by Dr Amy Edmondson from Harvard in her 1999 paper states it is
“a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”
Just like working out at the gym can result in tired or sore muscles, if your workout is supervised by a trained instructor, you’re less likely to injure yourself and you might achieve greater and faster results under their supervision and encouragement.
Psychological safety doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to say or do anything you want, but it does mean you can have a robust discussion on a topic where there may be several opposing points of view, without fear of retribution, or falling out with your colleagues.
Being shouted at is not psychological safety. Nor is being criticised in front of your peers.
It’s a question of trust. The line “anything you do say, may be taken down and used against you” is commonly said in TV police dramas but can also play out in psychologically unsafe environments where trust has gone AWOL.
The paradox here for example being that for health professionals sworn to the Hippocratic Oath “first, do no harm” can end up feeling unsupported and isolated if they‘ve called out a misdemeanour or error on the part of a superior. It’s a potentially career-ending move.
In contrast, the leader who sees the potential in their employees and provides the psychological safety required in the workplace for appropriate risk-taking will be rewarded by greater business growth, a higher level of productivity and performance and a boost to the bottom line.
Not only that, that workplace will become a magnet to those seeking to grow and develop in their chosen career as word spreads about the positive vibe, the passion and the energy brought by everyone who works there.
It means that on those days where things are just not going your way, you don’t have to get frazzled because you know it’s safe to take a punt and try an alternative solution, to get the desired outcome.
This is about making work, work better with a people-centric focus and emphasis on a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
Which is why in Thriving Mind Summer School, we’ll be looking at how you can elevate psychological safety in your place of work, based on what the science has shown to be effective.
You can register here for the four-week course starting Jan 3rd.
Do you enjoy psychological safety in your workplace?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.