Safety has been top of mind for the past two years since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. Leaders have had to tackle shifting expectations to keep their employees’ wellbeing a priority. But during times of ever changing uncertainty, we’ve come to deeply explore a new type of safety within the workplace: psychological safety.
Psychological safety is the intentional balance of fear with trust, employee voice, and empowerment. Organisational research has identified psychological safety as an important factor in understanding how people collaborate to achieve a shared outcome.
Psychologically safe environments promote a clear sense of trust within an organisation, which leads to employees feeling empowered to communicate openly, voice concerns and make critical decisions.
In this three-part series on psychological safety, we are presenting 31 actionable tips and tricks to create psychological safety in your organization. If you missed our first article on how leaders can build trust, click here.
Our next 10 pieces of advice are specific to managers and how they can leverage their unique position within the organization to build trust with their own teams and direct reports.
Here are our 10 tips on how managers can build trust:
- Be you. It doesn’t matter if you have perfected all the skills to lead. This is not a time to be a friend but be a trusted colleague who is open and honest. Go out of your way to be clear with what you say and what you mean. And practice kindness – everyone around feels it, even when it is not directed to them.
- Daily ‘Office Visits’. Conduct a daily wellness check with each team member. Simply make the effort to physically (within safe social distancing guidelines) reach out and check in on your colleagues. How is their day going? How is their family? How is their transition back to work going? The art is not in the question, it is in the act. Genuinely try to understand where they are in the moment knowing that each day may bring something new.
- Recognition, not reward. Organizations may not be able to be as generous with material bonuses and reward programs. But, that should not stop recognition programs, which are critical components of safe and high-culture work environments. Employees of all generations are gravitating toward the recognition systems that celebrate them on a local and broader basis for their work or adherence to the culture, values or behavioral competencies.
- Release the pressure valves. The pressure is real for you and them. What can you do to release the pressure? Consider where the pressure points are and ways to gradually release it. Does the pressure come from not enough people, unrealistic timelines, fear of illness in the workplace, anxiety of a new routine? Actively identify what those places may be (they could be different for different people) and what mechanisms (existing or new) you can implement to begin that slow release. These can be serious, structured or simply fun.
- Commit to “Wonder Wander” Sessions. The world of essential workers is now shifting to all workers being essential. Give people time and space to dream and imagine through wonder-wander sessions. These sessions are part wonder (simply asking questions) and part wander (freestyle mental exploration – similar to brainstorming and taking concepts farther). This allows the brain space and gives the person freedom from their normal task.
- Never Why? Building trust starts with genuine connection. One of the ways to connect is to approach people with a question. Ask genuine questions that don’t allow a one-word answer (i.e. Fine. Okay. Good.) Practice leading with a question in all your encounters with others. But, never start the question with “Why?…” as it creates barriers. You can get more information and create more connections by simply asking: “I am interested in learning more about…” or “Can you help to explain?” It eliminates the barriers and feeling of being put on the spot.
- Color. Color. Color. Color is critical in chaos. When things around us are in constant motion and swirling, color allows us an opportunity to ground and reorient. Try to color code your meetings – eliminate the ambiguity around what kind of meeting it is by assigning a color. Use “Stop Light” systems as your dashboards to simplify reporting and focus energy and time. Try color coding conversations with coworkers and your staff – it eliminates unnecessary time for everyone to get into the “same place” for the conversation. You can visit our the Bermuda Clarity Institute and get your own copy of Huemanize MindMapsTM to help you use color in future meetings.
- Expectation over environment. We have debunked the concept that we are products of our environment – as many people have been productive while working remotely. What we know from research is setting clear expectations is fundamental to driving performance and results. Don’t make this an annual or bi-annual exercise. Think about this as a weekly or monthly exercise as people transition into the office. It sets expectations, reduces anxiety of the unknown, and gives a leader an additional natural check-in point.
- Positivity is the glue that binds. Chaos. Transition. Challenge. These are the realities of our times. But, not necessarily the reality of our outcomes. Positivity becomes the central force in connecting you to other people and to your desired future state. It is easy to “default to negative” but that will not yield the results that your work requires. Positivity is a science that includes inspiration, mindfulness, gratitude, happiness and optimism.
- Different is Stronger. Empathize. Understand. Connect. Recognize that each person you work with and each person you interact with requires something unique. What works for one person, does not necessarily work for someone else. Go out of your way to vary your connection points and approaches with each of your colleagues and direct reports. Practicing active listening enables you to truly hear what is being said – remember, when you are talking you are not learning.
For the time being, uncertainty is our “new normal” so leaders, managers and employees should lean into making these genuine human connections and practicing empathy, positivity and creativity to build a trusting working environment. Also, as a manager, give yourself grace. Start with just one of the above tips and see where it leads you! We’ll have the final 11 tips in this series on psychological safety in 2 week’s time.
If you would like to learn more about the organizational research we do at the Bermuda Clarity Institute, visit https://bermudaclarityinstitute.com today.