What is Psychological Safety and Why is it Important for your Business?

Written by Strong + Mindful

Strong + Mindful partners with businesses to help shape mental health messaging, promote the overall wellness of executives and employees and guide your organization in a way that makes people feel safe, cared for, engaged, and motivated to drive growth

April 2, 2023

Calling all leaders, managers, business owners, fitness instructors, teachers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else with influence!!

People want to feel valued, heard, and like they matter. They want to be able to voice their opinions, ideas, concerns, and reactions.

And no matter what industry you are in, these things matter to employees, fitness studio members, consumers, students, friends, and even family members.

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is a term coined by Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor and author of The Fearless Organization. She described psychological safety as a shared belief held by members (of a team, class, studio, or any group with a shared interest) that it’s OK to take risks, express their ideas and concerns, speak up with questions, and admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences. As Edmondson puts it, “it’s felt permission for candor

Psychological safety creates a space that promotes trust and openness, allowing for differences of opinion, mistakes, and risk-taking, all within a no-judgment zone. There is no shame, blame, retribution, fear of being ignored or excluded, or cold shoulders for speaking your truth cordially and respectfully. A psychologically safe environment makes people feel more engaged, part of the team, alive, and motivated. If someone knows their voice will be heard (which differs from agreeing with everything someone says), they feel valued and want to share their thoughts and feelings. And in the big picture, this can promote growth and development for your business. For example, suppose an employee or studio member shares that they think a lunch and learn around a particular topic could be helpful. That information can help with programming (why is there a need for more learning around that topic), development, community creation, employee/member satisfaction, and fostering understanding and growth. Plus, it shows your employees or members that you value them, which goes a long way.

So how do you create psychological safety?

How do you promote an environment where people feel comfortable speaking their truth? 

IMO it starts with developing trusting, collaborative, respectful, and connected relationships. What does that mean? 

Trust: The relationship has two people in it who are honest, forthcoming (when appropriate), and able to share hard truths.

Collaborative: Both people in the relationship have thoughts and opinions, are interested in the other person’s ideas, and can be vulnerable. It’s mutual and reciprocal.

Respectful: Each person feels heard, valued, and respected for their ideas, reactions, experience, and knowledge base. Differences of opinion are accepted, discussed, and met with respect. 

Connected: There’s a genuine relationship with empathy, care, and concern for the other person.

What psychological safety is NOT

Transactional: The relationship is not a transaction. It’s about something other than what you can do for me or how much revenue you bring me.

Exploitative: It’s not about using the other person’s strengths to better yourself or your business.

Stay tuned for how to develop psychological safety.