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Psychological Safety Assessment Using Its 4 Stages

Most organizations try to assess their levels of psychological safety with a single question nestled in a broad engagement survey. But if you want to know how your culture is really doing, that’s just not going to cut it. You need a survey that is specific to psychological safety. Any other survey that tries to account for psychological safety will leave you wondering what’s next.

A specific survey will help you figure out where to focus your efforts in your psychological safety initiative. Once you know where you stand, you’ll be ready to improve your culture by improving psychological safety.

Psychological Safety Toolkit

You can spend as much time as you want teaching your organization about the theory of psychological safety. You can (and should) roll out a psychological safety workshop, host big keynote events, or even integrate online training into your onboarding process. But you won’t know how your employees are actually executing on psychological safety if you aren’t consistently measuring your progress. There is, after all, a major correlation between psychological safety and accountability.

If you haven’t made an intentional effort to shape (or measure) your company culture, you’re probably embracing your default culture. Default cultures aren’t actively inclusive or innovative, they have hidden problems, and they detract from your bottom line. If you have a default culture, you won’t compete in highly dynamic markets. You’ll have contagious toxicity, and you won’t know why. Your employees will remain unengaged until they’re so unhappy that they walk out the door. Yikes. You can’t improve your workplace culture until you know where you are. So, how do you measure psychological safety?

Leader’s Toolkit for Building Psychological Safety

If you want to approach your organizational culture by design, instead of by default, you should start with a foundation of psychological safety. It’s psychological safety that will allow all other culture changes and initiatives to stick, spread, and stay on any team, in any organization. 

But how do you build a culture of rewarded vulnerability in complex, dynamic organizations with thousands of employees? How do you increase psychological safety in cross-functional teams? What about intact ones? Whether you want to start with psychological safety executive training or a psychological safety questionnaire, you need a psychological safety toolkit that will work for your unique culture and needs.

Psychological Safety Assessment Tool

A psychological safety assessment tool is a fairly new and ridiculously powerful way to determine organizational health at its core. Maybe you’re measuring employee engagement, but your survey results are ambiguous when it comes to action. Or maybe you’re trying to implement agile strategies into your performance, but you keep falling short. That’s because you’re missing the critical foundation of psychological safety.

The Lead Indicator for Employee Engagement

William Khan, an organizational psychologist, claims that employee engagement is all about expression in one’s role. Emotional, intellectual, physical, and social expression are all vital parts of this definition. We engage in environments that engage with us in return. Psychological safety and modeled and rewarded vulnerability enable us to express ourselves freely at work because they create the inclusive environments we crave. 

Oxygen for the Agile Movement

Agile promises fast, frictionless, scalable solutions. So what’s preventing you from reaping its rewards? The first value of the Agile Manifesto is “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” And yet so many teams seem to throw that value out the window before they even start. Agile processes and tools provide support, but the core of the agile approach isn’t the scrum or the sprint. It’s how the team interacts that ultimately determines success, which is determined by psychological safety.

There’s no other psychological safety test like this one. This 5 minute psychological safety audit will help you measure cultural impact by team, inform succession planning, and improve employee engagement with actionable data, customizable reporting, and global benchmarks.

Psychological Safety Questions

The most effective surveys can determine both what participants think, and what they feel. LeaderFactor’s psychological safety team survey utilizes both qualitative and quantitative data to do just that. We’ll ask your team members a series of questions to determine if they feel included and safe to learn, contribute, and challenge the status quo. Then your teams will submit short pieces of direct feedback (confidentially, of course) to help you pinpoint specific areas of concern in your organization.

In just five minutes per participant, these psychological safety questions can give you insights into your organizational culture like you’ve never seen before. It’s not just a psychological safety questionnaire, it’s a tool to identify hidden pockets of toxicity, better understand the needs of your team members, and decide what steps you need to take to transform your culture. You can take a pilot team through the psychological safety quiz today, free of charge. 

Psychological Safety Exercises

You can start building psychological safety at work and on your team by modeling and rewarding vulnerability across psychological safety’s four stages. Here are some practical and actionable psychological safety exercises to try the next time you’re with your colleagues. 

Verbally acknowledge and actively respect boundaries.

It can be difficult to set boundaries, but our needs are part of our authentic selves. Identify the needs of your team members. Let each person know that you’re aware of their boundaries and communicate what you will do to respect them. Set an expectation of maintaining boundaries in your team culture.

Be diverse in your interactions.

It’s easy to become habitual in your daily interactions with your team. Who do you interact with infrequently? Take a step outside of your department and meet someone new. Not only will that increase team interaction, but you might find a thing or two to implement within your own department.

Model Vulnerability

Remember that vulnerability is exposing yourself to the possibility of harm or loss. If you model and reinforce a pattern of vulnerability, others will do the same.

Ask Twice as Much as You Tell

When you ask someone a question, it’s an invitation to engage. Telling can be fine too, but if you tell too much, it’s self-serving and it signals selfishness, arrogance, and dominance, all of which are off-putting.

You can approach these individually as a form of self-reflection and self-improvement, or introduce them in a training session as psychological safety team exercises.

Psychological Safety Examples

As the term psychological safety gains traction online, in the news, and in the conference room, the most dynamic organizations, the most successful leaders, and the happiest employees are all figuring out the same thing: The primary benefits of psychological safety have unique workplace dividends. This is because psychological safety lives at the heart of culture. 

Learning how to promote psychological safety will transform your culture into a competitive advantage for your entire organization. Psychologically safe organizations increase retention, enhance engagement, cultivate wellness, and improve performance, all by creating a culture where employees can be their authentic selves at work. Employees who work in these kinds of cultures can create value exponentially and become inclusive and innovative in their everyday interactions. Ask yourself these six questions to create psychological safety on your team:

1. Presence: Your presence has an impact on the tone and tenor of a meeting. When you enter a room, does your influence warm or chill the air?

2. Collaboration: When you collaborate with your peers, does your influence accelerate or decelerate the speed of discovery and innovation?

3. Feedback: Fear breaks the feedback loop. If there’s pervasive fear, people filter or withhold feedback. Does your influence increase or restrict the flow of feedback?

4. Inquiry: Telling has a tendency to shut people down, while asking has tendency to draw people out. Does your influence draw people out or shut them down?

5. Dissent: Dissent is critical to making good decisions by thinking carefully about different potential courses of action. Do you encourage and reward dissent or discourage and punish dissent?

6. Mistakes: Mistakes are clinical material for learning and progress. Do you celebrate mistakes and the lessons learned or overreact and marginalize those who make them?

Now What?

If you haven’t made an intentional effort to shape your company culture, you’re probably embracing your default culture. Default cultures aren’t actively inclusive or innovative, they have hidden problems, and they detract from your bottom line. If you have a default culture, you won’t compete in highly dynamic markets. You’ll have contagious toxicity, and you won’t know why. Your employees will remain unengaged until they’re so unhappy that they walk out the door. Yikes.

What happens when you approach culture with intentionality? Well, first, your expectations are out in the open. You’ll refer to them when team members are onboarded and trained, when succession planning, and when any major decisions are being made. No one will have to guess how they should interact with others. Because they’ll know what’s expected. This is culture by design.

Second, your behavior changes. In order to truly be intentional about your culture as a whole, you have to be intentional about the little things. How do you greet your team members? Do you greet them at all? Who do you interact with during your work day? What’s your knee-jerk response to feedback, disagreement, and concern? What is said when a team member makes a mistake? Is brainstorming productive? 

Once you see it you can’t unsee it. You make a difference. A psychological safety assessment will uncover what kind of differences your organization is making.

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