The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™

Stage 1: Inclusion Safety

Inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. Whether at work, school, home, or in other social settings, everyone wants to be accepted. In fact, the need to be accepted precedes the need to be heard.

diverse team at work

Diversity isn’t inclusion.

Most organizations that try to make their teams diverse realize that diversity alone doesn’t make those teams inclusive.

Inclusion safety unlocks the power of diversity by creating sanctuaries where team members feel safe to be their authentic selves when it matters most.

They’ll feel safe to be themselves because they’ll know that you value their unique perspective, experiences, beliefs, values, and goals.

Inclusion safety is a human right.

As the basic glue of human society, inclusion safety offers the comforting assurance that you matter. Everyone deserves to be included, regardless of demographics, differences, or disagreements, because inclusion isn’t earned, it’s owed.

How do I help others feel included?

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

Avoid Comparisons and Competitions

When we compare and compete with each other, we lose the ability to connect. Focus your efforts on making meaningful connections with your team members. Celebrate their strengths.

Conduct Hop On, Hop Off Tours

Formally assign a member of your team to be your new team member’s personal guide. Have the guide conduct social tours during the first week to accelerate relationship-building.

Meet a Person in Their Physical Space

Don’t make someone else come to you. Instead, physically meet them where they are. This sends a clear message that you value their time and input.

Ask Twice as Much as You Tell

You’ll become more inclusive when you realize that it’s really not about you. Master the art of asking questions. Be curious about others. Ask twice as much as you tell.

Listen and Pause

Do you listen with the intent to understand or respond? Being an active listener is being an inclusive listener. Focus on their perspective, not on what you can contribute to the conversation.

Physically Face People

Active inclusion is deliberate inclusion. When you face the people you’re interacting with, it signals that you’re interested and invested in them.

Introduce Yourself at the First Opportunity

One of the easiest ways to show someone that they belong is to express genuine interest in who they are. Be proactive. Introduce yourself to those who are new, or those you don’t know yet.

Learn How to Pronounce Names

When a new person joins the team, learn their name immediately. If you don’t know how to pronounce it, ask. Even if it’s difficult for you to pronounce, don’t ask for an alternative name to use.

Inclusion Safety Overview

Introduction to Inclusion Safety

Fostering an inclusive culture where every individual feels valued, heard, and empowered is crucial for driving innovation and success. This is where the concept of inclusion safety takes center stage. Rooted in the principles of psychological safety, authenticity, and innovation, inclusion safety holds the key to unlocking the full potential of teams and organizations.

Inclusion safety represents a paradigm shift in how organizations approach their culture and team dynamics. At its core, inclusion safety is the foundation that creates an environment where individuals can bring their authentic selves to work, contribute their unique perspectives, and challenge the status quo without fear of retribution. This environment, called psychological safety, builds the conditions for innovation on a foundation of inclusion.

We recognize the transformative power of inclusion safety and its ability to reshape collaboration, performance, and innovation. Cultural transformation starts with a deep understanding of the nuances of inclusion and innovation, and we've developed an approach that guides organizations on their journey towards fostering this vital culture. By implementing inclusion safety, and the rest of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, you'll have a clear roadmap for encouraging a culture where every team member feels safe to be themselves and contribute their best.

Let’s explore the transformative landscape of inclusion safety—a journey that promises to reshape your organization's culture, amplify innovation, and set the stage for a thriving, inclusive, and empowered workforce.

Understanding Inclusion Safety Framework

Defining and implementing inclusion safety requires a comprehensive framework that lays the foundation for a culture of authenticity and innovation. This inclusion safety framework not only navigates the path towards psychological safety but also guides organizations through the stages necessary to create an environment where every voice matters.

Inclusion safety goes beyond mere compliance; it's about fostering an environment where team members can express themselves without fear of judgment or backlash. The framework's psychological safety stages outline a progressive journey towards this goal. It begins with the acknowledgment that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Here are The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety as defined by Timothy R. Clark:

  1. Inclusion Safety
  2. Learner Safety
  3. Contributor Safety
  4. Challenger Safety

The framework's four stages correspond to the natural progression of individual and team needs within a social setting. From initial inclusion and learning to contributing authentically and, finally, challenging the status quo, each stage represents a building block in the creation of a culture of safety and growth.

Central to this framework is the concept of vulnerability, which is both embraced and celebrated. In a culture that values vulnerability, team members feel safe taking risks, sharing their failures, and learning from mistakes. This dynamic not only fosters a sense of togetherness but also sparks innovation as diverse perspectives and ideas collide. By understanding and applying this framework, you'll be equipped to foster an environment where inclusion, psychological safety, and innovation converge to create a thriving workplace.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Many companies have successfully implemented inclusive practices in their workplaces. Creating inclusive environments is a team-specific challenge, as teams have specific microcultures that affect their ability to interact as their authentic selves. Dr. Timothy R. Clark’s framework, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, highlights that inclusion is the foundation of any psychologically safe workplace. Once team members feel valued and accepted as themselves, they’re more likely to give discretionary effort, try new things, innovate, and grow with their organization. Here are four ways you can foster a culture of inclusion and psychological safety on your teams:

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.

Reduce social status barriers.

Be conscious of differences in social status or hierarchy that exist in any organization. What’s currently preventing your team from interacting meaningfully with their superiors or with other departments? Take steps to reduce those barriers through humility and genuine interest in others.

Give people space to talk.

Don't immediately respond with your own story or perspective. Keep your colleagues talking and encourage them to share more. The more validation they feel when sharing something personal, the more likely they will be to engage again in the future. This can create a more meaningful relationship for both of you.

Take someone up on an invitation.

If you get an invite to connect with your team outside of work, accept! You don't have to accept every invitation, but saying no every time can result in the invitations drying up. Invitations require some risk on the part of the person inviting. Saying yes and thanking the person for the invitation can help strengthen your relationship.

Creating Inclusive Sanctuaries

Within the realm of inclusion safety lies the remarkable ability to transform workplaces into inclusive sanctuaries—spaces where individuals not only belong but thrive. This transformation hinges on enabling and encouraging authentic participation, which becomes the cornerstone for nurturing innovation and value creation.

Authentic participation is the essence of inclusion safety. It empowers individuals to bring their true selves to the table, unburdened by the fear of judgment or exclusion. In this environment, diverse voices flourish, contributing unique perspectives that shape strategies and solutions.

As individuals participate authentically, the result is an organic value creation process. When each person feels safe to contribute their thoughts and ideas, the collective knowledge pool expands. This blending of insights cultivates a richness that propels teams toward inventive approaches and solutions that might otherwise remain undiscovered.

Central to this process is the establishment of a safe environment. Inclusion safety lays the foundation for an atmosphere where trust reigns, and creativity thrives. Mistakes are treated as opportunities for learning rather than reasons for censure. This safety net encourages team members to take calculated risks, knowing that their contributions are valued.

As we journey through the subsequent sections, we'll unpack the nuances of how authentic participation and inclusion safety intertwine. We'll uncover how this synergy amplifies value creation and paves the way for innovation to flourish. By embracing the principles of creating inclusive sanctuaries, you're not just building a safe environment; you're fostering a culture of exploration, empowerment, and exponential growth.

How to Be an Inclusive Leader

Definition of Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership is a leadership style that emphasizes creating a work environment where everyone feels welcomed, respected, and valued. It differs from traditional leadership, which often prioritizes conformity and obedience. Inclusive leaders understand that everyone brings unique perspectives and experiences to the table and that by leveraging these differences, they can create a more innovative and effective team.

Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders

Inclusive leaders also have several key traits and behaviors that allow them to create a workplace culture of belonging. These are signs of emotional intelligence and indicate that a leader is personally prepared to create psychological safety on their teams. To be an inclusive leader in this stage, you can:

  1. Promote diversity: Inclusive leaders prioritize diversity and ensure that all employees have equal opportunities for growth and advancement. Actively seek out and hire employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
  2. Encourage feedback: Inclusive leaders are not afraid to admit when they don't know something, and they remain open to learning from others. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
  3. Listen actively:  Active listening and openness to feedback are also crucial behaviors that inclusive leaders exhibit. Listen to your employees' perspectives and opinions and make sure they feel heard.

The Benefits of Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership has numerous benefits for employees and organizations. When employees feel like they belong, they are more engaged, more likely to stay with the company, and more likely to innovate. When teams feel comfortable sharing diverse perspectives, they are more likely to develop creative solutions to problems. Inclusive leadership also creates a more inclusive culture, where everyone feels valued and supported, leading to a more cohesive team.

Building Inclusive Leadership Skills

Inclusive leadership skills can be developed through various strategies and resources. Training and development programs are a great way to build inclusive leadership skills. Mentors and coaches can provide feedback and guidance, helping leaders understand how to create an inclusive environment. Organizations can also provide resources like books, podcasts, and articles that discuss inclusive leadership.

Modeling and Rewarding Vulnerability

In the pursuit of fostering inclusion safety, one powerful strategy emerges: modeling vulnerability and the subsequent rewarding of vulnerability. This dynamic duo has the potential to drive a profound cultural shift, redefining how teams collaborate, communicate, and innovate.

Modeling vulnerability entails leaders and influencers within an organization openly sharing their challenges, failures, and growth experiences. This practice normalizes the idea that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather a testament to the courage required for personal and professional development.

However, it's not just enough to model vulnerability; the act of rewarding vulnerability is equally important. When individuals are acknowledged and applauded for their openness, a powerful message resonates: vulnerability is an asset that contributes to the growth of individuals and the organization as a whole. This recognition encourages more team members to step out of their comfort zones, fostering an environment where authenticity is celebrated.

This practice initiates a cultural shift that transcends fear-based interactions. As vulnerability and authenticity become valued attributes, trust flourishes. This trust forms the bedrock of psychological safety, allowing team members to express dissenting opinions, propose audacious ideas, and take calculated risks without apprehension.

By understanding and embracing the concept of modeling vulnerability, you're sowing the seeds for a cultural transformation that breeds trust, unity, and the unstoppable pursuit of excellence.

The Dynamics of Sustainable Inclusion Safety

Inclusion safety isn't a static achievement; it's a continuous journey characterized by delicate dynamics and evolving landscapes. The very essence of this concept underscores the need for sustainability—a commitment to nurturing and upholding an environment where every individual feels valued and heard.

Understanding the delicate dynamics of inclusion safety is crucial. Just as ecosystems require balance and care to thrive, so does a culture of psychological safety. It's not a one-time initiative but a dynamic process that demands ongoing attention, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the evolving needs of team members.

Sustainability is the anchor that prevents inclusion safety from becoming a passing trend. It requires intention—a conscious decision to weave its principles into the fabric of daily interactions, policies, and practices. Sustainability goes beyond mere lip service; it necessitates consistent action that aligns with the core tenets of inclusion safety.

Sustainable inclusion safety isn't achieved solely through grand gestures. Instead, it's a culmination of small acts and decisions that collectively shape the culture. It's about fostering an environment where every individual is invested in upholding the values of psychological safety, authenticity, and innovation.

By understanding the importance of sustainability and intention, you'll be equipped to cultivate an environment where inclusion safety thrives and flourishes—an environment that not only embraces change but also propels it forward.

Inclusion Safety: Catalyst for Performance and Innovation

The influence of inclusion safety extends far beyond the boundaries of a harmonious workplace. It emerges as a potent catalyst that propels teams toward unmatched performance and fosters a culture of relentless innovation. Inclusion safety isn't just a goal; it's the driving force that paves the way for excellence.

When inclusion safety is nurtured, it becomes a driving factor in team performance. As individuals feel safe to express their ideas and concerns, communication improves, conflicts are resolved constructively, and collaborations flourish. This synergy culminates in a team that's not just productive but harmonious, resilient, and motivated to achieve shared goals.

However, the impact of inclusion safety isn't confined to improved teamwork alone—it's a catalyst for innovation. In an inclusive environment, diverse perspectives converge, sparking a symphony of ideas that transcend the ordinary. When team members are unafraid to challenge norms and experiment with novel solutions, innovation becomes a natural byproduct of an inclusive culture.

Inclusion safety is at the heart of a culture of excellence. It fosters an environment where every individual's potential is unlocked, their talents recognized, and their contributions celebrated. This nurturing atmosphere not only attracts and retains top talent but also propels organizations to the forefront of their industries.

Conclusion: Embracing Inclusion Safety

Inclusion safety isn't just a concept; it's a transformative journey that has the power to reshape organizational cultures and propel them toward unprecedented heights. As we wrap up this exploration, let's recap the transformative potential of inclusion safety and reiterate the vital role of LeaderFactor's expertise in guiding organizations on this impactful journey.

The path to inclusion safety signifies more than just a change—it's a profound cultural transformation. By creating environments where authenticity, vulnerability, and innovation thrive, organizations unlock the potential of every team member. This transformation isn't a one-size-fits-all process; it's a dynamic shift that adapts to the evolving needs of the team and the organization.

Inclusion plays a vital role in creating a diverse and thriving workplace. Throughout this article, we have explored various aspects of inclusion and how organizations promote it in different ways. From diversity in hiring and recruitment to employee resource groups, training programs, and inclusive leadership, organizations have recognized the value of fostering an inclusive culture.

By implementing strategies such as diverse candidate pools, unbiased selection processes, and inclusive policies, organizations have embraced inclusion and reaped its benefits. They have created environments where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. Inclusive practices have led to increased employee satisfaction, improved team collaboration, and enhanced innovation and problem-solving.

Inclusion is not just a buzzword; it is a fundamental principle that drives organizational excellence. By embracing diversity, fostering a sense of belonging, and implementing inclusive practices, organizations can create a workplace where every individual feels valued and empowered.

As you consider the profound impact of inclusion safety, remember that it's not just about implementing a strategy; it's about embracing a mindset that values each team member's unique contribution. By nurturing psychological safety, authenticity, and innovation, you're fostering an environment where individuals don't just work but thrive.

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