How do I create a psychologically safe space for my team?
In this Is This Mic On? We tackled the question, “How do I create a psychologically safe space for my team?” Read on to hear what SNP had to say about decision-making, accountability, and leading by example.
Dear SNP Claus,
This Festivus I’ve been reflecting on the past year. I did some things right…I wish I could get a second chance at others. It’s those “coulda-woulda-shoulda-” moments of leadership that are keeping me up at night. I play back conversations in my head and replay decisions I wish I’d made differently. Bottom line,I feel like I’ve done a lot of things wrong. The regret keeps me from resting and I fear I’ll just that cycle of bad decisions. I wish I could take things back. But hindsight is 20/20 (or 2021). So how do I move forward from this?
– Restless in regret
Dear Restless in regret,
This is an incredible opportunity to contribute to a psychologically safe environment. Confused? Stay with me…
The role of a leader is to make a decision. Use the data that you have, in the moment that you have it, and sprinkle in the instinct that comes from experience. And if the last year+ has given us anything – it’s experience. Experience in crisis, in disruption, in decision-making, in leadership.
And you know what? We made a lot of decisions, and we’re still making them. Here are a few things about decisions as a leader, and how you can use this experience to create a psychologically safe environment for your team. That’s right: there is a benefit to making mistakes.
Step 1: Decisions are two-way doors
Decisions are very often two-way. Meaning, you can amend, pivot, and change. Jeff Bezos refers to them as two-way doors – those decisions that can be reversed. That’s versus a one-way-door – those that are permanent. So instead of mourning a decision and sitting in the past, recognize the type of decision that it was and amend it as needed. And then for the future, think to yourself: is this a one-way or two-way door? Lament and regret is exhausting. Put that energy into forward momentum.
Step 2: Say it out loud
Say it out loud: I made a mistake! Your team is looking at not only what you are doing, they are looking at how you are doing it. They are taking their cues from you. That doesn’t mean that they expect every decision you make to be the right one, the perfect one (because, there is very rarely a perfect one). They expect you to make smart decisions and then have the ability to reflect, learn, and when it happens, admit when you could have made a different one. A leader casts a large shadow, and you have here an opportunity to make it a safe space to make mistakes.
So don’t mourn mistakes or decisions that could have gone differently. Learn from them, communicate them. Share the lesson you’ve learned and invite your fellow leaders – and eventually your teammates – to share the same. This is the environment you want and need, and this is an incredible opportunity to create it.