The simple conversation, or not!
Since touching the surface of psychological safety with Georgie Cooke on the last episode of ‘I love it here’ podcast I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and how delicate the balance of getting it right and wrong are.
This was compounded by a personal experience whilst discussing house plants with my wife, a seemingly innocuous subject but understanding, engaging with, and preempting the thoughts of others are highly valuable.
My wife had recently taken the time to create an amazing self-contained bottle of plants, which quite rightly she was incredibly proud of. When she asked me what I thought about the ‘ecosystem’ she had created, I laughed and questioned the word ‘ecosystem’. She quite rightly was offended and challenged that this was in fact called an ‘ecosystem’.
In this moment I had unknowingly impacted the psychological safety we had between us. I thought the word ‘ecosystem’ was reserved for a large-scale environment such as the Amazon Rainforest, and she knew exactly what it was called. It took me a couple of minutes to realise she was offended and then apologised and explained why I had laughed. As a result of a quick apology and admission of my thoughts, no lasting effect was suffered. We have also been married for many years and ‘know’ each other, for all our flaws.
The best workplace
What did get us at Mindboost thinking was how this would have affected a work dynamic if I was a new leader with a new team and essentially destroyed a safe place for a person to talk, over a flippant response or a subject that someone is passionate about, that I may have missed.
People do need to be themselves and authentic, but mindful of how their verbal, physical and digital body language affects everyone and every situation. What is ‘banter’ or a ‘giggle’ to one person may be undermining someone else and kill any further ideation.
How often do we challenge our own responses to encourage the best versions of everyone in our team to express themselves and feel safe to challenge things on a regular basis? It is so important to create environments and relationships to enable thoughts and ideas to be explored, so we can support our people, culture and businesses to adapt continuously.
As leaders, we need to be mindful of how we can influence the making or breaking of the psychological safety of everyone and creating a great workplace to be!