Hello and Happy New Year. I found 2017 a challenging year. I hope very much that 2018 can be better at the global level. Climate Change seems to me to be an existential threat for humanity and yet we create political psychodrama side shows to distract us from the real challenges. It would be great if, during 2018, we can come up with an improved version of political governance that enables us to run our countries (specifically the US and UK) for the long term security and benefit of all life. Perhaps a system where our best minds are attracted to government and are deployed effectively to work out optimal solutions would be something to aim for?.
To start at the most granular level. If we seek sustained success as individuals, as teams, as organisations or indeed as countries the key factor is what Google calls “Psychological Safety”. Psychological Safety is what enables us all to be at our best and to collaborate most effectively, to be authentic. Enabling us to be reliable in doing what we say we will do as well as being innovative and creative. This is particularly important to success in times of fast paced change.
To do this we have to accept that control is an illusion, most of us have a hard enough time controlling our bodies, let alone other people or the situations we find ourselves in and to control our bodies we would first have to have control of our minds. That leaves us with influence and the person we have most influence over is ourself and we have greater self influence when we have psychological safety than when we don’t, so we must start there.
The first steps in creating psychological safety are self awareness and emotional regulation. By self awareness I mean both knowing ourself, our core motivations, the ways in which we are different and similar to others and also on a moment by moment basis, being aware of our emotional state.
Articulating our core motivations by truly understanding what is important to us and why is a good base. We can work on this, articulating personal purpose, vision and values, on our own or with help from friends or a coach. To understand where we are on various spectra (such as introversion to extroversion or attitudes to change for example) psychological profiling tools such as FIRO B, Change Style Indicator or Strength Deployment Inventory and there are many more, are useful to help us create a composite picture of how we fit in to society.
To be aware of our emotional state in the moment takes practice. Like most things it is easy when things are relaxed and harder (and also more important) when the pressure is on. We can start by noticing our emotional state and putting language to it. Noticing when you are calm or when you are agitated. When you feel relaxed or when you feel anxious. When things are relaxed you can probably do this in the moment already, when the pressure is on you may start by describing your state after the event.
The benefits come when we can identify our state in the moment when the pressure is on and choose what to do about it. It is that ability to choose that will enable us to create our own psychological safety.
With our ability to create our own psychological safety, most of the time, comes our ability to be authentic, to be the very best version of ourselves, to be ourselves skilfully in a way that creates psychological safety for those around us and enables them to be authentic too.
Feeling psychologically safe and having those around us feel the same way, might seem like a bit of a first world luxury in a dynamic, fast paced environment, but look at it this way. If we are leading a team or a business or a country, part of the role is to take decisions. Every decision is a bit of a gamble, but the better the data we work with the greater the chances of success. The more psychologically safe people feel the more likely we are to be transparent and honest. The more transparent we are the better the quality of the data we share. To put it bluntly if we are scared we are more likely to lie or adjust the data to protect ourselves, than if we don’t.
Our emotional state is a dynamic thing and however good we are at regulating our emotional state there will be times when we feel less psychologically safe and sometimes this is good and exciting. Some of our best and most intense moments come when we are a bit on the edge. I am not advocating for some kind of bland emotional neutrality. Rather for us as individuals and those around us to always have the choice to be psychologically safe when we want to. It is this choice that makes it safe for us to push the boundaries with innovations and creativity and it is innovation and creativity that is required to make the world a better place for all inhabitants.
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