This week I did something I haven’t done for 2 ½ years.
I went on an interstate flight to speak at a conference.
What surprised me was how excited I was by the prospect of getting on a plane, and I must share, I loved every moment!
Turning up at the terminal, clearing security then heading upstairs towards the gates, there was a strong sense of familiarity in the building layout, I noticed a couple of new shops that looked worth exploring and a refurbished café.
With the only restriction being the requirement to wear a mask inside the terminal and on the aircraft, with the reminder to take it off in the event of an emergency before putting on your oxygen mask (good point!), the flight was a doddle and a reminder of the many flights I had taken pre-Covid.
There’s something very comforting about knowing your way, recognising the routine, and the predictability of it all.
Certainty soothes the brain because it likes nothing better than to know what to expect, which is why all the disruption wrought by the pandemic, and the relentless uncertainty has caused us so much grief and discombulation.
As we move into a time of fewer restrictions and greater access to those activities enjoyed prior to 2020, you may have mixed emotions – the joy of reconnecting with family and friends and the anguish of worry for the future and wondering what the world of work will be.
The difference I’ve noted is that in many workplaces, a concerted effort is being made to make work, work better, and create stronger organisational health.
The opportunity to transform work is NOW.
This is about new strategies being put into place to prioritise
- A thriving workplace environment that enables everyone to be their best self and optimised for best performance. Now you can BE WELL and enjoy better health through lifestyle choices that take a holistic approach.
- Making mental wellbeing the norm, to finally eliminate the stigma still attached to mental health. Now you can THINK WELL and have the clarity that comes from being able to focus on what’s important and have the resilience to cope well through the tough times and the good.
- Raising the bar of psychological safety to create high-performing teams that look out for each other, care about each other and speak up to highlight a concern, share an idea and call out the good. Now you can FEEL WELL.
All three priorities are equally important and work synergistically together.
But like any three-legged stool, if one leg is a bit short or at risk of breaking, the other two facets of organisational health are also negatively impacted.
At the conference I had been asked to speak about the role of psychological safety in organisational health and it was clear, I was speaking to the converted.
The big question is how to convince those leaders who don’t see any need for change, that psychological safety is not just a new way to look at business, but vital to any organisation’s future growth and success.
Adopting a human centric approach in addition to the rapid uptake of further digital transformation is what creates work that feels worthwhile doing and effective teams.
Negative comments I have heard from some leaders include
“Namby, pamby, fluffy stuff. I don’t have time for this I’ve got a business to run.”
“It’s just the latest fad, and there’s very little real research that backs it up.”
“If I really thought all this happy clap trap worked, I’d mandate happy faces to be worn at all times.”
You get the drift.
So, what’s the evidence?
The research is clear.
Workplaces that enjoy a greater level of positivity are more productive, more creative, enjoy lower staff turnover and are more successful
But don’t just take my word for it.
In his book “Positively Energising Leadership” Prof Kim Cameron highlights there more than 3 million publications on positive psychology and an additional 3 million publications on positive leadership on Google Scholar.
And at the conference, Professor Paula Brough from Griffith University shared some of her research that clearly showed the importance of psychological safety in getting people fit to return to work following psychosocial injury.
And let’s be clear.
This is not “Happiology” or “Positive Thinking.” Psychological safety provides a realistic approach that includes accountability, robust discussions and permission for moderate risk taking that drives innovation, creativity, and profitability.
And importantly this is not a criticism of leadership, rather it is an opportunity to reimagine and transform work and move away from the outmoded command and control way of leading that buys compliance but not agreement.
The last few years have been tough on everyone, including leaders and business owners.
Now is the opportunity to work on continuing what’s been working well and seeking out new ways to enhance fulfillment and achievement at work.
Can you afford to miss out on an opportunity that provides real competitive advantage?
When teams fail, as they sometimes do, there is usually a combination of reasons why.
The fallout lies squarely at the feet of the leader who failed to notice something was wrong or lacked the understanding of what could be done differently.
Familiarity is comforting, but it can keep people and organisations stuck.
If staying relevant, and at the top of your game matters, including psychological safety is a must not a maybe.
What could be.
Einstein said, “Imagination is a more powerful force than knowledge.” Because knowledge tells us what is. Imagination shows us what could be.
When leading a high performing team, everyone benefits from a greater sense of belonging, of being included, of being acknowledged and recognised for the individual you are and the value you bring.
Leaders need technical expertise, but the leader who also has strong people skills attracts top talent and elevates performance because you are seen as a leader worth working for.
You share common goals, purpose and aspirations, and your vision inspires others.
W. Edwards Deming said, “The role of the leader is to drive out fear.”
We feel fear when we are in unfamiliar territory that feels threatening.
When we are afraid, we don’t think straight, we make poor decisions and more mistakes.
Removing fear starts with 3 things.
- Asking better questions. “How might we?”
- Giving everyone a voice to speak up with fear of ridicule or judgement.
- Showing that you give a damn. When you show you genuinely care and invite others to join you in your quest to create a great place to work, who doesn’t want a part of that?
Psychological safety might be a mouthful to say, but it matters because the future of work is HUMAN.
If too much familiarity and status quo is keeping your team stuck, who will you talk to, to help you raise the bar of psychological safety and close the gap?
My new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.
If you’re looking for someone to speak at your event or assist your business to create a thriving team, let’s set up a time to talk.