When I see the term psychological safety, I feel a sense of heaviness in my body at the magnitude and weight of this.
It feels like such a great responsibility.
And we ask leaders to bear the responsibility to create this for their teams yet they don’t have it themselves.
Leaders’ days are full of responsibility. If we are really frank, some loneliness. And a lack of psychological safety.
The higher up you go, the more hostile a work environment you have. You go from doing the work and into an arena where you have to
- hold your own, often being asked to give solutions when they’ve barely explained the problem
- learn a completely different way of creating impact (enabling others rather than doing it yourself)
- be more careful because your choices are being judged, and you don’t know who’s judging you
- navigate the politics above you while putting out the fires below
I mean, talk about a lack of psychological safety.
Yet we ask people, who probably experience the least psychological safety, to create that for everyone else.
Who can you speak to freely about work, your thoughts, your doubts, your controversial ideas?
Where can you get a safe neutral space to think out loud so you can figure out the best way forward?
Where you can find a sounding board where you can safely talk about the confidential info you’re now exposed to as a manager/director?
The higher up you go, the fewer options you have.
Here are some examples:
- Who can a CEO tell that they’ve lost sight of their purpose in their own company?
- Who can a director turn to when their new environment seems to be a minefield of differences to be navigated and lofty expectations that need to be managed? and the inevitable self-doubt creeps in (we ALL have it)
- When your senior director turns out to be a micromanager from hell, a technical dinosaur who’s trying to get you to write memos all the time…..
That’s not even counting all the targets to be hit.
It’s a lot. They can manage it, but it’s a lot.
I recently onboarded 3 new clients, and every single one of them was looking for this
- Sounding board
- Neutral safe space to think out loud
- A place where they could speak unfiltered, to figure out what they really think, and therefore to figure out what they actually wanted to do
- To be challenged and guided to find the best ways to do all the difficult things.
All my clients want this, but I’m seeing that the higher up they go, the more important this becomes.
And having this transforms their lives. Working with me has given them that safe mental space, the freedom to have all the emotions, and the support, to figure out what is the right thing for them to do.
They all acted as leaders, and took an important step to provide psychological safety for themselves.
You’ve got to create psychological safety for yourself. You’ll never be able to do it for others without it (and they’ll still ask).
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