Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

Employee Engagement or Psychological Safety: Which Comes First?

Back by popular demand is another special episode talking about engagement and psychological safety. Tim and Junior talk about which is a lead measure, which is a lag measure, and which is a consequence of the other. This episode comes from a previous webinar recorded in 2021. Give it a listen:

Download the episode resources.

Download The Guide

Episode Show Notes

Back by popular demand is another special episode talking about engagement and psychological safety. Tim and Junior talk about which is a lead measure, which is a lag measure, and which is a consequence of the other. This episode comes from a previous webinar recorded in 2021. Give it a listen: 

Why are we talking about this? (1:00) Employee engagement surveys have been a key part of organizations for the last few years, but which comes first in the causal chain: psychological safety or employee engagement?

Employee engagement as expression (2:00). Tim shares his favorite definition of employee engagement from William Kahn and sets the stage for the discussion with the history of company culture measures. 

Our environment enables our expression (10:20). Culture is a product of our environment and our expression is also influenced by our environment. Tim and Junior explain that psychological safety enables our expression.

What is vulnerability? (15:30) Not all acts of vulnerability are created equal, but everyone experiences vulnerability across The 4 Stages. Tim and Junior discuss that rhetoric can’t change punished vulnerability in an organization, but modeling and rewarding behavior can. 

What is threat detection? (20:30) We are constantly asking the same question: am I in a safe environment or not? If we feel that we’re safe, we’ll offer a performance response. If we don’t, we’ll jump to a fear response.

The causal pathway (26:20). Employee engagement is a mediator between psychological safety and performance. 

From theory to practice (31:30). How do you model and reward vulnerability across The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety? How do you fuse respect and permission to make psychological safety happen?

Episode Transcript

0:00:02.3 S1: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, it's Freddie and I help produce the podcast here at LeaderFactor. Back by popular demand is another special episode, this time on employee engagement and psychological safety, which comes first. Which one is a lead indicator, which one is a lag indicator, and which one is a consequence of the other. A few notes on today's episode. Tim and Junior previously recorded this live LeaderFactor webinar in November of 2021. There are a handful of references to the pandemic, but don't be alarmed. As always, you can find episode show notes at Thanks again for listening and thank you for all of your reviews. I hope you enjoy today's discussion on employee engagement and psychological safety. Tim is with us today. He's an Oxford trained social scientist and is the CEO and founder of LeaderFactor. We're grateful to have him with us. Tim, thank you for spending some time with us today. Tell us about these two concepts. Why are we talking about what we're talking about today?

0:01:05.0 S2: Well, employee engagement is important in every organization. How many of you, just think about this, how many of you participate in employee engagement surveys and you're probably running that, I don't know, once a year, once every 18 months, once every two years, sometimes even more often now, more as a whole survey. But employee engagement has been a very important part of organizations for the last few years. And what we're going to talk about today is the relationship between employee engagement and psychological safety. And we're asking a question. We're asking a simple question that has profound implications. And that question is which one comes first in the causal chain, in the cause and effect relationship? Does it matter? It matters a great deal. And we're going to talk about why. So this is an interesting slide, Tim.

0:01:56.8 S1: You've been really talking about this the last few days, employee engagement as expression. Help us understand this a little bit.

0:02:03.6 S1: Right. So one of the fathers, if not the primary father of the concept and the research into employee engagement is Professor William Kahn at Boston University. And my favorite definition of employee engagement comes from his pioneering work. So let me quote from his work. He says, he defines it as the simultaneous employment and expression of a person's preferred self. And you got to think about these words, preferred self in task behaviors that promote connections to work, to others, personal presence, physical, cognitive, and emotional and active full role performances. And then he continues the harnessing of organization members, selves to their work roles in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances. Okay. Now, what did he just say? Let's boil this down. Let's compress this. Professor Kahn is saying that employee engagement is based on your ability to express yourself in role. So here is the key concept. Employee engagement is expression. It is your expression in your role. What kind of expression? It's your emotional expression, your intellectual expression, your physical expression, your social expression in all of these categories. I want you to think about employee engagement as expression.

0:03:36.0 S2: When you start to view it that way and think of it that way, the light goes on. And now we really start to understand what employee engagement is all about. It's the way that you express yourself holistically with your organization. That's what it means.

0:03:53.2 S1: One of the interesting things about this to me looking at it this way is I think previously my perception and perhaps many of the perceptions that exist out there regarding employee engagement are more mechanical. They're more satisfaction oriented. And so when I think of expression, expression is much more active to me. And so looking at it this way has been enlightening. So I really like this definition. And it's ironic because this is one of the earliest looks at employee engagement. And so sometimes over time, those original and really high quality perceptions or definitions become diluted or skewed over time. And that's something that we talked about a little bit with adapt strategic agility and some of the agile methodology of a previous webinar. Over time, it's interesting that we sometimes deviate from that original and sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. That's true, Junior. And let's go back in time and talk a little bit about what were we focusing on before employee engagement? We were focusing on employee satisfaction. But satisfaction is a very different variable than engagement. So let's go back to the 1920s when Elton Mayo conducted his experiments at Western Electric Company outside of Chicago.

0:05:10.5 S1: What we found is that employee satisfaction is a very different thing than employee engagement because there were some employees who were content and not productive at the same time. So they expressed satisfaction in their jobs, but they were not productive. And so we call this happy dead weight. So there's happy dead weight. People that are content, but they're not productive. Isn't that interesting? Well, that's not that helpful because we want people to be productive. We want people to contribute. Employee satisfaction is not measuring what we need to measure. So then we graduated from measuring employee satisfaction. We said, let's measure employee engagement. So that was the evolution. That was the progression. So now, Junior, let's go to the next slide and let's talk about employee engagement as expression. So we are building on William Kahn's definition, employee engagement as expression. It's a composite variable that includes an employee's expression of connection, commitment, and contribution. So the three Cs, it's the totality of your expression related to your connection to your colleagues, your coworkers, everybody else that you interact with, your commitment to the goals of the organization, what it stands for, and then the contribution that you're able to make.

0:06:45.6 S2: Those are all dimensions of your expression. Connection, commitment, and contribution. So here's what we found. After we got done measuring employee satisfaction, we came to employee engagement. We found over and over again that employee engagement is directly correlated with productivity, quality, and retention. Employee satisfaction was not, but employee engagement is. And so we said, wow, this is important. This is a very important independent variable. Yeah, and it's interesting to me, if we're looking at post-pandemic world and we're looking at virtual environment, the connection one's really interesting.

0:07:26.3 S2: We're getting some comments about that in chat. Connection and engagement as it relates to connection looks different in the 21st century, specifically over the last 18 months, two years than it has in the past. And so we need to approach it differently. And if we ignore this, it will be to our detriment, right? Well and Junior, to that point, we can say that for many people, the pandemic has done violence to their connection. They feel isolated. In many cases, they feel lonely. They don't feel that sense of community and connectedness that we would want them to feel. So we have to reevaluate the pandemic has really knocked us into a state of disequilibrium and we're trying to figure out how to respond to that. And how do we go forward? Because can we assume that there's going to be a spontaneous return to order? Are we going back to the way things used to be before the pandemic? I'd say no, I'd say close to impossible. And I think most people would agree. I would agree with that.

0:08:24.3 S1: So this next slide is an interesting slide. This is a very interesting piece of data. So Tim, tell us about this. Well, this is based on the newest batch of Gallup data, which is reported this year. This is just a couple of months old. So the snapshot says that 20% of employees globally are engaged. Now that's just one in five.

0:08:47.1 S2: That's incredible.

0:08:48.5 S1: That's incredible that it's 2021 data. I think that's interesting. So if we look at the previous slide, that engagement is these three things, an expression of connection, commitment, and contribution. What we're saying is that 20% of people feel those three things. That they feel connected, that they feel committed, and that they feel like they're contributing meaningfully. That to me is fascinating. When you really get down to brass tacks, look at what engagement is, and then recognize that only 20% of employees globally are engaged. And this is global data. Again, it's not just domestic to us.

0:09:27.8 S2: Yeah, that's really true. I like what some of these comments, we now have the opportunity to reevaluate and reconsider work life. And that's exactly what we're doing. And so in most every organization, we are trying to figure out what the post pandemic world looks like. But you know what, it's interesting. I was with an executive team yesterday, Junior, and the CEO said, this is in a pharmaceutical company, he said, this pandemic is not going to go away. It's going to be a process that we deal with, that we wrestle with for a while. And we were in all day meetings yesterday, everybody was in masks. And there's been an uptick in the infection rate around here. And so this is not an event that goes away, and then we progress to the next stage. This is going to be ongoing. And we're going to have some ebbs and flows, aren't we? We certainly are.

0:10:21.0 S1: We're going to go to our next slide, which I love. Environment enables expression. This is a core concept today that we're going to be talking about. And it has a lot to do with engagement, it has a lot to do with psychological safety. Measure in large measure is product of environment, and the behaviors or expression is influenced by our environment. So Tim, tell us about this. Sure.

0:10:47.7 S2: So what did we establish? We established that employee engagement is a composite variable that represents your expression in every way, your social expression, your intellectual expression, your mental and emotional expression. So it's all aspects of expression. So then we have to ask the question, well, if it's your expression, what precedes expression? What enables expression? So yes, employee engagement is an independent variable that is directly tied to quality and productivity and retention. But this begs the question, what enables the expression? So we have to back up, we have to go upstream in the causal chain and think about this. And this is what takes us to none other than psychological safety.

0:11:41.8 S1: Absolutely. So remember the title of today's webinar and the topic that we are discussing today. We're talking about these two concepts, employee engagement and psychological safety, and which one comes first. So we first talked about employee engagement, what it is, the progression to today. How many people are engaged? Then we're looking at psychological safety. So let us take you through a similar path. We're going to define it, talk about what it is, why it's important. And then we'll talk about the sequence of the two. So psychological safety, our definition here at Leader Factor is that it's an environment of rewarded vulnerability. And past that, we've identified four stages through which people progress on the journey to high psychological safety. And the first one is inclusion. The second is learning. The three is contribution and the four is challenging. And so an environment of rewarded vulnerability that allows an employee to feel included, safe to learn, safe to contribute and safe to challenge the status quo. And so I want to point out a couple of really important things about this model or this definition. And the first is vulnerability. And we're going to talk a little bit about that.

0:12:55.3 S1: But what is the word that precedes it? Rewarded. That is very, very important. And there's a reason that we didn't go with something like tolerated. We used rewarded very much on purpose. So rewarded vulnerability that allows employees to feel these four things all without fear of negative consequences. And those negative consequences are all over the map. It could be fear of retribution. It could be fear of being marginalized or humiliated or publicly shamed or whatever the case might be. And so this is our definition of psychological safety. And hopefully it resonates with you.

0:13:30.9 S1: Let me point something out, Junior. And this may not be immediately obvious to all of our viewers today. But when we say rewarded vulnerability that allows you to do these four things, I want you to think about these four categories being included. That is a vulnerable activity to bring your whole self to work is a vulnerable activity. Go to number two, learning is a vulnerable activity. Contributing is a vulnerable activity. And finally, challenging the status quo for sure is a vulnerable activity. What we're saying is you can't be yourself. You can't perform at capacity. You can't learn at capacity. You can't contribute at capacity unless those vulnerable activities are rewarded. If they're punished, then you don't have the environment that enables your expression. So I want you to think about psychological safety as the environment that enables employee engagement as the expression. So we have to go back to those three words. Environment enables expression. That's a capsule summary of the way the cause and effect chain works. Thank you everyone for your comments in the chat. Really appreciate those. We've got some really good ones in here. Junior, there was just an amazing comment that said, I just left my organization because these three things were not in place.

0:14:55.8 S2: Yeah. Or four things. Isn't that interesting?

0:14:59.0 S1: Yeah. And I'm sure that a lot of people share that same sentiment. I think that this is why we get a lot of the turnover and exit that we get is because people aren't feeling those four things and what's happening. Let's describe the mechanism. Okay. We're going to talk about vulnerability. What is it? Venture to the risk of harm or loss and that harm or loss can fall into a plethora of categories. It could be social risk. It could be political risk. It could be monetary risk. It could be any number of things. And so I would venture to guess if there are those of you out there who have left organizations because you didn't feel that environment that you were looking for, those types of things were probably punished. You probably had some vulnerabilities that were punished by other people. And this is true of all of us. This happens to all of us very frequently. And in the research that we've done, I don't know if it's surprising, it's certainly sad in some sense that people's vulnerability is punished often. It's amazing, Junior. There's another several comments in the chat about, I left my organization because of the toxic environment.

0:16:06.9 S2: Yeah. It's a toxic environment. You put an adjective in front of environment. When it's toxic, that does not enable your expression. That's exactly what we're talking about. The environment has a profound impact on your ability to express yourself fully. And that expression is your engagement is what it is.

0:16:31.8 S1: Love that. So here's another statement for you. Not all acts of vulnerability are created equal. And this has to do with the four stages, and we're not going to dive deeply into the distinction. But if we go back here, the ladder of vulnerability, if you will, follows these four stages. The first is feeling included. And the last is challenging the status quo. There are different levels of risk associated with those two things. It's easier or less risky, if you will, for me to introduce myself and shake my hand and say, Hi, I'm Junior. It's an entirely different thing for me to challenge the direction of the organization openly. Right. So that's just an example for you that there are categories of vulnerability and levels of vulnerability, and not all of them are the same. There are things that are very risky and things that are just a little bit risky. But Junior, this brings up a point. This brings up a very interesting point. I don't know how many organizations lately that I have come across that say, do you know what, we're going to put into place a speak up culture. We want everybody to speak up.

0:17:40.3 S1: So the leaders then get out there and they say, we now have a speak up culture, and I want you to speak up. I want your candid input. I want your honest feedback. Well, hang on a second. You're trying to leapfrog all the way to perhaps the scariest acts of vulnerability. That's not how it works. You don't just skip all of the other stages and go to these acts of vulnerability that are the most difficult, the scariest, the most frightening, the most formidable. That's not the way it works. You've got to build stage by stage. Right. And it's interesting to me that there are so many organizations or leaders that ask that question or make those types of statements, just expecting that by decree, it's now going to happen. And if I tell you that, hey, I'm open to all of your candid comments and feedback that makes it so. And that's really not the case. Right. And there's a lot of legwork that has to be done and a lot of foundation that needs to be laid before those types of comments have any credence at all. Yeah. So people will stay. They'll stay holed up.

0:18:48.8 S2: I'm so glad you said that, Junior. Communication is part of culture. It's a very important part of culture. But culture is not rhetoric. As you said, you cannot decree psychological safety into existence with mere words. You can only create psychological safety by your modeling behavior and then rewarding the acts of vulnerability of others. That's how you do it. So it's very interesting that leaders will kind of get on point, call an all hands meeting and say, it's now a speak up culture. No, it's not.

0:19:23.4 S1: No, it's not.

0:19:24.0 S2: It is not a culture until you feel that you will be rewarded in that vulnerable activity. That's when it becomes a speak up culture.

0:19:34.9 S1: And I want to acknowledge, too, that sometimes we'll poke fun and say, you know, I can't believe that all these leaders do this. It's difficult. It's difficult to make sure that all of the foundation is laid and that all of the activities have been done so that the environment really is a place where people can speak up and be rewarded for it. And so you have to be intentional about it. And that's the last piece that I want to leave us with on this slide is that if you're not intentional, this isn't something that just happens because this isn't something that happens as a product of chance or as a product of time. It's only a product of intentional effort, focused effort, culture by design instead of by default, as we like to distinguish. That's right. So this is probably one of the easiest ways to understand vulnerability and whether it's punished and rewarded and what happens in either case. So Tim, you want to take us through this?

0:20:28.6 S2: Yeah, sure. So what humans do is when we enter a social environment, regardless of whether it's new or even if it's with people that we know already and work with, we engage in threat detection as a very normal, natural, instinctive process. This is what humans do. And we're trying to figure out if we're in a safe or an unsafe environment. This is what threat detection is all about. So we are constantly asking and answering the same question. Am I in a safe environment or not? If we think we are, then we typically offer a performance response. What does that look like? Performance response. If someone feels that they're in a safe environment, and by the way, what does safe mean? Safe means that my acts of vulnerability will be rewarded. If I feel that I'm in a safe environment, then I'll offer a performance response. What does that look like? What does a performance response look like?

0:21:23.0 S1: Go ahead and tell them that.

0:21:24.7 S1: Yeah, let's see it. Creativity, collaboration, productivity. I'm going to ask questions. It looks like action. I like that. It looks like action. It does. So I'm going to jump in. I'm eagerly going to jump in and release my discretionary efforts because I'm not worried. I'm not preoccupied with the thought that, oh, I'm not in a safe environment, so I'm just going to jump in. The purpose of a performance response is to add value. That's your intent. That's why you're jumping in. You want to add value. Now let's take a look at the other side of this. If you come to the conclusion that you're in an unsafe environment, you will typically offer a fear response. What does a fear response look like? It's quite a bit different than a performance response, isn't it? Behaviorally, what do we see? Okay, avoidance. I'm running away. There's fear of retaliation. There's silence. I'm going to keep quiet. It could be fight or flight. Eyes down, heads down. That's exactly right. Now what is the purpose of a fear response? To survive. Do you see the difference? We have different objectives now. We have moved from the purpose of creating and adding value to the purpose of surviving.

0:22:46.9 S2: Now it's all about self-preservation. It's a completely different purpose. I'm taking my productive capacity and I'm redirecting it. I'm reallocating it to survival. That is the goal. This helps us understand why psychological safety, why an environment of rewarded vulnerability is so essential and why it has a profound impact on your performance as an individual and the performance of the team and the organization.

0:23:16.9 S1: Absolutely. There's a comment here that I really love from Jules. Leaders are often swept along with the culture too. We need to help them to gain insight into how cultures are created and maintained. Only then can they make the necessary changes. That's so true. It's so true and we don't often spend enough time there. What we have found increasingly is that people are promoted to managerial positions based on their competence and skills and individual contributor. It's often the case that we expect them to understand management and understand culture just as product of their promotion. That doesn't make any sense at all. We have to be very intentional about dispersing this type of information, educating the organization, educating our leaders and helping them understand that their behavior every single day affects these things. There are quite a few questions in the chat about how do you actually reward vulnerability? What does that look like? Let me give an example that may help provide some concreteness to this idea. Let's say that I am an individual contributor. I'm a member of a team and I go to my manager and I say, hey, I noticed that there's this piece of the process that seems a little finicky.

0:24:25.0 S1: It's a little weird. It's a little unstable. Can we do something about that? I have an idea. There are two ways that the manager could respond to that. I just engaged in an act of vulnerability. I put myself out there. He could say or she could say, hey, that's just the way that things are done around here. Thanks but no thanks. If you could just go get back to work, that would be great. That is punished vulnerability. My response at that point is likely to be a fear response. From that point on, I'm not going to ask a question like that again. I'm not going to make another suggestion like that or at least I'm less likely to. Alternatively, my manager could say, Junior, that's an actually really good question. I hadn't thought about it that way before. Will you tell me your idea? I proceeded to tell him the idea. That's a wonderful idea. What if we did this, this and this and we could test it out?

0:25:17.7 S2: Rewarded vulnerability. Even if at the end of the day, your idea is maybe not the best idea. It's not the idea they go with. It's not the idea that they implement. At least they heard you out. Absolutely. That's going to make a big difference because they acknowledged and they were willing to listen to what you had to say. You're going to come back. They've still rewarded your behavior even though maybe they didn't implement the idea.

0:25:44.0 S1: Absolutely. Okay. Here is what happens when these two things happen. Punished vulnerability results in often three things. It activates the pain centers of the brain. It triggers the self-censoring instinct and it shifts the individual to a defensive mode of performance as we were talking about. We curl up, we act in self-preservation. The individual is now preoccupied in that case of punished vulnerability with personal risk management, self-preservation and loss avoidance. Just to give a few more points to what exactly happens then. Wonderful. Let's go to the causal pathway and we're going to talk or answer the question that we posed at the very beginning. What is the causal pathway? Tim, tell us about the relationship and why some of these have X's and Y's. Sure. Let's go back to what we said. Environment enables expression. Expression meaning engagement. Environment meaning psychological safety. So then if we go upstream, it becomes very clear what the causal pathway is. So in research, an X variable, an independent variable is a cause and a Y variable is an effect or a dependent variable. And so what we learn, what we come to understand about psychological safety is that it is upstream and it precedes employee engagement.

0:27:09.5 S2: So what is employee engagement? Employee engagement is what we call in statistical analysis a mediating variable or mediator. That means it's in between another independent variable and then a dependent variable downstream. So it is largely shaped by psychological safety and acts as a go between factor between psychological safety and performance. So it's in the middle. It's a mediator. Now are there other things that work? Yeah, there are other things that work, but this is what we call a dominant pattern. It's a pattern that we cannot afford to ignore. It's that important. Now everyone's going to feel it a little bit differently, right? We're all individuals and the constellation of factors and forces that come together in our work environment are different, but this is a dominant causal pathway that we need to be aware of. And I think it enlightens us. It helps us understand how important psychological safety is and that we should be putting a major emphasis on psychological safety because it's upstream.

0:28:24.6 S1: I want to just double click on how important and perhaps disruptive this point is. If you look at the way that organizations approach employee engagement around the world, it's very intentional. In many cases it's measured. There's deliberate intervention after the fact. And is that true for psychological safety yet? No. In most organizations it's a relatively new concept. It's something that we're really trying to wrap our arms around at this point. Yet it's so clear in the causal chain that it's upstream from employee engagement. So there's some dissonance right there between what we're spending time on and what we're focusing on and what's actually affecting the outcomes. And so I think if I could make a prediction that you'll see more organizations start to understand the causal chain and focus more time and attention on psychological safety because it is at the root of employee engagement. And if I could double click on the concept overall, the thing that really shook loose for me was that environment enables expression. And if environment is psychological safety and expression is engagement, that is very, very difficult to argue with. And I haven't been able to flip this around successfully and say that psychological safety is a product of engagement.

0:29:49.4 S1: If you can do that, then you just proved this whole thing. But I think that it's an impossible task. It seems very clear to me. It's really, really interesting.

0:29:58.3 S1: Junior, I think it's become even more clear during the past 21 months of the pandemic because the pandemic has given us laboratory conditions to understand this cause and effect relationship where people often have felt a lack of psychological safety during the pandemic. And so their engagement has gone down and performance has lagged as well. We can verify this at an individual level, right? You can verify this in your own work life, right? You can see whether this is true or not based on what you personally have experienced over the past 21 months. So ask yourself the question, have I felt more or less psychological safety during the past 21 months overall? Has it gone up or down? Next question. Do you feel that your overall level of employee engagement has gone up or down? Or expression of connection, contribution and commitment? Commitment, of course. So you can ask yourself those two questions to verify and validate the causal chain in your own life. You can be your own laboratory experiment in this case. And very, very important to reflect on this and think about your own experience and then have a conversation with your colleagues about it.

0:31:21.8 S2: What's happened? What has happened to you in the last 21 months to the environment and to your expression?

0:31:29.3 S1: So we're going to come back to the ground and we're going to talk a little bit about practice here. So this is the mechanism to transform culture and the way that these two levers or cogs work together to modeling and rewarding. So Tim, distinguish those two for us.

0:31:46.0 S2: Yeah. So let's go back to the definition of psychological safety and environment of rewarded vulnerability. So the central mechanism to shift the culture toward higher levels of psychological safety is to model acts of vulnerability yourself first and then reward those acts of vulnerability as others engage in those acts. So that's the mechanism. Model yourself, reward the acts of vulnerability in others. That central mechanism, if applied consistently, will shift the prevailing norms of the culture. There's no other mechanism that can do this. This is the central mechanism.

0:32:27.1 S1: The next thing that we want to show you is the four stages model. We're not going to spend a lot of time here, but we have excavated the concept of psychological safety and Tim looked at the causal chain, if you will, of psychological safety. And if there are areas of high psychological safety and there are areas of low and there are some areas in the middle and psychological safety is in binary, then there has to be something that governs the level of psychological safety that exists in a social collective. And so Tim, walk us very quickly through this model and help us understand some of your thinking here. Sure.

0:33:02.1 S1: So in the first place, psychological safety is a function of two things, respect, which you see on the vertical axis, and then permission, which you see along the horizontal axis. It's the fusion of these two things coming together that gives us a level of psychological safety. Now, beyond that, there's a progression. So in the lower left-hand corner, you'll see exclusion. This is the state that we're in when we first come together and we don't know each other and we've never worked together and we have no relationship. We're in a state of exclusion. This is the starting point. But then as we begin to interact, what happens? Norms emerge, patterns of interaction emerge. Hopefully they're inclusive. And so then we move, we cross this inclusion threshold to stage one, inclusion safety, which means that I feel included and I feel accepted and I have a sense of belonging. This is the foundation, but not everyone feels that way. Even on established teams and organizations, we often have people that are marginalized, that are in the shadows and that feel excluded. And so we can see that this putting the foundation in place is not easy and many organizations are struggling to do this.

0:34:19.7 S1: But if we do, then we progress to stage two learner safety, which means that you feel safe to engage in the learning process, asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting, even making mistakes. And you're not going to be marginalized or punished or embarrassed in some way. Then you go to stage three, which is contributor safety. Contributor safety means that you have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, to make a difference, to take what you learned and apply it. So you can see the natural sequence. Learning precedes contribution. That makes sense. We all have a deep seated need and desire to make a meaningful contribution. So that means that we need some level of autonomy and support and encouragement. And then finally, we move to stage four, which is the culminating stage, which we call challenger safety. Challenger safety means that you feel safe to challenge the status quo without fear of retaliation, without fear of jeopardizing your personal standing or reputation or putting your even your career on the line. Now you'll notice that when you cross over from stage three to four, you cross the innovation threshold. Now why is that? Well, I want you to think for a minute about innovation.

0:35:44.8 S2: Innovation by its very nature is disruptive of the status quo. It undermines the status quo. You need to be able to challenge the status quo. You need to be able to have constructive dissent and creative abrasion in order to solve difficult problems and create new breakthroughs and come up with new solutions. That's what innovation is all about. And so you can see that innovation, creating an incubator of innovation is very much tied to what the environment and the conditions. So again, we come back to environment enables expression. And this is the natural progression of the four stages of psychological safety.

0:36:31.9 S1: Thanks for running us through that, Tim. And we're not going to talk about this one too much. But there are two types of friction that exist inside social collectives, intellectual and social. Intellectual, we want to go up while simultaneously pushing the social friction down. So we're about out of time. We want to get to the giveaway. So hang around. There are a couple things that we're going to ask of you. But before we get to that point, I want to highlight the book one more time. If you haven't had a chance to do that and read the book. I want to share a review with you from Allison. So Allison, thank you for your review. Here's what Allison said. This is a very popular book in the management world. 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 company's leadership. Lots of common sense ideas that are supported by real world experiential data. I highly recommend that all our frontline supervisors read and apply. Allison, thank you for taking the time and effort to write a review.

0:37:29.5 S1: If you've read the book and liked the book, we would really appreciate your review. That helps us get the content out into the world. So finally, thank you. Thank you for being with us today. Thank you for attending. Thank you for your time. We appreciate all that you do. We recognize that people that opt into these types of webinars care about the world. And we are very confident that you do too. We want to influence the world for good. And we're appreciative of you and your support as we all do that together.

0:38:07.3 S1: Thanks for joining me today on the Culture by Design podcast. Be sure to subscribe and listen to new episodes every week. And if you'd like to see more of the work we're doing, go to

Show Notes

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Recent Episodes

The Coaching and Accountability Matrix

May 20, 2024

Micro-coaching Pt. 2: The 3 Levels of Accountability

May 13, 2024

Micro-coaching Part 1: The Coaching Continuum

May 6, 2024