Enhancing Psychological Safety

Enhancing Psychological Safety

The Secret Sauce to Unleashing Your Organisation's True Potential by Kristian Lees Bell.

In today's competitive corporate landscape, psychological safety has emerged as a game-changer. Organisations embracing psychological safety experience numerous benefits such as reduced turnover, increased engagement, and elevated productivity (Edmondson, 1999).

This article delves into the world of psychological safety, offering some actionable insights to foster it within your organisation.

Psychological safety refers to a work environment where employees feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks without fear of being punished or humiliated for speaking up, sharing ideas, asking questions, or admitting mistakes.

Research suggests that there are multiple dimensions to Psychological Safety. However, there are three elements that our research at Zircon suggests are particularly important: purpose, trust, and connection.

Leaders can play a vital role in fostering these elements by promoting open communication, valuing diverse perspectives, and creating a supportive environment. McKinsey's research on leadership styles highlights the importance of consultative and supportive leadership styles in promoting psychological safety, while authoritative leaders may break down psychological safety.

How can Organisations Enhance Psychological Safety?

One of the most common questions our coaches receive when talking to our clients about Psychological Safety goes something like this:

“I understand why it’s important and I’m sold on the benefits, but what practical steps or approach should I take to improve Psychological Safety in my team?”

Organisations can enhance psychological safety by focusing on four key areas: awareness, recognition, contracting, and practices.

This is what fostering psychologically safe teams looks like:

Awareness: Start by assessing the current level of psychological safety within your team. Use questionnaires, evaluate gaps and strengths, and understand that positive intentions do not always create psychological safety. Positive intentions can sometimes have negative consequences.

Recognition: Help team members understand the impact they make on the team and the influence they have on psychological safety. Encourage reflection and self-awareness, enabling individuals to recognize their contributions and areas for improvement.

Contracting: As a team, identify the changes you want to make to enhance psychological safety. Establish clear expectations and collaborate on designing a plan to achieve them.

Practices: Determine the practices you will implement to foster psychological safety. For example, start meetings with three minutes of personal catch-up without an agenda, promoting personal connections among team members.

Creating a Psychological Safety ‘Toolkit’

To further support your efforts, you could develop a psychological safety toolkit or ‘playbook’ that includes macro and micro-level interventions, targeted actions, and resources such as podcasts, whitepapers, articles, and books.

Macro-level interventions might include updating engagement policies and competencies, while micro-level actions could involve improving team meeting etiquette.

Creating tailored and practical toolkit that inspires action and next steps, is a really powerful addition to any training in Psychological Safety and it is something we create with our clients.

The targeted actions we support our clients with are designed to address specific issues within a team and are based on the BeTalent model of Psychological Safety, which identifies ten distinct elements contributing to a psychologically safe environment. With a robust assessment tool like this, teams and organisations can tailor their actions and strategies to their unique needs.

For instance, if some team members are hesitant to speak up, you might consider these strategies:

  • Encourage quieter members to share their thoughts by asking them direct questions, inviting them into the conversation.
  • When soliciting input from the entire team, start with junior or inexperienced members before moving on to those with more experience and seniority.
  • Be prepared to respectfully disagree or challenge colleagues when you don't agree with an idea or approach. Provide evidence for your disagreement and suggest alternative solutions.

In conclusion, unlocking your organization's potential requires embracing psychological safety as a strategic priority. By focusing on purpose, trust, and connection, harnessing the power of supportive leadership, and following a simple framework like the one we have discussed, you can create a nurturing environment where team members feel empowered to share ideas, ask questions, and innovate, ultimately leading to happier and more successful organisations.

If you would like to hear more about our research looking at Psychological Safety you can download our white paper from the website www.zircon-mc.co.uk or feel free to contact us at Hello@BeTalent.com

To find out more about our Psychological Safety Assessment visit: https://zircon-mc.co.uk/betalent-psychological-safety.php

And finally, don’t forget to check out our episode 38, ‘How to Create a Psychologically Safe Environment’ of the Chief Psychology Office podcast: https://www.thecpo.co.uk/



De Smet, A. Rubenstein, K. Schrah, G. Vierow, M., & Edmondson, A. (2021). Psychological Safety and the critical role of leadership development. Retrieved from: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/psychological-safety and-the-critical-role-of-leadership-development

Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383


Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383 

First Published: 23rd March 2023

Last Updated: 13th February 2024

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Linda Litherland
Head of Learning and Development : University of East London

At UEL, Amanda has been instrumental in supporting our senior leaders with having difficult and challenging conversations. She is engaging and excellent at building lasting relationships which get to the heart of an issue and recommend solutions. The BeTalent products and facilitation is proving to be invaluable and has improved the wellbeing and performance of the leadership and Dean cohort phenomenally.

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