Given the current divisive nature of society, I am genuinely concerned for the future of innovation. In his article “The Four Stages of Psychological Safety,” Timothy Clark comments that a lack of psychological safety stifles productivity, creativity, and innovation. Inclusion is the heartbeat of psychological safety, and we become victims of confirmation bias if we exclude those with opposing ideas and opinions. True innovation can only come from the processing of diverse views. In this post, I will share tips for creating psychological safety and inclusion.

Psychological Safety – Teaming

We will discuss how to create psychological safety, which HBR defines as an environment of rewarded vulnerability. Why should we care? Such an environment promotes productivity, creativity, and innovation. Teaming, trust, and transition are the three keys to creating psychological safety. I will begin our discussion with teaming because inclusion is essential but is under attack in modern society. The last couple of years has seen extreme divisiveness around politics, vaccinations, abortion, and gun laws, to name a few. To overcome divisiveness, we need to examine our personal subconscious biases that impede inclusion. Ask yourself why you keep others at a distance; why do we feel the need to create division? For some of us, allowing a differing opinion feels like a threat to our own. However, we can give validation and respect to another without agreeing with their views. And without feeling threatened. Validation is simply acknowledging another person’s experience, emotion, or belief and respecting that it is meaningful to them. Traveling extensively and living abroad showed me many ways to live and that the American way is not the only way. Understanding this makes possible a rich diversity of life. When we are inclusive and invite others to the team, innovation can take root.

Psychological Safety – Trust

The second “T” is trust. In forming a team, trust must be fostered for innovation to thrive. Team members must feel safe to be vulnerable in sharing creative ideas and opinions. Leadership needs to communicate and stand behind the policy of rewarding failure; there are no wrong answers. Teams afraid to fail will soon be scared even to try. In meetings, you can build trust by reflecting content and insight to those who are sharing. By briefly summarizing their contribution in your own words, you will support the team members in feeling heard and understood. Validation and respect for someone else’s idea or opinion also build trust. Remember, you can give validation and respect without agreeing. You want to foster healthy debate. If team members are always continually in agreement, it is a signal that there is a lack of trust. With teaming and trust, we are ready to enter transition, the third “T” important to creating psychological safety.

Psychological Safety – Transition

Few periods in history can match the turbulence of the last couple of years. Many leaders and their teams are feeling worn down after facing multiple challenges and disappointments throughout the pandemic. The constant attack of market forces is leading to a lack of resilience in executives to face the fast pace and volume of change in today’s marketplace. Teams are becoming burned out from repeatedly adapting to the next new normal. The current situation is exactly why creating an environment of psychological safety is so important. A safe environment is needed for teams and companies to be creatively agile in reacting to market changes while keeping their core values protected. In my two prior posts I highlighted the importance of Teaming, or inclusion, and Trust to psychological safety. The third “T” is Transition. Employees need a runway to become familiar with the change at hand. Change can be in the form of returning to the physical workplace or joining a new team and project. In each circumstance, employees need time to observe, listen, and learn before they can adapt. They need enough information to cast a future vision of their value and involvement with the project, team, or company. Resilient executives recognize this need and steward their team’s experience as they transform and rise to the occasion. In turbulent times, executive resilience is needed to respond creatively to the barrage of challenges while not losing site of the company’s core values. 

Creating psychological safety is the first step to increasing innovation and creativity. New approaches are needed as teams return to working in the physical office. Resilient leaders will leverage teaming, trust, and transition time to create an environment where employees can collaborate on solutions. In times of rapid and wholesale change innovation is needed to bring teams together to address both internal and market facing changes.


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