Feeling safe to say what is on your mind

Recently I blogged about why sometimes, staff find it hard to ask for help. Sometimes, staff find it equally as hard to say what is on their mind. Creating a psychologically safe organisation, that allows people at all levels to share their thoughts, feelings and views, free from criticism, should be the goal of all leadership teams. There are many actions we can take to promote this type of organisational culture.

Your Behaviours and Actions:

  • Through considering self-awareness, you understand how you respond to changes or challenges, and use this knowledge to respond in ways to encourage discussion.
  • Often share what you and others have done that has not worked out, alongside what has been learnt from those experiences.

Example: Whenever assessment and data reporting systems are discussed and reviewed, I am self-aware of my thoughts and feelings. Having put years of work into refining these areas, I need to be conscious of how I may react to the systems and processes being challenged, and ensure I do not put off open and honest conversations. An approach I have used in the past is to share where I have gone wrong with convoluted systems, that don’t respect the nuances of assessment, and the individuality of subjects.

Considering People:

  • Show care and concern about staff members as people, checking in to ensuring they are respected as individuals rather than just employees.
  • Ensure staff have different routes to feedback and share their views; either before, during or after the discussions.

Example: Before a meeting, I have shared pre-reading when appropriate, allowing staff to formulate and share their thoughts in different ways. After meeting, I have often checked in within people who haven’t seemed themselves, and allowing them time to catch up and share their views if they need it.

Team Discussions:

  • Pause, giving people time to think. Follow this up by asking questions and obtaining a diverse set of views on the topic being discussed, especially from team members that are yet to speak.
  • Use language that is positive and affirmative (e.g. have not yet vs can’t) to avoid a culture of excuse or blame.
  • Create a culture where sharing ideas is respected and valued, by showing appreciation to all who speak up.

Example: Before a meeting discussing changes to curriculum and teaching and learning, I ensured we had representation from pastoral, safeguarding and behaviour teams to make sure the views of a wide variety of staff were heard, and diverse expertise was shared.

How You Communicate:

  • Through precise and clear communication, sharing your expectations and committing yourself to support your team, build trust and remove anxiety.
  • When embarking on change, state what is changing, explain why it is changing and share the timeframe for the change.

Example: Whenever a new initiative is started, such as recent work on the sequencing of curriculum, I clearly share the aims and the intended impact of the project, as well as a projected timeline. The explain my role in eh process, and the support I intend to offer.


Are you:

  • reshaping conflict to be a collaborative process or allowing it to be a divisive?
  • considering the people you work with as employees and colleagues, or are you considering them as people?
  • considering how people will react to your discussions, changes or initiatives and planning to support them to understand their own reactions?

Do you:

  • allow blame to be a focus of evaluative discussions, or it is reshaped as curiosity for why things may have gone wrong?
  • ask for feedback on how you have delivered during a project, presentation or meeting?
  • measure psychological safety by asking people if they feel they can share their views and concerns, alongside how easily they would find it to share a mistake they have made, and whether they feel they could do it free from criticism?

Further Reading

Bosler, S. (2019). 9 Strategies to Create Psychological Safety at Work
Delizonna, L. (2017). High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It


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