Psychological Safety Newsletter #40: Fighter Pilots and Champion Skateboarders

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety Newsletter #40: Fighter Pilots and Champion Skateboarders

Psychological safety and organisational politics
Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You rock. This week includes the Fox, Owl, Donkey and Sheep, Inclusion, Open Source, Language, Eurofighter Typhoon pilots, and champion skateboarder Rodney Mullen.Enjoy, and have a fantastic day!

This newsletter is sponsored by Conflux.

Conflux is the leading business consultancy worldwide helping organisations to navigate fast flow in software. We help organisations to adopt and sustain proven, modern practices for delivering software rapidly and safely.

Blameless post-mortems are a common practice in IT, but are we really making the most of them as opportunities to learn, or has it just become something that we do out of habit? In this article, Sophie Weston, Principal at Conflux, looks again at the reasons for holding post-mortems, explores what goes into making a successful post-mortem, and explains why the blameless bit really does matter.

Today (10th December) is Human Rights Day. And this year, the focus is on Equality and Article 1 of the UDHR – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”. Find out more about Human Rights Day and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights here.

 Psychological Safety In the Workplace: It would be lovely to live in a world without organisational politics, but it’s unlikely to happen: power structures, hierarchies, vested interests and incentives all contribute to political organisational dynamics, and if we’re blind to them, we do ourselves and our team members a disservice. I’ve used this model (From Baddeley, S. and James, K., 1987) of the Fox, Owl, Donkey and Sheep before, where it can help us recognise the political behaviours of ourselves and others in organisations, and where we may ourselves be blind to politics or not acting with integrity

 And this article from the OPM (now Traverse, I believe) is an excellent deeper dive into the various behaviours of the different personas. It’s clear from the example below that theWise Owl is the persona that best facilitates psychological safety, acting with both political awareness and personal integrity.

 For people who live with a disability, safety and accessibility isn’t always the case, and for many with a marginalized identity, exclusion is often assumed unless inclusion is explicit. This is a great piece by Sarah McCarthy: Psychological safety just might be the secret sauce to disability inclusion.
Here’s a really powerful piece from Maryann Kerr about the long term impacts of working in a toxic workplace. It’s so important to remember that it’s not your fault: you are not broken. “What IS broken are the systems of power and privilege that let bullies get away with bullying.”

This is a great piece by Amy Federman on a conversation between Dr Amy Edmondson and Doug Conant on the actual work of implementing psychological safety. Two key points include that building it is a “two-way street”, including both organisational leadership and individuals, and that building psychological safety is “effort-full”, and takes work to create it.

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
 This is an excellent article by Jennifer Riggins on the problem of diversity (or the lack of it) in open source communities. I love this point: “…when you do something to welcome one group, you enrich the community experience for everyone. Helping one person be successful, helps everyone be successful.

Thanks to Alicia King for sharing her research (alongside Tracy Lee Fortune, Louise Byrne and Lisa Mary Brophy) into workplace factors supporting safety to share mental health challenges, at two mental health services in Australia.

In this special episode of the Learning Journeys Podcast, they’re joined by a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon pilot who shares his thoughts on areas where the world of sport can learn from aviation, particularly in terms of quality debriefing and creating psychological safety.

“Allyship must be coupled with a commitment not only to suspend whatever reductive idea of “normal” we hold in our hearts, but to question the very notion of normalcy.” This is an excellent piece about the way we use language and how it evolves, by KT Venti on

Things to do and try: I did a little skateboarding as a kid, and never got very good, but I could do an ollie. This is a great talk by the godfather of modern street skating and all-round nice guy Rodney Mullen (who invented the flatground ollie) about iteration and innovation. This is such an amazing and inspiring talk about respect of your peers, failure and coming back from it, about learning from others, non-attachment to goals, and creation as a source of joy through sharing it with a community. I don’t know what this video will inspire you to do, but I’m sure it will inspire something.

 This is a brilliant article with some actionable points about “What to do about employees who consciously exclude women” by Jamie L. Gloor, Gudrun Sander, and Alyson Meister. The article focusses on women, but the article highlights that these practices can also detect the “bad apples” who exclude any potentially disadvantaged group, from mothers, people with different abilities and neurodiversities, members of ethnic minorities, more mature employees, LGBTQ+ people and more:

  1. Establish a clear definition of exclusion that includes specific individual behaviors 
  2. Make inclusion — as well as (a lack of) exclusion — explicit hiring criteria. 
  3. Make inclusion — as well as (a lack of) exclusion — explicit performance criteria. 
  4. Make inclusive leaders visible. 
  5. Use anonymous hotlines for “exclusion” whistleblowers to facilitate confidential reports of exclusionary acts.

“Everything is an Experiment” stickers are back in stock! I can ship them basically anywhere in the world, but delivery might be a little slower to some locations 🙂 Buy some and stick them on your laptop, tablet, car, office window, or first-born child.

This week’s poem:

Ozymandias, by Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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