The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™

Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation

By Timothy R. Clark

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Taking psychological safety from theory to practice.

This book is the first practical, hands-on guide that shows leaders how to build a culture of psychological safety in their organizations and create an environment where employees can be vulnerable. With reflection questions and key concept reviews, you’ll learn how to help your teams feel included, fully engaged, and encouraged to contribute their best efforts and ideas.

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— why do people love this book?

Here's what readers are saying.

“This book challenges the status quo”

"Safety, commitment and engagement are subjective topics, difficult to measure and can be the cause of lack of results and turnovers. This book challenges the status quo, revolutionizes leadership perspective and can transform companies and the way they engage with people so they can safely do their best."

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Ana Artigas
Brazilian Neuropsychologist

“Powerful call to action”

"As a person responsible for the development of employees in 65 countries, I can tell you that this book outlines a must-have culture. A safe space is table stakes for any organization looking to attract and retain talent and innovate from every chair. A powerful call to action."

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Simone Ciafardini
VP Clinique Global Education

“Breakthroughs in every relationship of your life”

"This is not just a book, it is an urgent invitation to the kind of rigorous self-examination that will lead to breakthroughs in every relationship of your life. Timothy Clark offers us both a case for a path to creating the kind of healthy social systems that all of us crave and that modern corporate flourishing demands."

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Joseph Grenny
Co-author Crucial Conversations

“Can't be ignored.”

"The 4 Stages framework is exceptionally insightful and perfectly logical. With the ongoing diversification of the workplace, Clark's defined path to inclusion and innovation can't be ignored. This book showed me how to improve my performance as both a team member and leader. The analysis and recommendations are insightful and inspiring."

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Martin Shell
VP at Stanford University

“Insightful and inspiring.”

"Clarks's writing ideas and concepts are insightful; questions inspiring; and images and stories captivating. His work helps leaders create, employees experience, and all of us receive psychological safety to create a better future."

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Dave Ulrich
Ross School of Business University of Michigan

A framework focused on human needs.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety framework acknowledges that we’re humans first and employees second. The framework follows a universal pattern that reflects the natural progression of human needs in social settings. These needs exist across demographics, psychographics, nations, and cultures.

Just like humans need water, food, and shelter to survive, teams that want to innovate need four things in order to thrive: they need to feel included and safe to learn, contribute, and challenge the status quo. Teams progress through these stages as they intentionally create cultures of rewarded vulnerability across The 4 Stages:

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Select a Stage
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1

Inclusion Safety

Can I be my authentic self?

Inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. In this stage worth precedes worthiness. All you have to do to qualify for inclusion safety is be human and harmless.

When you have it:

  • You can bring your whole, authentic self to work
  • You know your team, they know you
When you don't:
  • Superiority & hierarchy dominate
  • Barriers are maintained & reinforced
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2

Learner Safety

Can I grow?

Learner safety satisfies the basic human need to learn and grow. In this stage, fear is detached from mistakes, and mistakes are rewarded as part of the learning process. To qualify for learner safety you must engage in the learning process.

When you have it:

  • Learning is encouraged & celebrated
  • Learners are protected
When you don't:
  • Mistakes are punished & hidden
  • You execute more than you innovate
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3

Contributor Safety

Can I create value?

Contributor safety satisfies the basic human need to make a difference and offer meaningful contributions. When we create contributor safety for others, we empower them with autonomy, guidance, and encouragement in exchange for effort and results.

When you have it:

  • Your team thrives under outcome accountability
  • Roles are clear & small wins are celebrated
When you don't:
  • Autonomy is given with little to no guidance
  • Team members feel like benchwarmers
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4

Challenger Safety

Can I be candid about change?

Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. When we create challenger safety, we give air cover (protection) in exchange for candor.

When you have it:

  • You can speak up when there is an opportunity to improve
  • People disagree productively
When you don't:
  • Teams fall silent
  • Challengers are punished for their bravery & candor

Psychological safety is bigger than corporate…

Psychological safety is bigger than corporate. It’s deeper than quotas. It’s more than a managerial responsibility. It’s about basic human needs. The need to belong. To grow. To contribute. To create.

So, read this book if you’re human. Because being human is a vulnerable thing, and we all crave cultures of rewarded vulnerability. Everyone. At any level. In any setting. We all crave psychological safety.

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— 4.7/5 stars
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400+ Amazon Reviews

“This book is a must read”

I stumbled on this concept of psychological safety accidentally and immediately looked for books on the subject. This book is one of two on the subject that I thought was a “must read” and I was not disappointed. This concept is one that I will take with me through my professional life and intend to refer to it and apply frequently.

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“Powerful and practical”

"Learning about the 4 distinct stages of psychological safety has been so helpful for my work in education. I am so moved with the practical use of psychological safety that it will be my topic in my dissertation. Thank you for your work and webinars!"

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“A great way to check yourself”

"Dr. Clark's book may have you looking in the mirror and asking yourself some questions that you may not like the answers to. Self-awareness, fostering inclusion and safety, and aspiring to servant leadership are elements that the best leaders in the world possess, and The 4 Stages helps you jumpstart your own journey of growth."

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“Supported by real world data”

"Our operations team started using these techniques with our employees and we have seen such great success that our HR department has rolled this out to all of our companies leadership. Lots of common sense ideas that are supported by real world experiential data. I highly recommend that all first line supervisors read and apply."

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“Every leader should read”

"I stumbled on this concept of psychological safety accidentally and immediately looked for books on the subject. This book is one of two on the subject that I thought was a “must read” and I was not disappointed. This concept is one that I will take with me through my professional life and intend to refer to it and apply frequently."

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About the Author

Timothy R. Clark is founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a global consulting, training, and assessment organization that focuses on leadership, culture, and change. Dr. Clark is an international authority in the fields of psychological safety & innovation, large-scale change & transformation, and senior leadership development. He has personally worked with more than 200 executive teams around the world.

Dr. Clark is the author of five books, including his new best-seller, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation. He has also written more than 200 articles in publications such as the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company.

Dr. Clark earned a PhD in social science from Oxford University and was both a British and Fulbright Scholar. He also earned a master’s degree in government and economics from the University of Utah. As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, he was named a first-team Academic All-American football player where he completed a triple degree cum laude.

Before founding LeaderFactor 15 years ago, Dr. Clark served as the CEO for two companies.

His mantra to leaders is, “Lead as if you have no power.”

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