How to Create Psychological Safety for Those Around You in Turbulent Times

Hi everybody!

Sylvia Lafair here, with some tips for leaders in times of stress. Think about leaders you’ve known in your life that you have felt you could follow anywhere or those who looked at and said, “I’m out of here.”

There’s a big difference and what happens is, as leaders we need to practice, practice leadership all the time. So, when the tough time comes, we’re ready for it. It’s no different than learning how to play a guitar or a piano. It’s no different than getting ready for a marathon. We need to practice before the time comes when in our face, we have to handle things and people are looking at us saying, “What is he or she going to do to make a difference here?”

So, I’d like to talk first about the idea of psychological safety that was developed by Amy Edmondson, who is a professor in the Harvard Business School, professor of leadership who came up with this idea several years ago, and it really is starting to take hold. We go into offices and they’re all the signs saying, “This is a safe place we have. We have floors you can’t slip and slide on and we make sure boxes won’t fall in your head.” Well, it’s really the same with psychological safety. We need to create some posts, some guards, so that when things happen, we’re there and we’re there to say to people who are following us, “No, no, don’t go over there. You could slip and slide and fall down there.” That’s our job. That’s what we have signed up for.

So, how do you develop the emotional muscles that are needed? You practice, practice and practice, and one of the things you can do is look at the research about language and communication. So, I’m going to give you one quick tip today. This one’s interesting. There was a study done with college students. So, I want you to picture this, they’re standing in two lines, and they’re two doors, and they have to go into a room and do something. I’ll tell you what this something is in a minute, and then there’s a back door and they go out, and then they all congregate together in the back area. A kind of a green outside area, and when they go in, one group is they’re being given some iced tea. So, in one group they’re pouring the iced tea, and they have glasses here, and they say, “We’d like to pour this iced tea to make it half so that the glass will be half-full, got that?” The other group going in there saying, “We’re pouring the iced tea so that the glass is half-empty.” That’s all that was said. They drink their iced tea and off they go, and there outside milling around, and then they come out with pitchers and glasses, and they start to ask people who would like more iced tea. Then they did the research. What they found was, and I’ll bet some of you have guessed this, that the ones who were in the group where they said, they were pouring the iced tea into glasses that were half empty were thirstier than the ones who came out of the room where they said the glass is half-full.

So, what do you learn from that? In the mindset, we have the ability to help people see things from either a negative or a not good enough place or a more positive place, and it’s not about faking happy. Happy as everybody, happy all the time. I’m not talking about being a denier or ignoring situations. I’m talking about how do we help people, stay in that place where they feel good enough to get something done psychological safety.

So, think about it when you’re talking to people. Talk in the half-full glass rather than the half-empty glass. People will have less needs when that’s done.

Take that as a tip. I’m working on a book called ‘Stress Busters’ that hopefully I’ll have out soon and let you know about it, so that there will be a ton of tips. There’ll be things about music, which I talked about a few times ago. There will be things about exercises. There will be things about communication, which is for me, one of the most important places to help people feel safe.

So, I’d also like to just show you my beautiful rose, that the roses outside are blooming. We’re in Northern California and the weather is still bit chilled, but these roses, they’re kind of coming out to say, “And this too shall pass,” and so, I just brought it in because it’s so beautiful, and every time I look at it, I think life has a beauty to it, that we just have to pay attention to.

Have a wonderful day!

And if you have other words or thoughts or comments, please put them under here, so we can all help each other. Remember, we’re all in it together and our philosophy is, ‘No one wins unless we all do.’ Maybe that’s the direction we’re heading toward right now.

Thank you so much and here’s to your success.

Sylvia Lafair