Related Resources

Psychological Safety: Creating Effective Training

Have you noticed that your culture is lacking? This is probably due to a lack of psychological safety in the workplace. As the term gains more global attention, organizations interested in getting ahead of the curve are searching for effective psychological safety training methods to roll out into their organizations. Your psychological safety initiative can’t be a one-and-done culture training, it has to become an integral part of your organization’s onboarding process, meeting agendas, and consistent way of life. Why? Because psychological safety in teams isn’t built after one encounter with psychological safety. Teams need consistent practice with modeling and rewarding acts of vulnerability across the four stages of psychological safety before those behaviors will become comfortable.

Culture is either created by design, or by default, and if you aren’t actively creating a culture built on psychological safety, you’re probably embracing a default culture. Default cultures are usually toxic, slow, and unappealing to new hires. Toxic cultures drive top talent away and keep existing talent from reaching their full potential. Psychological safety training set the cultural tone for you organization and ensures that everyone is on the same page about what is expected of them, and what they can expect culturally, at work.

Psychological Safety Books

In his book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, Timothy R. Clark outlines his four stages of psychological safety framework. This psychological safety model explains that teams progress through the stages of psychological safety as they model and reward each other’s acts of vulnerability. Clark’s organization, culture and psychological safety research is extensive, and not just academic. He spent years as the plant manager of Geneva Steel before settling into consulting work.

Timothy R. Clark is the 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. Before founding LeaderFactor 15 years ago, Dr. Clark served as the CEO for two companies. At LeaderFactor psychological safety is the foundation of everything Clark does. His mantra to leaders is, “Lead as if you have no power.”

This book, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, helps practitioners take psychological safety from academic theory to real practice. It encourages readers everywhere to crack themselves open and enact real change.

Psychological Safety Examples

Building psychological safety at work starts with looking inside yourself. Ask yourself these questions to assess your personal impact on psychological safety: 


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?


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


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?


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?


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?


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

Unvarnished Truth

No one likes to hear the unvarnished truth when it's unflattering. And yet we need to hear it or suffer the consequences of willful blindness. Can people tell you what you don’t want to hear when you don’t want to hear it?

These psychological safety examples can help you recognize where you might be lacking in your efforts to model and reward vulnerability, especially if you’re a leader of any kind. What you do, what you say, and how you react matter. A lot. Be the kind of change you want to see in your organization. If you don’t know what that looks like, a psychological safety workshop will help you iron out the details and dive deeper into the concept. You’ll walk away with practical skills to turn into psychological safety exercises for your whole organization.

Trust Vs Psychological Safety

Trust is a dynamic and delicate part of any relationship, whether that be personal, professional, or familial. It’s easy to break, easy to lose, and extremely difficult to rebuild. It’s no different on teams: others may expect you to show up for them only to drop the ball when you need them most. In the context of the workplace, psychological safety and trust are synonymous. Once members of your team are confident that they belong and feel safe to make mistakes, create value, and be candid about change, that trust will spread to all other aspects of work life. 

Maybe you’ve interacted with leaders and colleagues who punish your mistakes in humiliating, dehumanizing ways. Or with people who won’t let you try new things and claim that exploration is a waste of time. If not either of those, then with people who make you feel inferior for not knowing an answer, or needing more help and resources to accomplish a task. How could you ever expect a culture of trust to come from that much toxicity? Trust starts with feeling safe to be human at work.

The equation? Trust = psychological safety + consistency

Trust builds across an organization when psychological safety is met with consistency. Don’t expect perfect, shatterproof trust to immediately come from day one of your culture initiative. Your teams will need confidence in the safeties that psychological safety provides, and the culture of rewarded vulnerability that it creates, before they’ll really start trusting each other. But once they do? You’ll be ready to leave innovation-stifling norms behind and start creating value exponentially. 

Psychological safety training for leaders is what will establish that consistency for your team members. Once they’re on board and know how to create a safe environment, your team members will feel the difference and follow suit.

Psychological Safety Training Objectives

For any psychological safety workshop, training, keynote, or initiative, the initial psychological safety training objectives are simple: establish common ground and provide common language around the topic. You can’t expect anyone to practice psychological safety if they don’t know what it is, how it works, or even how to talk about it. Start there. Your goal should be to ignite a fire and get your leaders and management excited about the idea of psychological safety. Because it’s not something that can be mandated or checked off in a quota. It has to become an integral part of your work life. 

Psychological safety training for employees will look a whole lot like your management training, but at a larger scale. Integrate it into your onboarding process, talk about it in meetings, in reviews, in one-on-ones. Make sure that everyone, everywhere, from the C-Suite to the shop floor, knows about psychological safety and how it can help them in their role. Help them find their voice, help them overcome their fear, and more importantly, show them that you’re listening and that you’re an active participant in changing your company culture.

Psychological Safety Practitioner

At LeaderFactor, we call psychological safety practitioners “cultural architects.” A cultural architect is someone who approaches culture with intentionality. You can become a cultural architect no matter your position, your title, or your authority. 

The same way that fish have water, humans have culture. You can’t just step out of culture and dry yourself off with a towel. You’re in it, and it’s in you. Culture is a complicated blend of values, assumptions, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and customs. But at the end of the day, it all comes out in the way we interact.

We, as humans, crave interaction. We’re biologically driven to connect with each other because we have an innate need to belong. The need for connection and belonging, much like the need for food, shelter, and water, governs the quality of our interactions, and consequently our relationships. These are needs that exist regardless of status, beliefs, race, gender, or religion. 

At the heart of all of this: culture, human experience, and interaction, we find psychological safety. No, it’s not a concept that stays locked in your office supply closet and pulled out during damage control. And it’s definitely not just a theoretical concept meant for academic debate. It’s an integral part of your everyday life.

Psychological safety is the key to mending broken interactions and creating cultures of rewarded vulnerability in every social setting. Yes, we use the workplace as our primary example in this book, but that’s because the primary benefits of psychological safety have unique workplace dividends. Psychological safety creates sanctuaries of inclusion and incubators of innovation where people feel safe to be their authentic selves and create value exponentially. 

If you’re a leader of any kind, if you influence others with your daily interactions (surprise, that’s everyone), or if you just want to learn how to be a better human, then you should start with a foundation of psychological safety. You should learn how to model and reward vulnerability across The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety and influence the cultures you participate in for good. 

Psychological Safety Discussion Questions

1. Do you truly believe that all humans are created equal, and do you accept others and welcome them into your society simply because they possess flesh and blood even if their values differ from your own?

2. Without bias or discrimination, do you encourage others to learn and grow, and do you support them in that process even when they lack confidence or make mistakes?

3. Do you grant others maximum autonomy to contribute in their own way as they demonstrate their ability to deliver results?

4. Do you consistently invite others to challenge the status quo in order to make things better, and are you personally prepared to be wrong based on the humility and learning mindset you have developed?

More Articles