Does your organisation feel safe?

I’ve worked in a number of organisations in the past that haven’t felt all that safe. I’ve been in meetings where I’ve felt scared to speak up for fear of seeming incompetent or sounding like a fool. I chalked most of those feelings up to my own internal self-doubt, and my introversion which makes it a bit more challenging for me to contribute without having time to deeply reflect on something.

However, as I’ve worked with more and more organisations through Bird, and since researching and understanding more about what makes organisations and individuals tick, I’ve come to learn about the importance of something called psychological safety.

Psychological safety is an idea that was originally developed in the 1960s, but more recently has been explored by Amy Edmondson. The idea is basically ‘a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.’ Psychological safety is about being able to bring your whole self to work, it’s about not being afraid that you’ll be judged as ‘ignorant, incompetent, intrusive or negative’ as Edmondson explains.

For organisations to be healthy, safe places where individuals can learn and grow and make mistakes through trying to improve, they must prioritise psychological safety. There are a number of ways an organisation can build psychological safety, and one of our favourites here at Bird is the ‘honest check-in’.

The honest check-in is a three step process. In involves teams having uninterrupted time at the start of each meeting to share how they are feeling, the impact that might be having on their work, and finally the opportunity to make a request about what they need moving forward. This space simply to ‘land’, share what’s going on, and ask for support creates trust, openness and gives individuals the opportunity to listen and show sensitivity to each other.

This kind of process can only happen if there are to be no repercussions for sharing if one is feeling overwhelmed. It’s designed to be a safe place to be honest. The honest check-in is not an opportunity to point fingers, blame, or be passive aggressive. There can (and should) be boundaries with honest check-ins, as indeed with all psychological safety building processes.

For not-for-profit organisations, ensuring psychological safety will safeguard individuals from additional trauma beyond that that they are holding for their clients. Further to that, psychological safety within a not-for-profit organisation will allow for more creativity to move through the ongoing challenges and changes that are ever present.

We believe in a future where all not-for-profit and public sector organisations are psychologically safe, where individuals can show up to work bringing their whole selves, and feeling like work is a place to flourish rather than be afraid.

If you would like us to support you further around psychological safety in your organisation please get in touch.

With love as always, Hannah and Team Bird

Ps. If you are interested in food as a tool for wellbeing, Bird readers have 10% off the following workshop this weekend. Click the link for more information and to get the discount.

Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash

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