The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™

Stage 3: Contributor Safety

Contributor safety satisfies the basic human need to contribute and make a difference. The more we contribute, the more confidence and competence we develop. When we create contributor safety for others, we empower them with autonomy, guidance, and encouragement in exchange for effort and results.

No one likes a micromanager.

Leaders may hold back from giving full responsibility without realizing that limiting autonomy takes a lot of the fun and fulfillment out of work. They may not want to introduce the variance and volatility of someone else having more influence over those outcomes.

While they may have their team’s best interest at heart, micromanagers suffocate the potential of their motivated, talented team members when they withhold autonomy.

Accountability has three levels.

In any team, individuals work under three different levels of accountability–task, process, and outcome. Of course, the levels aren’t usually that discrete and usually happen in a spectrum. But one thing is for sure: If your teams want autonomy, they have to learn to love accountability.

How do I help others contribute meaningfully?

Try these eight things to introduce contributor safety into your organization’s culture:

Avoid Shutdown Statements

Avoid any statement that would shut down rather than draw out the discretionary effort of your team members. We’re talking about phrases like “bad idea,” “nice try,” or “I told you so.”

Ask People What They Think

Those four simple words invite contribution. Never use them when you don’t really mean it. At the same time, don’t make a decision or action without asking, even when you think you know the right answer.

Check Skills and Resources.

For your team members to contribute the way you expect, they will need the skills and resources to do the job. Check in on them regularly and ask what they need.

Keep Focused with Tradeoffs.

If your team is chasing too many priorities, it will lose its steam and desire to contribute. Teams that lack a clear focus become confused and dilute their efforts.

Give People the Why

Research shows that the strongest driver of engagement and performance is when we find meaning and purpose in the work we do.

Let Them Do It Their Way

Human beings want to make a difference. They also want to make a difference in their own unique way. Delegate with clear expectations and parameter and then get out of the way.

Use the Compounding Principle

Often your team members may not think their contributions are amounting to anything. Help them understand that the right efforts directed in the right direction create a compounding effect over time.

Ask For Help From Different Roles

Model humility and ask for help from those who work outside, or under, your role. Let them teach you, which leads to increased confidence and engagement.

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