Creating a culture of psychological safety within a team is paramount to achieving peak performance in any organization. It establishes an environment where employees feel both secure and valued, empowering them to openly share ideas, admit mistakes, and challenge established norms—all in the name of continuous improvement and innovation. Such a culture nurtures the growth of trust and collaboration among team members and between leaders and their teams.

When psychological safety is absent, employees may become mere shells of their potential, merely fulfilling basic duties with minimal engagement. The loss of this vital aspect of team dynamics can lead to decreased productivity, stifled creativity, and ultimately, a higher turnover rate, as individuals seek workplaces that recognize and appreciate their contributions.

For leaders, fostering psychological safety isn’t just about nurturing a positive work atmosphere—it’s a strategic imperative. By encouraging open dialogue, listening actively, and acting on feedback, leaders can not only avert potential pitfalls but also tap into the collective intelligence of their teams. Such actions not only bolster morale but also drive better decision-making and enhance the organization’s ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing business landscape.

Therefore, understanding and cultivating psychological safety stands as a critical challenge for leaders aiming to elevate their team’s performance and solidify the foundation for lasting success.

Timestamped Overview

  • [00:03:16] Challenges with Team Output and Input: Scott addresses a common struggle leaders face when their team’s productivity and engagement are lacking.

  • [00:05:28] Defining Psychological Safety: The episode breaks down what psychological safety is and why it’s essential for a healthy and productive work environment.

  • [00:07:05] The Four Stages of Psychological Safety: Scott revisits insights from a previous episode featuring Tim Clark to explain the four crucial stages of psychological safety.

  • [00:08:27] Recognizing the Loss of Psychological Safety: Key indicators that reveal a team’s psychological safety may be compromised are discussed with practical examples.

  • [00:13:05] Reestablishing Psychological Safety: Scott outlines the initial steps leaders must take to acknowledge the issue and begin rebuilding a psychologically safe atmosphere.

  • [00:15:14] Listening and Learning from Your Team: Tips for creating a safe space for feedback and the importance of one-on-one conversations to foster psychological safety.

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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:
Leaders everywhere. Hey. It is your chief leadership officer, Scott McCarthy. Thanks for tuning into, this live video. And if you’re catching the podcast version, well, no big deal. You’re getting exactly the same great content. Wanted today to talk about something that’s been, I wanna say, common lately that I’m hearing, and I want to address it because no doubt, you’re probably in this situation. Or maybe you know someone who is in this situation.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:35]:
And that situation is this. You’ve taken over a new team or perhaps you’ve been a part of this team for a while now, and you’re just not getting the output from them. And you’re not getting the output because you’re also not getting any input from them. And let me know in the comments if this resonates with you. Right? People are just showing up, kinda doing their thing. There’s problems happening. No one’s bringing any real solutions to you, and you’re just there scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on. Team members some team members are nice.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:17]:
Many are cold, and, ultimately, you just don’t feel that vibe, that connection with your team. And you probably heard that the previous boss supervisor was a dictator. It was their way or the highway. And, ultimately, the team had to do exactly what they said to do it, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, and everything else. So, ladies and gentlemen, what’s happening is is that you have a loss of psychological safety within your team. And today, we’re gonna talk about how you can get that back because it is crucial to achieving peak performance with your team. Alright? So first off, let’s talk about what psychological safety is and that it is, okay, basically, having that environment and culture within a team that enables people to feel safe and secure, to bring up ideas, to make mistakes, to challenge the status quo in order to make the team, the company, the organization, what have you, better, to challenge the way that things are going in a professional manner. Okay? And not to be rebutted by it or not to be put down by it.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:47]:
Okay? This is all about psychological safety. It’s not about, oh, being warm and fuzzy, but rather making your team members feel like they’re hood, heard, understood, and valued. Because who doesn’t want to be who doesn’t want to be part of organization that does that? And how many times have you heard from other people that they quit and left one organization for another because they never felt valued? You hear it all the time. And why is that? Because it is a loss of psychological safety. So let’s talk about how you can get that back because, obviously, it is so crucial to your success and your team’s success. Alright? And if any of this resonates with you, please drop it in the comments. And if you’re listening to the podcast version of this recording, no big deal. But I would love to hear what you have to say, so feel free to shoot me an email or hit me up on the socials.

Scott McCarthy [00:03:48]:
Alright. So let’s talk about what psychological safety is in the first place. Psychological safety is, so no. Sorry. My apologies. I already talked about psychological safety is, but what we’re going to do is talk about what the 4 stages of psychological safety is. Alright? In an episode long time ago by the author name of Tim Clark, we talked about this. We discovered this, that psychological safety has 4 stages.

Scott McCarthy [00:04:24]:
Stage 1, belong your safety. You feel like you belong part of the team, that it’s okay to be here, and that the values of the organization align with your values as an individual, and you’re after similar goals, for example. So that’s stage 1. Stage 2 is learner safety, where you feel and you have the ability to make mistakes and most importantly learn from their mistakes without getting chastised, without getting b rated without fearing a, like, retribution for making that mistake. Stage 3 is contributor safety, where you feel like you can bring up ideas to the senior leadership, propose them ideas, give them your thoughts, and so on. And then finally, stage 4 is where you feel safe enough to challenge the status quo, challenge the direction that you’ll be given, and challenge the way of doing things in an effort to make things better. So those are the 4 stages of psychological safety. Okay? And often what happens is that we have a supervisor who destroys that as I talked to it in the intro.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:46]:
So when you show up to a team or maybe you’re leading your team, you wanna be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms that you’re losing psychological safety with your team. And this is how you can find out whether or not it’s been compromised. 1st and foremost, your team stops complaining to you. And that may sound odd, but it’s true. You see, people complain to you not to just complain, but they feel safe with you to be vulnerable that they’re bringing up these things, which they’re not happy about. Okay? So that means when they stop complaining that the environment feels psychologically safe around you, that you’re being they feel that potentially you’re being judgmental of them when they complain about things. And you may not be. That might not be your intent.

Scott McCarthy [00:06:50]:
However, it is something for you to keep in the back pocket. Keep in the back of your mind and look at it and go, wait now. People haven’t been coming to me lately. People haven’t been bringing me their frustrations lately. They haven’t been complaining with Tom down at finance lately. And, really, Tom is still Tom. So why not? It’s because they’re losing psychological safety with you or they never had in the first place. So that’s one sign of loss of psychological safety.

Scott McCarthy [00:07:30]:
Another sign of psychological safety is they’re no longer bringing up ideas to you, new ways of doing things linked directly to the 3rd stage. Why is that? Because they think it doesn’t matter. They think that whatever they bring up, no matter what it is, no matter how good the idea is, it’s just not worth it because it’s not going to go anywhere. So they stop, and that sense of psychological safety is gone, that they have the ability to do that. So just stop bringing up these ideas. They stop bringing forward new solutions, new innovations, new thoughts, Ways to try things. Keep that in your back radar. And then the final thing to really be aware of in trying to recognize whether or not there’s a loss or a lack of psych psychological safety is if the team allows things to fail.

Scott McCarthy [00:08:45]:
You see, if the team allows things to fail, that means that most likely, they knew there was a problem. They saw the problem, yet they did nothing about it. And it’s not because they’re being vindictive or malicious or have malintent, but rather, they believed that they brought forth the problem. 1, they would’ve either been shot metaphorical, obviously, not physically. You know, don’t shoot the messenger. Maybe another thing is that they would have been doubted, or finally, they would have been ignored. So the team members go, well, what’s the point? We’ll just sit here and wait for this train wreck to happen. The boss will tell us what they wanna do to clean it up, and we’ll just get on with it and be done with it.

Scott McCarthy [00:09:45]:
And I’ll just collect my paycheck and go home. Those are three ways to recognize the loss of psychological safety. People stop complaining. People stop bringing you your their ideas, and people stop identifying problems to you. So, ultimately, what you get is the shell of the person. They show up, do their job, collect their paycheck, go home. That’s it. Interaction is minimal.

Scott McCarthy [00:10:24]:
Bare minimums are there. That’s it. That’s all. So you’re wondering, like, god. You’ve noticed that maybe you’ve taken over this team. You noticed that people are just like this. So how do we go about reestablishing this lack of psychological safety within the team. The first and perhaps one of the most important things to do is acknowledge that there’s a problem.

Scott McCarthy [00:10:57]:
And you don’t need to bust out and then go, hey, team. We have a lack of psychological safety here within our team here, and we need to do something about it. App probably wouldn’t go the best. But what you might wanna do is go, hey, folks. It seems like we’re not really gelling as well as what we could. And it feels like that you’re not necessarily bringing forward things that you may be knowledgeable of that could help us. And that’s not on you. That’s on me as the leader.

Scott McCarthy [00:11:39]:
Acknowledge the idea, acknowledge the issue, and encourage them to have an open dialogue. Let them know you’re there for them to discuss issues. Let them know that they can come to you. You have this open door policy that they can come to you and talk to you anytime. K? And then the next step so that’s step 1 is acknowledging the issue. Step 2 is you want to listen and learn. You want to listen and hear and make the space for individuals, provide feedback, and enable them to address their concerns and their experiences within the team. And this will be difficult because, obviously, as I talked about, if they were feeling like they could do that, you wouldn’t be in a situation that you’re in now.

Scott McCarthy [00:12:33]:
K? So this is crucial. This requires 1 on 1. This is going to require a lot of time from you because you have to invest the time in the 1 on ones with your people so that you enable this space where they can go and bring forth their concerns in a positive way. And you know what? This may not happen the first time that you try, and it may not happen the second time. God knows if it’ll happen the 3rd time. But the point is is that you need to be consistent with your message, which is they can talk to you anytime. So you provide them that safe space for honest feedback. K.

Scott McCarthy [00:13:28]:
And you enable that by considering it. And dare I say, look for opportunities where you can actually take their feedback and get a quick win in in that you go and you take their feedback and you implement something which they’re suggesting immediately. And it doesn’t even necessarily have to be the greatest suggestion in the world. But if you do that, now you’re following up and you’re putting your money where your mouth is by actually implementing something that they’re suggesting. So you’re going to reassure them that, hey, they actually matter. The next step is that you obviously need to lead by example. By leading by example in this scenario is that you need to constantly enable that or You do that by not yelling at them, by not snapping at them, by actually listening to what they have to say, by actually taking it into consideration. When you say you have an open door and they come to you, enable that, not constantly shut them down.

Scott McCarthy [00:14:54]:
Do that through step 4, which is regular check ins and updates. Right? Keep having these 1 on 1 conversations. As I said, it’s not going to happen the first time. But the more you do it, the more you have these regular updates, regular check ins, asking them for their opinion, asking them for their input, enabling them, and having two way conversations with them and ensuring that they are heard. You don’t always have to agree with everyone and everything that people are saying. But what you do is is that you say, I hear you. However, for these reasons, we can’t do that. You close that feedback loop, and then people feel like they’ve been heard.

Scott McCarthy [00:15:48]:
Like, oh, okay. That makes sense. I wasn’t aware of that. I wasn’t aware. We’re a restriction that we weren’t allow a company policy to have dogs. But you go, you know what? I can’t do anything about that now because I don’t own it, but I’m gonna bring it up because you’re asking for it. So right now, no. You can’t bring your dog into work.

Scott McCarthy [00:16:05]:
However, I’m going to challenge that policy because, heck, it’s 2024. We should be able to have our dogs here. This is just a random example. But you see what I did there. 1, I acknowledge what the per the person’s idea. 2, I’ll let them know. Unfortunately, we can’t adhere to it right now. 3, I made them feel heard because I acknowledged it, and I gave them the feedback.

Scott McCarthy [00:16:30]:
I closed the loop before. The most important thing is I said, Hey, what I was going to do about it if I was going to do something about it. And as I was going to challenge upwards and see if we can get this change done. And that is actually step 5, which is rebuilding trust through action by actually implementing changes based on their feedback, and you’re demonstrating your commitment to psychological safety within your organization, it will rebuild. But you have to implement the things that are being suggested. Or worst case, you close the feedback loop by letting them know why you can’t or why it won’t happen. And that’s not rocket science that enables people to feel heard. But you tell them, like, I appreciate you.

Scott McCarthy [00:17:28]:
I appreciate these ideas. Unfortunately, this one can’t be done for the following reasons. But thank you. Please don’t take this personally. Don’t take this as if you’re being shut down. I enjoy it. I want these ideas. Please keep bringing them forward.

Scott McCarthy [00:17:43]:
We look at them each individually. Look at and see what we can do, and we’ll move forward. And maybe sometimes we just need to tweak a few things with their ideas. K? And this is rebuilding the trust through actions. So keep this in mind. Keep this in mind as you move forward in your leadership journey. As you move forward in leadership journey, you need to keep the psychological safety in the back of your head because this is how peak performing teams achieve peak performance. The team is all firing on all cylinders because people are all bringing up ideas.

Scott McCarthy [00:18:30]:
They’re challenging status quo. They’re challenging the decisions being made, not in a, improper or unprofessional manner, but in a manner which they want to ensure the best outcome. All my podcast episodes with Navy SEALs and special operators, military folks, and my military experience. This is what we go after. We’re challenging the plans to ensure we’re going after the best possible outcome, and you set your ego aside. And as a leader, that is the most important thing to do. Set your ego aside, grab your humility because you don’t know everything. So if you have troubles with trying to figure out the psychological safety thing, reach out to me.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:22]:
I’m here as a resource for you. I don’t do this work for nothing. I’m here for you. I am your chief leadership officer. That means I am your leadership expert and adviser to provide that input to you. So do so. Take advantage of it. And if you wanna listen more to the original interview with Tim Clark on the topic of psychological safety.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:52]:
Check out episode 122, and do that by going to lead dump boss.comforward/128. Okay? And have a listen to it. Let me know. So I would love to hear your your feedback for those who are having difficulties in this area. More importantly, if you are having difficulties, I would love for you to reach out to me. Till next time. Lead dump boss. Take care, and make sure you foster that psychologically safe environment for your team.

Scott McCarthy [00:20:29]:
See you next time.