Building Psychological Safety at Work: A Primer

In a world where innovation and change reign supreme, learn how fostering a culture of fearless expression can set your team apart. The key lies in 'psychological safety' — the belief that is it okay and encouraged to voice your ideas and opinions without any fear.
In this episode:
  • Bust myths related to psychological safety in the workplace
  • Piece together the parts of the psychological safety puzzle
  • Learn practical tips to build a psychologically safe culture

About the speakers

No items found.

Watch now



Alright. Hello. Hello, everyone. Delighted to have you join us today. I'm your host, g c, people science leader at mesh dot ai, and someone who considers himself extremely blessed to have worked with and learned from hundreds of people and culture leaders over the last decade and a half.

When it comes to solving for company performance through people practices, modern companies find themselves almost rebuilding the plane as they're flying it.

With that said, the future is already here. It's just unequally distributed.

And that's where the performance puzzle comes in, a show where people leaders from around the world volunteer their experiences and playbooks to help you navigate the intersection of people's strategy and business success.

Joining us today are two such leaders who share a deep passion for and have rich experience in scaling psychological safety at the workplace.

First up, we have Jennifer Osborne.

Jen is the head of people and strategy at good time dot io and has over two decades of experience as a people and culture leader. Gen is a classic overachiever and has devised numerous HR programs that has strengthened culture and complementary growth. At organizations like GoodTime, Clover, socialized, incorporated amongst others.

She's passionate about consciously engineering HR programs, to support the individual development, which probably explains why she's been conferred the title of Culture Jedi by people who know her well.

Something you might not know about Jen is that she's a sucker for potato chips. Her favorite flavors are cracked pepper and jalapeno. Thanks so much for joining us today, Jen. So happy to have you here.

Thanks for having me.

Alright. Next up, we have Maurice Dukowin. Maurice is the CEO and founder of Duke Credit Capital, a consulting organization that specializes in various HCM solutions, all of which are grounded in psychological safety. Maurice says over fifteen years of experience working as a consultant as well as a human capital for reputed organizations, Deloitte, Kevan operations, and most recently letara.

However, what many don't know about Maurice is the fact that he launched and ran his own film review blog for about five years. We received a certificate in film production from NboyUTesh and even briefly pursued a career in film. Before founding is now very successful consulting organization. Welcome to the panel Maurice. Really excited to have you join us today.

Perfect. In keeping with creating safe spaces, Maurice and Jen, I'm pretty sure our audience would love to know a little bit about you, the person behind the professional, So we'd love we'd love for you to share one interesting fact about you, which we won't find on your LinkedIn profile.

Jen, do you wanna go first? Sure. Sure.

Well, probably something that might surprise many of you. I played a professional role or derby for a little bit.

So many You're not finding the pictures on the web. I promise. So they are deeply hidden.

How about you, Maurice?

Well, I think, based on your introduction, GC, people will probably be able to glean this, but one of the reasons I actually moved from New York where I grew up and where I lived most of my life and moved to Los Angeles was not just to pursue film but to actually make horror films in particular a very specific type of film.

And, you know, then I got into private equity. So dreams come true, I guess. But, that's something for me that's been always a big deal.

Given your sense of your memories, I'm shocked that you had an interest in horror films.

If you have to, you have to, you have to balance it out.

I love that. Thank you so much for that, Jen and Maurice. Folks in the audience, we're here for you. Now's a good time for you to check out three cool features on the NapPA on the bottom of your screen.

The first one is the chat where I'd encourage you to share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences as you listen into our esteemed panel. The second one is the poll section where you'll be able to consume results from our live polls, which our show team will be running throughout the period of this session. And last but not the least, the question section where you can pose your questions to our speakers at any point in time during this particular as the moderator, I'll try my best to weave these into the conversation. No pressure at all.

So let's get you warmed up, your audience, by using the chat window. Personally consider all people and culture leaders absolute superheroes. So I love to learn from everyone.

If you can ping in the chat, that one superhero that you most relate to as a people and culture practitioner.

While that that pings in their favorite superheroes that they most relate to, how about you, Maurizengen? Any superheroes in particular that you think come very close to your experiences people and culture practitioners?

I don't know about come close, but I've always been a huge wonder woman fan from back in the back in Melinda Carter days.

I guess I'll keep the DC train rolling here. Batman was always my favorite. But actually it was because of the villains. I don't know what that says about me, though. So, you know, let's take that for what it is.

We've got some wonder woman for sure. There's another. Ironman is an interesting one. Especially if you're a tech first HR leader, I'm pretty sure, you know, you've got the Gizmos to scale programs really quickly. So that's an interesting one coming in from the chat.

Alright. Let's get the ball rolling. The flash says somewhere. Absolutely. Filofety is everything when it comes to, and I think we have programs, isn't it?

Perfect. Alright. Let's get the board rolling. Let's let's sink our teeth into this really, very juicy subject of psychological safety folks.


What is psychological safety?

Let's begin with baselining our audience with a definition on psychological safety. And I think you can't today have a session or a conversation about psychological safety without mentioning Amy Edmonds and can you? I I highly recommend the fearless organization her book for everyone in the audience, but yeah, this is what Amy Edmondson really crisply succinctly defined psychological safety guys. Let me read this off the slide. Psychological safety means an absence of interpersonal fear, interpersonal fear. When psycholabial safety is present, people are able to speak up with work relevant content.

I know, worries, you, you feel very strongly about this definition. So I'd love for you to kind of flesh this out for our audience. Well, thanks, GC. I I completely support.

I love this definition. I think it's always been really good at, setting the groundwork and foundation for what it is. I found that a lot of leaders need a little bit more guidance in terms of thinking, okay, what are the dimensions I should be considering And we can probably get from this that giving our people the conditions where they have a voice is really important. So that's certainly the first.

Amy Edmonton, foundational to anything we do in psychological safety. And she's been pretty good about establishing a learning culture as being an essential component. So how do you what are the conditions of achieving, of successfully navigating failure, as well as seeking opportunities.

That's sort of a second piece. So how do people experience learning? And then third, and I think this one isn't spoken of enough is really its connection to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It's really how do does my persona, my identity play into my opportunities play into my access to resources, and will it hurt me?

You know, really answering that question is going to be an essential part of whether or not people feel safe. And so I think those three dimensions sort of that voice, growth, and that full self and identity are really important component.

Now what, that that really hits home, Maurice. I think, that there can be no second level of safety without people feeling included camp heavy. So that's a that's a lovely point you make.

There was a poll, that was popped up for our audience. And given that most of our audience are progressive people and culture leaders are not surprised with the results of the poll, ninety four percent of our audience believes that psychological safety is absolutely essential to the workplace. And a recent survey from McKinsey actually meant in the same. So, yes, eighty nine to ninety percent of employees in today's world at work feel that psychological safety is absolutely essential to have it work. And yet with this research with our people who are working, you know, for the for our organizations today, almost shouting from rooftop saying folks, I wanna feel safe if you want the best out of me. We have a bunch of myths around psychological safety that have been floating around me, even though it's not a new topic, it's not a new subject. It's been around since the nineteen nineties when Amy Edmonson really coined the term.

So I'd love to segue into our next section of this show. Where essentially Jen and Maurice are gonna help us bust some myths. These are almost actionable tip that you can take back to your workplace when you face common objections when you're trying to scale these practices at work. So let's dive right into our first myth.


Myth #1: There's a trade-off between psychological safety and excellence

Our first myth, starting right at thirty thousand feet is one that I personally heard very frequently.

There's a trade off between psychological safety and excellence.

Generally, let me start with you.

Many times have you heard leaders say, Hey, if you focus too much on psychological safety, we'll become a soft culture. And what's your go to story or example to come to that common objection?

Yeah. I think, it's a common myth. And, I love that we're talking about this today.

I think a great example, and when I think of psychological safety, you know, part of it is the ability to give and receive feedback in a healthy way. Right? So really embracing that candid with care type of of feedback And a a great example that I use that most people know, is Pixar. Right? So you know, back in the day, they they were struggling because their their films, weren't that great.

And what they figured out was a key to unlocking the excellence.

Was really like no film, no product is great the first time around. You know, the first time you draft anything. Right? It's it needs editing. It needs feedback.

And so they made it where, like, you had to come to the first meeting with, like, let's let's kind of take this apart and make it better. And that became part of their their culture. And it's, you know, it's led to really like excellent films.

Including, I think the first film they really did this for was, toy story two. And so if there are any toy story two, lovers out there. You'll you'll know that psychological safety was involved in in making that film.

Morris, I'd love to know, the examples that you typically use or your go to stories, to help leaders understand that this isn't a laid off?

I I think it's I I love what Jen was saying there because she's focused on, you know, very real. We have to have feedback.

I'll have to realize that, you know, we we can do things to make things better. I tend to gravitate initially too. Well, wait a second.

We need to be able to speak up that voice element, and sometimes it has really catastrophic outcomes if we don't. So Amy Edmonton's initial groundbreaking work was around hospitals where nurses who are wonderful people devoted their lives helping people. Would second guess themselves. There was a culture of second guessing yourself. They didn't willfully do this, but second guess themselves enough. Where mistakes would be had to be covered up or mistakes would be missed.

People's real lives were impacted in those instances.

Even worse, the NASA Columbia disaster in two thousand and three, or the Boeing seven thirty seven Max disasters. Maybe a shock to us, but how much more is it to know that people knew about it before it happened, that they could have prevented it. And they just didn't have the right cultures for people to speak up. I mean, If that is not getting in the way of excellence by missing that opportunity, I'm I'm just not really sure what is because bottom line psychological safety, if nothing else is an approach.

It's a commitment to making sure that we see that these conditions are there to help people thrive. And I I think that's really an essential component to all of this. I think if we miss that, if we we deep down know that that's really the case. We deep down understand that these are the things that people need to be heard, to be supported in the worst of our times to be seen.

You know, we just don't, we just don't always know that that that other things won't get in the way.

No, absolutely. If a plane crash that could have been stopped isn't reasonably enough for us to it seriously. I'm not sure what is. Okay.

I see Dickson in the chat making a point about this not being a spectrum and actually this being something that, you know, is worked on in tandem. I couldn't agree more.

In fact, you know, given, Adi Mauri, you and I were chatting about this we love our frameworks as as as management consultants per se. So this one particular grid that I that's always resonated with me, which kind of brings out the fact which reinforces what Disha mentions in the chat as well, which is psychological safety and excellence or ownership and accountability aren't on a spectrum. They're actually on a grid. They both are deeply interconnected yet have to be focused on through dedicated programs.

Because as you can see, if you do well on psychological safety, but not so much on accountability, everyone's coasting in in that you know, in that zone, that's the biggest fear that people have, you know, of of coasting it, something that's comfortable.

But when you have that magic combination of having scale psychological safety program and the necessary programs around motivation and accountability is where you're creating a learning and a growing organization. So, yes, couldn't agree more with both Jen and Maurice as well as DHL you in the chat. Thanks for contributing.


Myth #2: Psych safety is nice to have, but not critical for some businesses

Let's move on really quickly to our next myth. And our next myth is it's nice to have, but it isn't really critical for some businesses.

What's your thought on that, Jen? What's your first reaction when you when you hear that this is more applicable to a company of a greater scale on a particular geography from a particular industry. It doesn't apply to us.

Right. Well, I mean, I think Maurice had some, great, examples of what happens when you don't have it. Right? I I don't think that there's any business or any industry, that's immune to needing psychological safety I I just I I don't quite understand why you wouldn't want your people in the learning zone.

Right? Where you wouldn't where you wouldn't want, a place where people can try something new and learn from it. Right? And so I think it's really important that, you know, embracing fail fast is important everywhere, but it's like fail fast and and learn.

Right? And and be okay in that environment. I mean, we hear fail fast all the time.

In a startup, and it's, it's, you know, you have to have the other side of it. Like, you have to have the ability to be like oops. I while I learned something from that. And I don't know about everyone else here, but as far as myself, I've grown and learned so much more from my failures than I have from necessarily my wins and even my wins have failures embedded into them or learning lessons.

You know, whatever you you wanna call them. So I I just don't think it's a nice to have. I think to truly be a great business, it's a must have.

No. Absolutely. In fact, the fail fast, move fast, break things, you know, is is commonly used like you mentioned by hyper growth companies, but sometimes it's all talk and no walk.

Feels like kind of emotion. What do you think about that noise?

A hundred percent. I mean, I I totally agree with everything that Jen is saying here. I it's it's not just about saying it. It's not just about sure.

We're gonna fail fast, but then holding people accountable for those failures. Right? It's we need to be in an environment where we're supportive about it and say, yes. We have to do those things.

Now, I think we One of the really if we get down to basics here, when we say that it's a must have and critical for business, it's a must have and critical for people.

This is based on who we are evolutionarily, biologically. And I'm not I'm not Joe Science here by any stretch of the imagination. But we really exist in one of two states, either we're I feel safe or I'm in danger.

Those are the two worlds that we live in. And if we're in an environment in which we are consistently made to feel like we don't matter or we can't speak up because there's danger or we're afraid any of those sorts of elements.

It's really easy to make more fixed. It's really easy to screw things up. And so what I think is really important is that we need to do the things that make us be in the first state, which is I feel safe because that's the environment in which we're going to be calmer. Our heart rate's gonna be down.

We're going to be able to do the things that focus us. Versus the other one, which is I'm in danger, fight or flight, and that's the only thing I'm thinking about. So, of course, I'm not gonna be creative Of course, I'm not going to be trying to innovate. I'm not going to try and be productive because we're all spiraling.

So I think we really have to say what, again, are the conditions that are going to make people thrive what are the conditions that are going to make people be successful and actually produce things? And it's the basics. This is the And so if there's one final thing I'll say on this subject, it's psychological safety is about perception.

It's not about this objective reality, whatever that happens to be. And I think we need to realize that We as people can easily spiral if we think, as my boss mad at me, are my colleagues not really on the same page as me or whatever it is. Am I not getting those opportunities? And so we need right now to just have commitment to what are the conditions that are more thoughtful that make us all work a little bit better. And so I think that's really the the important component here and and not to lose So I'd I'd say that, g c. No. I I hear both of you loud and clear.

If you want to drive performance through people, they need to feel safe. So if your if your business success is dependent on the performance and the quality and, you know, the stability of your team irrespective of what stage of business you're in, in respect to what industry you're in, psychological safety is hygiene, and and that's a point really, really well made by both of you. Alright.


Myth #3: It's hard to measure psychological safety and its ROI

Let's rumble on onto our third myth, which is this is my favorite one.

Especially for my love for people analytics.

It is often thought that it's hard to measure psychological safety itself.

And therefore measure its ROI.

Maurice, let's start with you on this one.

What was How can people start to measure psychological safety and what are the ROI, the return on investment or the impact areas that it actually delivers business?

I think there's a lot of really important pieces to for us to just think about what this comment or this myth is even based on. Right? So I think if we really think about it, at its basics, it's saying, we don't know what outcomes we really want.

Psychological safety is an approach to getting work done. That's basically what it is here. Right? So you first have to say if I'm gonna invest effort in training people if I'm gonna invest effort in the resources and the time to get people to feel this way.

I've got to be able to determine whether or not that has some outcome. What are the outcomes that you expect to them? What are your productivity outcomes? What are your company outcomes?

Those things still matter because those have always mattered. So when we think about this, the first thing that I'd say is you need to get a measure of whether or not people feel psychologically safe in the first you can do that through the Edmonton seven.

So her seven questions that she asked, gallop does a lot of really good work here with the G12 questions. You need to determine if these surveys, which are already correlative to people feeling that way. Whether or not, after that, what is the out months.

Are those groups that you've tested that that feel really psychologically safe? Are they actually better performers?

Are they actually better at solving problems for the organization? Are they better at innovating, or did they miss all of those innovations that made us be second or third or tenth in the industry. Right?

We need to be able to connect those things. We need to be able to make sure that this isn't over complicating it. It's who people feel this and did this matter. And I think if you can connect those two things, that simple road map is gonna be very helpful now.

Doing that in practice every day? Sure. That's gonna be a bit more complicated than what we need to do, but just don't lose sight of that. You absolutely can measure these things.

And there are very clear surveys to help you with that. And then you already know what the outcomes are that you want.

I'd start there, G.

That that sounds super interesting. And and, then I'm I'm a big fan of the intentional playbook around psychological safety that you're scaling at good time. How are you measuring psychological safety as part of that for you today?

Yeah. I mean, I think Maurice had some great points.

And A lot of times you have to figure out where your business is at and where you need to to start. And I think that, you know, Amy Edmonson and her work really was around the that the relationship to team learning and performance is linked to to ROI. It is the the bedrock of performance.

And so I think the the way that we look at it is through E NPS.

Because we're getting that's our, you know, one of our main ways of getting formal feedback. And then we have a program that's built around that.

So if you have a very basic EOPS system, you can, look at the comments and then evaluate, you know, basically the the measure of psychological safety. I feel you know, I feel safe to learn. I feel safe to make mistakes.

And so on. And then if you have a more robust E NPS system, you could actually write questions or the the organization that the of the system that you use can write questions for you. So, I think that that's for me, that's the easiest way to get to it and show the ROI because you can show that the high performing teams typically, have a very high E and P S score.

Yep. I I love that because that's so actionable for everyone in our audience.

You know, start off lightweight with your engagement survey framework, possibly add the psychological safety driver with some questions. In there, first do a dipstick of how safe people feel already, and then mature that into correlating between cohorts of high performers average performers, to see the cause effect relationship between safety as well as performance.

You measure, you run the trends, and you also kind of are able to exhibit the impact of the ROI to your leaders internally so that you get more investments to scale this, love that. Alright. I would just say one one one thing just to underline what Jen just said there. It's if you're not comfortable yet in managing and changing those E and P S questions or whatever they are.

There are resources out there that will help you. G twelve or or the edmondson questions those will help you. So you're not alone in this. You, you can do this on a scientific basis.

It doesn't have to be willy nilly. So that's, I think, an important piece to underline in what Jen saying. I I love that because a lot of those, inventories that notice you mentioned are actually available for free on open source as well.

So so all HR practitioners can get really, really creative by weaving those into existing survey processes that they have. So thank you so much for that.


Myth #4: You implement psychological safety once, and you're done

Alright. Let's roll on to the last but not the least, myth number four and myth number four is you implement a psychological safety program once, and that's it. It takes care of itself.

Maurice, How true or untrue is that?

GC, this one gives me hives. I hear it all the time. I just I'm breaking out people.

You see it all the time. You hear it all the time. I I'm just one and done.

I'm suspicious about anything in business or in life that you can ever do once, and it's gonna last forever.

That's never been my experience around anything.

Certainly not in business. And so bottom line is false, completely false. No truth to this whatsoever. Let's start there.

But let's realize, again, I've said this before this is a perception. Right? This is a perception that people have, and that is subject to the winds of change. It's subject to the way I wake up in the morning, to my mood swings, to the way other people's mood swings affect me.

Right? To bad performance out there and just bad luck.

Realistically, that's the environment we have. You may make a mistake that other people misinterpret, and that means that you've gone back down to zero because people aren't feeling safe in that environment anymore. And it doesn't mean you have to tiptoe. Again, this is about being thoughtful about the things that you every do every day, understanding that you're going to make mistakes in it, understanding that you know, one day will be harder to do this than the next and saying, okay.

Baby steps to get there. And if we make a mistake, baby steps to get back. Because psychological safety, if there's anything we know is that it is really hard to get there, but it will pay off dividends when you get there. But it is really easy to knock back down because it is very friendly.

Yeah. I love that, Maurice. And I think, the team at HubSpot said it best when they came up with their new culture book, which is, you know, that they build two products. Once the the product that they sell to their customers and the other ones, their culture itself, because culture in itself is not appointment time artifact it needs to evolve and adapt and it needs to have an intentional cyclical continuous program.

And that's, my takeaway is not very different when it comes to psychological safety either.

You can you can have it one moment and you can lose it very quickly given the external learning factors the very next. So, yes, I think the previous suggestion that both of you made, which is keep measuring it, bake it into your standard survey processes around employee listening. It's equally important as other drivers as well, you know, whether those are the q two q twelve drivers or or any others. Alright.

Lots and lots of simple actionable stories, narratives, and ways for our audience to now handle common objections that they will they go back to their companies and want to scale and invest in a program around psychological safety. Now is the time to get into the business and, you know, off our show which is where general Maurice will start sharing with us actionable tips and playbooks that have worked well for them while scaling the in their organizations. But before we jump into that, I know we spoke a little bit about the myths, you know, which are things that can be common obstacles or objections that leadership teams might add. But before we get into implementing any intentional program, Maurizengen,


What are some pitfalls to assess when it comes to implementing psychological safety measures?

I'm pretty sure there are certain pitfalls that we need to kind of take a step back and assess and think through.

Are there any that might have been left out over and above the mids, Jen that you typically advise anyone, that it could tear off before we jump at into implementing psychological safety measures?

Yeah. I mean, I think, I just think you can't do it without leadership.

Mhmm. When you can't, I, you know, whether you call it leadership buy in or or, you know, servant leadership or, you know, mindset, whatever that is.

Because there there are certain elements of like the power dynamic that can, you know, squash psychological safety like we were just talking about in the the last myth in, you know, a second. Right? So I think I think that leadership is the one of the key drivers that can either help or hinder.

Yep. Yes. And in fact, I'd love to learn from our audience as well. So if you could pop up a poll, that checks with our audience in terms of, what their level of leadership buying around psychological safety is it'll be useful for us to learn from that.

Maurice, you were about to say something. Oh, yeah. I I I love what you're saying there, John, because, yes, factually, you can possibly have a team, because remember, psychological safety is not in an organizational It's at a team level. It's what you can do on your team because there's just too many complexities at the org level.

So it's how well the manager is able to manage that with the team. So theory, you can have psychological safety without leadership buy in. It's next to impossible, as Jen was pointing out, We really have to take the brunt of that as the manager, and I just don't think that that's a sustainable practice. So theoretically, yes, it can happen, but you don't see that very So leaders need to buy in because they have a lot of power in the equation to support and incentivize that behavior.

I think we just talked about for impediments, right, they're myths. Right? If it's not measurable, it's gonna be a considerable amount time, and we need to make sure that that is is is done correctly and and that we are going to make those mistakes that this is subject to the winds of you know, time and good fortune. And so bottom line, those in mind, the only thing I'd add in addition to that is that The most interesting part about fear that was being mentioned is that we bring it with us.

It doesn't stay at our last organization if we had that culture there. We had a bad culture. It comes as baggage. It's trauma.

And so one major impediment for being successful here is the experiences that people had there. And they bring that, and no matter how safe we may make the environment.

We've gotta get past that first. We've gotta get them back to zero so that we can build up and really have the benefits of this. If we don't acknowledge that, we're not gonna understand why our practices aren't going to be affected because trauma is real. We all experience that every day.

Yep. Absolutely.

I think I think that's a very, very powerful point for us to make there, which is I can't assume the baggage that someone on my team is carrying from previous employment experiences. Can I, and and that kind of ties back into what we mentioned earlier that psychological safety is an appointed time intervention as as your talent population evolves themselves as a mix of people from external to internal kind of change? That that needs to be reinforced again and again. And obviously, Jen, you made a very, very powerful point, you know, about leadership buying possibly being the very first step.

Interestingly enough, the full results, you know, tell us that about seventy percent of the HR folks in the audience right now don't resoundingly have a strong yes around a leadership buy that


Piecing the puzzle together

really sets us up for the next next part of this particular show, which is where we're gonna get into creating a playbook on how to scale psychological safety within the organization.

Let's piece that puzzle together for our audience and let's begin with you, Jen, I guess since you mentioned the very first thing is to generate leadership buying.

Let's begin with, you know, how how did you manage make a tent to that level of buy in that good time when you started scaling that playbook?

Yeah. I mean, I think that the, you know, we're building a culture of entrepreneurship.

And so with entrepreneurship comes you you have to fail to learn. Like, you have to test your hypothesis, and you have to figure out, you know, what the the broader org, you know, is is thinking and feeling quite honestly.

And so one of the things that we have done in to the E and P. S. It's it's more of a deep dive into some areas where we felt like we needed to do more work And in order to do more work, we had to listen. So we developed what we called a listening strategy.

And so we had one that was We had people submit questions company wide and we addressed them in all hands and we allowed people to upvote.

Really interesting, questions.

And then we had, office hours.

So kind of like come and ask a leader anything in particular, our CEO so people could become more, comfortable, interacting directly with our CEO and asking questions and hearing answers.

And then we did tiny pulse surveys through a, you know, just through slack.

Just to get a pulse on, you know, how are things going today?

And one of our one of our biggest, I think hits was what we call topic driven one on ones and so that was where we had we wrote up a one on one script for every leader to speak with their direct reports.

And, and then they would kind of rate how they thought the person was, feeling on a scale of, of like, yes, I'm safe.

Or, you know, no, I'm not safe.

And it was I think really interesting because a lot of times people feel like or think that some of these programs like the people team owns them. Right? Like the chief people officer is supposed to just, you know, make everything psychologically safe, perfect, to learning culture. We fail fast.

All of those things and you can't. It's not something you can do alone. As I mentioned, you know, before. I have really strong thoughts about like I just you can't do it without other leaders.

You know, feeling the same way, thinking the same way, and you're all going in the same direction. So this this was something and this is an ongoing strategy that we're doing.

In addition to, just, you know, having better communication so that, I think it raises the the level of safety for people.

My biggest takeaway from that, Jen. And I'll I'll kind of tie that back to you know, my my past life is a consultant where I was peddling lots and lots of engagement surveys in the name of employee listening.

And the one thing that know, was a common question that come across from leaders would be, hey, we've been so diligent at running these listening surveys, but nothing seems to be improving.

And my typical response used to be if your people are encouraged and only feel safe responding to anonymized surveys, and aren't feeling safe enough to escalate or share or surface these issues in one on one conversations than you're counting trees and missing the forest. And I know, Boris, you've done a lot of work around the power of one on one conversations, which I'd like you to kind of flesh them out a little bit. Because someone in


Galvanizing managers to become the conduits of listening culture in 1:1s

the chat, I think Britila mentioned that leadership buying is one thing, but really galvanizing your managers to be the conduit of this continuous listening culture, helps you scale that particular practice.

Your thoughts on that, Maurice. Yeah. And I think Dickson actually asked Agen to add some more on the script. So I'll just, talk a little bit about sort of the one on one piece here.

And then, Janet, at the end, you want to bring in anything else about that script. But very, very specifically, the one on one I think is one of your most powerful data gathering tools.

Let's just take a moment and think about what Jen was just saying.

We ask people what they think and feel.


And that's not take away from what Jen just said. It's groundbreaking because sometimes we lose sight of how simple this can really be. What do you think about that? Why do you think that? I always say that the one on one was one of the most powerful tools because first, it helps us in data gathering.

I ask leaders all the time. What are the three reasons that your people stay, each of them, that have nothing to do with money. It's the first question I ask. And if you don't know how to answer that question, that's a problem.

If it's two reasons, That's a problem. That's barriers to exit that you want to make sure are very high, right? Because the big companies are always going to steal away our talent if it's just about money. So you need to be able to use the one on one to gather those sorts of questions.

How do people feel about change?

If a change happens, what's the first question that people normally ask? Because I can't tell you how many times I've had a meeting with managers about a change that's gonna happen. And I say, what questions do people have? And it's crickets.

Right? So we need to use these one on ones to prepare ourselves.

Second of all, I think it's really important that the one on one is effective for diffusing.

It diffuses problems.

Nobody wants to be diffusing a problem in a team meeting or certainly not in an all hands or a town hall, right? So we want to make sure that that one on one is really important, for being able to just talk things out and say, this is how I saw this. This is how I felt about this and give that period, that experience to your, employee as well as, as a manager, you know, being able to talk about how you saw that. As really important as well.

And the way I look at the one on one in general is that it really has four elements. It's about providing constructive feedback about work and behavior, affirming feedback, which is you did a great job in work and behavior, and I want you to keep doing that. Coaching, taking people to their next step in their career, but it's also being able to say, oh, you don't think you'll be here in two years? I'm still supportive of you.

Not please don't leave because then you're not a confidant. That I think is a transcendent part for a lot of leaders that we need to have. And then fourth, it's really just building this culture that we're talking about here. So keeping the one on one as your really powerful tool, that's an element that I would really focus attention on, you cannot under train that and support that.

Couldn't agree more, Maurice, to be very honest. You know, in my experience of trying to scale one on ones as a culture, in in my client organizations. I've seen a lot of people managers see the value and have very high intent, but sometimes they shy away from these listening conversations because they don't have the skill or the experience to actually drive an effective one. And that's why I think Jen you know, the audience is super keen to know a little bit about the script that you enable your leaders and managers with.


Yeah. And thank you for all your questions.

What we did just to give a little more context is we focused our topic driven one on one around leadership and strategy.

And we limited it to five questions.

And the leader's job was to listen and basically rate the answer, not the person, rate the answer on a scale on a likert scale of like strongly agree to strongly disagree.

What we were finding is there was just a disconnect between how, how people were, like, talking to their leaders versus things that they would share in the E MPS survey. So we're like okay we need to we need to unlock this a little bit more. So I think it's exactly what you know Maurice was saying.

So one of our questions was, I understand and agree with the company strategy.

And then you know, let the person talk. And this wasn't about contradicting anything that anyone said. This was truly about listening.

And then, you know, I feel supported by, leadership. And we didn't define, like, leadership is the person you're talking to. Or you know greater leadership or anything. But in the in the answers, you could definitely tell, you know, who was who who felt comfortable.

And I think you can have, you know, safety with your direct leader. And this is where I think I differ a little bit in my thought in in that. But like if the organization, if you don't have that comfort, then at the next level, you know, then then that's the roadblock. Right?

And so then you have to figure out how do we achieve, you know, safety here. If we have it here, how do we get it here? How do we get here and so on? And I'm not saying that was the case necessarily at good time but I think the listening sessions really gave people an opportunity to speak with their direct manager on the the the pieces, the questions that we maybe never ask.

You know, and just, you know, and just even a basic, like, how are you doing? Yeah. Right? Like, sometimes we we miss just, you know, those things and what can I do to help you be even better?

So our listening strategy you know, was a was a series of questions that were built that we built for good time.

You know, based around areas that we we thought we could improve upon.

That's go ahead, Laurie. Just a to connect what Jen just said as well. Right? You can't just our last myth was you it's one and done.

One one on one.

Is not one and done. It it's you have been able to consistently do this to see and monitor how things happen over time. And each of the organizations I've worked in, it's Okay? On to the next one, because next week comes before you know it.

And then the week after that and the week after that, and eventually you'll start to have trends. That those great questions of how safe and unsafe do I feel. If I list that over twenty one on ones, I can see a trend of how we're improving or we're not improving. And that is data, and that's the important piece here.

It's collecting that data, being consistent, keep on keeping up.

I love the point that you make worries that it needs to be a cadence just like we discussed earlier, you know, even your listening or your diagnostic that you're running needs to be done multiple times through an organization's journey, where it's similarly you know, what you're referring to as a cadence of regular such one on ones with with some sort of a rolling agenda, like Jen mentioned, you know, if you listen and unserve is something That's that's, you know, you you close the loop of that in your next one on one before you go over here. I think what


Scaling vulnerability among leadership to create a safe environment

we're also what I'm also starting to hear from both of you is a little bit of, you know, asking insightful questions and not trying to solve or provide justifications or answers in that conversation, but creating some sort of safety that says, shows vulnerability from the leader of the manager and says, oh, this is not something I thought about, but thank you for bringing my attention.

Is that particular little nugget, you know, what are your thoughts about kind of scaling that in terms of leaders feeling comfortable?

In sharing their own vulnerabilities so that it's safe for everyone to kind of share their own and and even make a safe space for failure, since we're talking about leader and manager enablement at this point in time.

Yeah. I I mean, I think the one of the keys that I've found is, you know, you don't have to know every answer and there's there's like beauty in figuring it out, you know, with your people.

And so you know, talking about vulnerabilities.

I don't know the answers to everything. Like, you know, I don't, and I'm never going to.

And it's fun to figure things out and think, and do that with people.

And then, you know, and then be able to apply it. And I think that when leaders can continue to, you know, even do those those small things.

You know, it helps people grow in general, and it helps your organization grow. And then you just have to you have to scale it. Right? It can't be just one person that's you know, that's working on that. And so that's whereas, like, from the, you know, as the CPO looking to really, make sure that we have a program. So keep like everyone knows the questions to to ask and how to interpret and, you know, build trust, build safety, and build a learning culture.

Love everything that Jen is saying right there. I think it could not be more spot on.

It's fun. Think about the terms that we're we're we're using here. It's fun to put in an environment. Where we don't have to know everything, where our credibility isn't dependent on us pretending that we know everything because we know we don't know thing, right, and that we can work on things together.

And what I think people miss about how groundbreaking Amy Edmonton's work is is is it assets to completely change the way we look at the world from saying somebody gives us a suggestion on our team from looking at it, Well, why won't that work? To okay. Well, what did you learn that made you think this would work? You know, changed my mind. As opposed to immediately trying to just cut it down. And the the opposite is also true. How many times does something happen in our organizations?

And then we tell managers about it ten minutes before an all hands meeting where we're gonna tell everyone else. And then managers are expected to, you know, be able to handle those and answer all the questions for people. It's ridiculous. I always tell managers, take a step back and say, you know, I don't know, but I I love the question, and I'm gonna find that out for you because we're gonna find that out together.

What a what a different frame get yourself to the right place. Make sure that you as a a a manager as a leader can get yourself where you need to go to be effective to help lead your team. And you've got to lead your team with as much vulnerability as So they see you as who you are so that they know it's okay to be who they are.

Perfect. And I'm I'm literally now starting to think of myself as as the people and culture leader for a a hypothetical organization. So based on what I've just learned on this playbook, I've diagnosed, you know, that there is a genuine need for psychological safety. My people are shouting from rooftops from my listening strategy. I've set my leadership on, you know, a burning platform saying this is clearly a people priority that needs to be solved for. I've started, you know, kind of enabling them with scripts, possibly providing them with some additional resources to have more effective one or ups.

And I'm now starting to kind of see some results.

I'm curious to know because all of this as we mentioned requires our leaders and managers to upskill themselves on a new style of conversation.


What are some typical hidden-in-public kind of process changes around people management that need to be made to easen unlearning and throwing out past baggage?

I'm pretty sure there's a lot of unlearning with past baggage, you know, that's involved as well.

Let's start with you, Jen, while scaling that playbook at time. What are the typical, you know, hidden in public kind of process changes around people management that you needed to make as you started scaling this program so that the unlearning and previous baggage could actually be thrown out of the window.

I think the biggest one is is that it's important. Right? And that you have to have the conversation.

I think that that's one of the the like lowest hanging fruit that that's there, but you know, you'd be surprised how many, times people cancel or reschedule or, you know, whatever the, you know, they're one on one. So you have to have the conversation. I think that that's and and know its importance.

So I think that's the that's like the baseline for us. And then as we scale it, it's understanding, you know, if I read someone's answers, and talk about that with their leader. Are we interpreting the same way? Do we have the same kind of people lens on.

And, you know, that's a constant work in progress. And and again, I'm I might not always be right.

You know, and that's not what this is about.

But as the as the people leader, I do typically have a pretty good pulse on, you know, human behavior.

So trying to, you know, helps people understand that more is is the key to scaling it for us.

Perfect. And staying as the people and culture leader for this hypothetical organization because I don't think any will, in their right mind, will actually hire me as one. So I really role right now. But, now I've kind of picked this in into everyday cadences and conversations. I'm starting to move the needle a little bit Maurice, if I can bring you in because you had rich insights about the continuous measurement of this, entire playbook and as I've kind of scanned what's my next step in terms of, again, kind of diagnosing and measuring? Is there like a a stepwise program that I need to kind of run parallel as I'm kind of scaling these practices?

I think there's there's many things GC. I think to to just bring it back in terms of that measurement piece. Think about how you would measure most things. And is it fair?

Right? So Jen was just talking about, you know, that groundbreaking of have the meeting.

Ask the questions, actually do something with the information that they give you. Well, this is gonna be groundbreaking too, which is actually know how people feel, find a way of measuring that, perhaps use something that's already correlative to actual outcomes.

Number two, make sure that when you're connecting those two very specific company out comes or the ROI or the metrics that you measure that those those people actually influence.

Or that they're fair and achievable. It's always surprising to me when we look at those metrics and people have very little influence They're held to renewal standards. So customer success might have to do all these renewals that they have no way of actually renewing, and they're never going to make that or I can't tell you how many times I've heard that, oh, sales quotas, our sales people always feel that those are unattalable. It's always the way been.

What are you talking about?

If if people feel that they cannot fairly achieve metrics, how can they feel safe in that environment? It it it fundamentally does not make sense to me how that could be an environment in which your you exist. Right? And so really trying to understand what is that connection. There's a little bit that's tough and, oh, no, that's really hard to do. So it's really important that you analyze those metrics and that we truly influence those metrics as much as we can.

That you do this routinely.

You have these measures on a consistent basis, and you can actually see which who's doing being successful and who's not and correlating that. Don't just look at the teams that are underperforming that they have lower, scores around fueling psychological safety and not performing. As look at also the ones that are really performing and say, well, what really are they doing?

Chances are it's not luck. Because that way you'll be able to take those processes, take those leaders to mentor other leaders. You'll be able to take those practices and really cut and paste them in other places, but of course tailor them because different people are different everywhere and make sure that that's happening. You need to, as people leaders, take this and learn yourself.

What's really gonna work in your environment? Because every company environment is different. And while we're all people and we're all working through it, and there are things that remain the same. You need to make sure that you're really clear about that.

And so I think consistently doing this, consistently being able to point to it and say this is why this is happening and adjusting where necessary.

Being open to all of that is essential component to any measurement strategy that I've ever seen before. That's super powerful, Marissa. I love the fact about, not just the continuous listing in the measurement piece that you mentioned, but, simple aspects that we mentioned earlier that need to bake in psychological safety like do you discuss the achievability of sales quota with salespeople?

It's almost what, you know, Novotis did where they flipped as a behemoth of an enterprise organization that we want everyone to write their own goals, and that self ethic of goals was bought. I do want to kind of, before we conclude since coming up to, the end of our time. I do want to kind of pop this particular question to Jen and Maurice, feel free to kind of dive in and answer this. It's in the chat.


Is there a gender lens to psychological safety?

Is there a gender lens to psychological safety?

Do then do men and women and other genders experience it differently?

And this question has been asked in reference to the tall poppy syndrome. The tall poppy syndrome being folks, you know, who and to feel that they'll be discredited or discouraged, if they've achieved notable status per se. So what's the what's the gender and the inclusion inclusion led to us drive driving psychological safety, January's feel free to dive in?

Marie, still for it.

I think the answer is yes.

I don't think we know all everything about this, but certainly our our cultures and our societies have definitely, there's a lot of research that shows that consistently for the same behaviors women are treated differently.

They're not promoted for acting in a certain way. For women. They're considered bitchy or any of these other things for practices that when men do it, it would be very different. They'd be seen as leaders.

Right? They'd be seen as really taking charge. And those things have in the past certainly injured, you know, many careers, unfortunately so. I think there's also a secondary lens to this in terms of just how we experience everything that we do on a day to day basis.

There is also the reciprocal point of women have tended because of the way our society is working to have very different experiences in terms of emotional intelligence and the way they see and are able to empathize. So people, many men may not be able to see that these problems are even taking place. And as a result, there are more unforced errors. So in in terms of leaders, we've seen an advent of a lot more of emotional intelligence as there's been more women leaders.

In the organizations. So I think there are a lot of differences. We could spend weeks talking about all of those differences, but I think The short answer is absolutely. I think we should get pause.

We should say, if those things are different, look at that third piece of identity.

How is being a woman, how is being transgender? There are many different components to this now. How is my identity really playing into this field because just simply walking into a room and being the only one can make all the difference to how you feel in that room.


Oh, sorry.

Maurice, I think it goes back to one of the points that you made earlier about, perception.

And, and I think that that's true whether, you know, whether gender or identity or whatever comes into play. If you don't feel safe, you don't feel safe.

Right? If you can't speak up because whatever reason, right? So I do think that there are definitely certain groups that are impacted more than others.

You know, when it comes to psychologically safe environments.

And so I think that that's why, you know, we were trying to achieve it you know, you you want that in your personal relationships too. This isn't just a business thing. Right? So this is a societal issue.

So I I think that that's where it's important to just you know you the only person you could change is yourself. So are you personally committed to this? Are you working on it? And are you working to help others feel, psychologically safe in your day to day life and in your this life.

Couldn't agree more gen and and a thought on that front. Right? Yes, you know, gender diversity and sensitization plays a huge role and the tall poppy syndrome, I think, is existence. That's the truth in reality.

But I've often been shocked at how little demographic data organizations actually have about their people beyond just you know, what what came about in in the nineteen hundreds in general, even to the extent of letting people self express you know, what their backgrounds, their experiences, their genders, genders distracting the surface of how how diverse our backgrounds can be. And and really from what you've got in your perspective, you can't really measure that till the time you allow people to self express those aspects and make it standard part of your employee master. It's almost the concept of encouraging people to bring their whole self to work.

That we care about what your background we care about what your experiences, we care about, you know, especially about folks that are in the minority because we realize there's an organization that we have package. We have hangover. We have on learning to kind of deliver on that front. Alright.


I'm gonna I'm gonna try and summarize these really, really rich implementable actionable pieces again in the form of a framework before I let everyone go.

And while I do that, I also see this really, really interesting initiative in the chat that Regular mentions, which is around leaders sharing vulnerability. Where she mentions that her organization has sessions called I Try where leaders actually sueamoto come and talk about stuff they tried and fail that and share their lessons. I think that's an amazing, very powerful, simple way to actually drive psychological safety scale. It reminds me of a client organization in my past life that got all of their leaders, their top leaders to actually post a resume of their failures across their career on their intranet and their wiki, which is another simple hack that organizations can do.



The Psychological Safety version of Maslow's pyramid

I think before we let everyone go, something that really really stood out to the research team at mesh when we were thinking about psychological safety is very few people realize that one of the one of the frameworks around human, you know, behavioral psychology that stood the test of time as all of you know, is the Maslow's hierarchy in the Maslow's pyramid. And there's a similar pyramid at play when it comes to scaling psychological safety the very hygiene of it is all that we just discussed in the previous question, which is inclusion safety can I be my authentic self, or do I bring only a narrow professional self to work? If you haven't fixed that, you truly can't deliver or evolve in to learner safety, which is am I encouraged to learn and grow?

Third, which is contributor safety, which is am I encouraged or do I feel safe to put my hand up say, hey, that's the next challenging project that I want to kind of take a risk with my career on. And finally, if you've got these three in places when you can actually start stretching the surface about the ultimate pinnacle epitome of safety, which is why I feel safe enough to challenge my sales quota, Maurice, that there wasn't any buy in or I don't really buy into how this was, you know, pulled out from a hack in general. But that brings us to the end of today's show. I know this is a very, very deep and multi layered topic.

But thank you so much for coming back to you all and sharing your own insights and playbooks with Jen and Maurice. Couldn't can't thank you enough for this and wish you wish you were, you know, lots and lots of success and looking forward to to more problems and stories from you. Around psychological safety, because as we know, it is an ever changing ball game.

Thank you. Thanks for having us. Alright. Thank you everyone in the audience for your active participation. We couldn't have done this without you. And, hopefully, you found this a useful sixty minutes. I surely did and, look forward to following up with some of you, on how you found success implementing some of these tactics around psychological safety at your workplace.

See you in the next episode of the perform puzzle show. Thank you very much, and wish you all a great day ahead.

Virtual Show

The 2023 Performance Review Playbook

Virtual Show

Mastering Data-Driven Talent Reviews: Turning Insights Into Action

Virtual Show

From Theory to Action: Leveraging Talent Density for Business Impact


About The Performance Puzzle by GC

The Performance Puzzle" – your monthly ticket to a rollercoaster ride through the thrilling, perplexing, and downright fascinating world of performance management. Managing performance is like juggling flaming swords on a tightrope over a pit of hungry tigers (metaphorically speaking, of course).
It's a delicate dance of setting expectations, giving feedback, motivating the troops, and tracking progress, all while making sure everyone's happy, engaged, and doing their best work. Phew!
Each month, our show invites superstar guest speakers from the HR galaxy to share their wisdom, battle scars, and game-changing strategies for conquering the performance management maze. Whether it's tackling the challenges of remote work, mastering the art of goal setting, or decoding the mysteries of employee feedback, we've got it all covered.
Think of GC as your HR spirit guide, helping you navigate the treacherous waters of performance management with expert tips, inspiring stories, and a healthy dose of humor.
So, if you're an HR leader on a quest for answers, solutions, and maybe a few laughs along the way, "The Performance Puzzle" is your golden ticket. Tune in, get inspired, and let's crack the code to performance management together!
Stay tuned, folks, because the next episode is right around the corner. Don't miss it!

Like what you see?

Consider joining our email community of 7,000+ HR professionals!
Be the first to hear about our educational content sprinkled with a little bit of entertainment. We NEVER pitch slap, and we DON’T spam.