Psychological Safety Newsletter #27
This week we have ethics, productivity, kindness, systems convening, meetups, podcasts and spiritual teachings. I hope you enjoy it!
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On my recent break, I spent a few days at Suryalila in Andalusia, a place and community that I love dearly and have worked, studied, and lived at many times over the past few years. Whilst I was there, Vidya, the founder (and an incredible woman) reminded me of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and in particular, chapter 2, verse 47 (translated): You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction. I’ve always loved this teaching, and how it aligns with the experimental approach that so enables psychological safety. Do not be overly concerned with the output of your work, and do not take too much pride in it – sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will succeed; simply continue to learn and be better.
Psychological Safety In the Workplace:
Here’s a great piece by Dr Edmondson and Per Hugander: “Psychological Safety Is Not a Hygiene Factor. It’s a key to success in times of transformation.” It makes a number of excellent points, notably that the “middle zone” of psychological safety is a somewhat dangerous place where managers and leaders may feel complacent that they’re fostering a safe environment, when in fact there’s still more work to do.
I love this article by Sarah Anne Freiesleben: – Conditions for Safety: Fostering psychological safety to navigate ethical dilemmas. And this line is so true: “People must feel psychologically safe enough to do the right thing, even when there is a rule designed for a different context, standing in the way.“
This is a good piece from a couple of years ago about “nice” or “nasty” cultures – the author makes a neat point about both types of cultures shutting down honest and frank discussion or raising concerns, but whilst “nasty” cultures do this via overt power displays and mechanisms, “nice” cultures impose the same shutting down of open discourse via power structures, but in much more covert, maybe insidious ways.
I love this by @Nataries on Instagram: Productivity does not define your self worth. I find this hard to remember myself.
A lot of people are leaving and changing their jobs right now, and this is a good article discussing that. A lack of psychological safety is a frequent reason to leave a job, and a lot of employees feel like the only power they have left is the power to walk away. And when they use that power, even with all the risk and uncertainty it creates for them, there’s a reason. Can you talk about why everyone is quitting? by Melissa Nightingale.
Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
This is a good open access paper about toxic leadership and proactive work behaviour in respect to psychological safety and “perceived insider status” – Determinants of Proactive Work Behavior of Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis.
Here’s a great dissertation paper by Joel Beidleman, examining psychological safety and literacy achievement in US Middle Schools: it suggests that improved psychological safety correlates with higher literacy achievement.
Whilst this paper is not open access, the abstract tells you everything you need to know 🙂 “Maintaining Resilience in Times of Crisis: Insights From High-Reliability Organizations” – Organisations that conduct work in high-risk contexts may be able to model the success of HROs by keeping learning foremost, investing time and resources into team training, supporting a climate of psychological safety, coaching employees to keep performance objectives in focus, and practicing systems thinking and accounting for complexity in resource allocation.
Here’s another great nugget from Dr Edmondson, on the Play To Potential Podcast. Amy makes the distinction between “Learn what” behaviours and “Learn how” behaviours and points out that Psychological safety has a significant implication on the latter.
Thanks to Val Yonchev, EMEA Head of Red Hat Open Innovation Labs for throwing this my way. Keanu nails it.
Things to do and try:
I was talking to community member Subash Rajcoomar about his upcoming talk on psychological safety for Agile Mauritius, on the 14th Sept and it looks great. Worth checking out if you’re free.
And community member Samantha Sieverling is doing a talk as well, on the 17th, about the basics of psychological safety, why it’s important, and some tips for making it happen! Check it out here!
“Systems convening” is a description of a type of leadership that sees a social landscape with all its separate and related practices through a wide-angle lens: they spot opportunities for creating safe learning spaces and partnership that will bring different and often unlikely people together to engage in learning across boundaries. Check out this e-book (free download) to learn more and see what principles you may be able to apply.
This week’s poem:
Brahma, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Inspired by reading the Bhagavad Gita.)
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
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