How can leaders create psychological safety with all the demands that are being faced today? How can employees be made to feel emotionally all right in these periods of uncertainty? That is, feeling significant and secure at the workplace and enjoying good team dynamics which will bring a lasting impact on relationships, morale, performance, and productivity?
Post-Covid leadership, with its online demands, brings fresh dynamics and unprecedented expectations. But whether you are leading within a physical or virtual space, the secret to good leadership is much simpler than you think. As wired as the world maybe, human nature remains the same. Technological supremacy, after all, can only do so much while the core of the human heart has its own directions and rhythm.
One of the most crucial means to foster effective leadership is for leaders to have the capacity to be inclusive and respectful towards the people they lead and support. This, and the willingness to embrace the potential they each bring to the organization.
We all know about physical safety at the workplace, but somehow psychological safety rarely gets the attention it deserves, or it is almost always taken for granted. Psychological safety ensures the emotional and mental well-being of employees and a good leader knows how important this is for the success of his team and organisation. For me, it means creating excellent conditions at work where people are free to express themselves and be themselves without fear of being judged, singled out, punished or rejected. It is the pinnacle of Emotional Excellence. A leader with good facilitation competencies will be able to create an environment that promotes psychological safety.
To put it simply, psychological safety is what leaders need to build into the work environment which will support them to make a success out of their engagement with those they lead. After all, when it comes down to it, good human relationships are what help get the work done.
Certainly, leaders who work to improve human relationships and the dynamics at work can reach out to those they lead better. They are realistic and sensitive to others, engaging at a level where they show respect towards the resources most important to the company – the human capital. A facilitative leader will be able to facilitate conversations that are purposeful and productive. A facilitative leader will be able to align teams and groups to make effective decisions.
As they practice inclusiveness and listen and respect diverse opinions, these leaders are sending out a clear message to the people they serve to lead, that they matter. Inevitably, knowing that their leaders are interested in what they think, employees are more inclined to demonstrate positive behaviour.
Psychological safety thus comes from feeling good and safe internally. It is not determined by plush physical spaces, superior technology, and most of all, it does not stem from a superior platform. It is where leaders intelligently and successfully engage in ways that lead to a healthy divergence and convergence of ideas. They demonstrate the right values that foster a good intellectual, emotional and spiritual balance at the workplace.
I have chosen the word superior to make a point here. Far too often, in many cultures, leaders are accorded a certain status which assumes superiority in knowledge, wisdom, skills and experience above those he/she commands. When leaders operate under these conditions, there is a lack of respect for the wisdom and potential of those being led, leading to insecurity and deep resentment among staffs.
A facilitative leader is inclusive and understands what makes others feel good about themselves and values potential. What is important is the strong bond that can potentially bring leaders in line with their people. On the one hand, one leads, on the other, one must also have the courage to allow oneself to listen, not only to their thoughts but also to what and how they feel. They pay attention, understand and empathize – even to be led if that is what is needed to create better outcomes for all and provide psychological safety at the workplace.
Captain Dr. Shan Moorthi PhD, CMC (IAC)
Developing Leaders as Coaches and Facilitators. Author of ‘Coaching with R.E.S.P.E.C.T’ Inspiring Change & Transformation one conversation at a time