Safe Minds, Strong Teams: A Journey into Psychological Safety.


In today’s fast-paced and dynamic work environments, fostering psychological safety has become paramount for organisational success. Recently, the community managers committee had the privilege of hosting an insightful event on Psychological Safety, led by the esteemed speaker, Joanne Hay, Director of Leadership Development at TEC, the event aimed to deepen our understanding of psychological safety and its profound impact on team dynamics and individual growth.

Throughout the event, participants embarked on a journey to unravel the essence of psychological safety – the cornerstone of a work culture where individuals feel empowered to voice their thoughts, share ideas, and express concerns without fear of judgement or repercussion. From exploring its origins to dissecting its application in personal and professional spheres, attendees gained invaluable insights into creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive. 

The event highlighted the pivotal role of community managers in empowering teams, the significance of reflective leadership practices, and practical strategies for cultivating psychological safety.

In the spirit of continuous learning, the event sparked numerous thought-provoking questions, reflecting the audience’s eagerness to delve deeper into this critical topic. While time constraints prevented us from addressing all queries during the event, Joanne has graciously provided comprehensive answers to these additional questions. 

  • How would you use these ideas to facilitate community and openness in a coworking space?

[Jo: One interaction at a time.  Let’s say if someone is suggesting an idea, we need to ensure we are open, welcoming and respectful.  Others will notice and will begin to speak up.  This will not happen overnight. Trust and safety is cultivated through small interactions and it takes time, there is no shortcut.  Another thing you can try, is if you have an online webinar, do polls or get answers anonymously, the facilitator’s reaction to the answers will determine how safe people in the community call feels.  Remember, one interaction at a time.]

  • How can we get an idea of the work environment in our current workplace?

[Jo: You can consider running a survey based on the 7 questions by Amy Edmondson I shared in my powerpoint or you can draft a survey based on signs of a lack of psychological safety (slide 12 in my powerpoint).  To be honest, if you are wondering if there is a lack of psychological safety, then there is probably a lack of psychological safety.]


  • Aside from “leading by example”, how can we help people (especially new leaders) in our spaces to practise psychological safety?

[Jo: I personally don’t have other better ways than “leading by example” because it is the only thing we can control – ourselves.  We can’t control others or other external environments, setup, people.  The only feasible way I see is to do it yourself so people can model your behaviour.  It’s a little like raising children, the kids are going to learn from their parents,  you can give them all the quotes and books but they will likely model on their parents. Having said that, if you want to create awareness about psychological safety, you can consider sharing articles etc on the topic.]

  • How to make it a productive discussion instead of it being more one-sided

[Jo: Active listening and presence.  Remember you must connect before you can communicate. If people don’t feel seen, heard or understood, it’s very hard for them to open up and listen to what you have to say.  If you want things to change, it must come from you, you have to be the change.  Thus, start with actively listening to what the other person has to say, you don’t have to agree or accept, empathy is key here.  That’s “your thing”, the rest is “their thing”. Most people are not trained nor do they have the awareness to truly listen to others and hold space, they just want to dominate the conversation, be heard and get their point across (and usually expect people to just agree).  Further, try and use the 3-steps in my powerpoint (slide 26). I use it actively in my personal and professional life and it really helps to reduce blame/attack, get the point across and result in desired outcome/behaviour].

  • How can we work on ourselves to be a better version in our teams?

[Jo: Love this question, start by providing psychological safety to yourself i.e. be curious with your own big emotions, what’s happening, where is it coming from, am I a bad person or am I having a strong emotion at this moment etc. And be curious about other people, why do they disagree, where can we agree on, do they have a point, is there an underlying unmet need, is this person struggling or do they have a struggle etc. Self-compassion – we are our worst critic, start speaking to ourselves like we would to a friend, we constantly live in our own heads, make sure it’s as healthy, positive, nurturing and safe as possible. Cultivate self-love and self worth – the more sure you are of who you are, the more you will appreciate and love yourself, the less you rely on external validation. When you are able to hold space for yourself, validate your own feelings, stay true to yourself, you will be more open and receptive to different view points (you won’t feel attacked or the need to force people to agree with you), you will also grow your thinking capacity to look at things differently and make sense of how others relate to their situations, you will also be in a better state of mind to help others feel safe (because you are grounded and you feel safe with your own presence).


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