CNLP 430: Amy Edmondson on How to Create a Psychologically-Safe Workplace and What to Do if You Don’t Work in One

Harvard Business School Professor and renowned business expert, Amy Edmondson, talks about the growing link between psychological safety at work and the results that high-performing teams accomplish.

She details what psychological safety is, how to create a psychologically-safe workplace, and what to do if you don’t have one.

Welcome to Episode 430 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about some signs that your workplace is not psychologically safe.

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The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmonson

Teaming by Amy C. Edmonson

6 Warning Signs Your Church Culture is Toxic by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Amy

1. Create a safe and effective culture by building trust and rapport on your team

Amy gives us several steps to building a psychologically safe workplace:

  1. Clarify early and often what your organization is trying to do.
    What’s the mission? What are you up against? What are you worried about, and what skills and resources do you bring? The answers to these questions will help your team establish the common goal.
  2. Be aware of and check in on the impact that you’re having on others.
    Give them feedback about the impact they’re having on you and on the task, and invite your team members to do the same to you and each other. Realize you only have part of the picture. Your teammates have other parts.
  3. Leverage your team’s different backgrounds in light of your mission.
    You may think you all have the same experience with the problem you are trying to solve. You don’t. Invite conversation about each other’s experiences and thoughts around the issue. Amy calls this a “deliberate treasure hunt” and an opportunity to pull your valuable experiences together that may otherwise be lost in what you have in common.

2. Embrace and welcome the reporting of mistakes as a gift

Amy points out that things WILL go wrong. The only question is, are you going to hear about them in time to help your team and clients get it right? We need to get over the thought that, “If something goes wrong, someone is not competent.” The reporting of mistakes is not only a gift to your organization, it’s mission-critical, according to Amy. How can you fix what’s wrong if people are afraid to tell you what’s wrong? Celebrate candor.

3. Realize that people are there not only to work, but to grow

For most individuals, work is not only about getting the mission accomplished. It’s also about being given the opportunities to develop as a person. Amy believes when that latter emphasis isn’t a part of the organization, you’re more at risk of higher turnover. She challenges us to think of the workplace as a deliberately developmental place because that’s what we all at some level really yearn for. She wishes organizations realized this more often.

Quotes from Episode 430

If you're hearing too much happy talk, it's probably an indication you're not hearing enough of the straight talk. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet In a psychologically unsafe workplace, you hear a lot of good news. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet In teams, very often people have ideas. They have questions. They have concerns, and they don't share them. They don't want to be unpopular. They don't want to look bad. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet When you send the message, ‘Don't come to me with problems until you've got at least a partial solution going,' you're harming the organization, because that solution is going to be better developed if you work on it together. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet Any time you ask a fellow team member the question, ‘How do you see it,’ you're conveying respect and giving them that little moment of psychological safety because you've said, ‘I want your voice.’ @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet Psychological safety is a belief that the context is safe for interpersonal risks. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet The dynamism, the uncertainty, the complexity of the environment in which most organizations are operating can't be the case that everything's good news. That's not logical. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet You want to create the kind of environment, as a boss, where people feel free to tell you the truth. Click To Tweet Why would I be willing to take criticism? Because I want to be better. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet Why, as a boss, am I willing to hear bad news even though it's not fun? Because I want us to be better. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet Everybody recognizes that the manager or boss' behavior has a greater influence on the climate of the team than a team member's or a peer's behavior, but do not underestimate the positive impact that you can have. @AmyCEdmonson Click To Tweet Leadership is behavior that influences others in a positive way. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet People are at work to help get the mission accomplished, but they're also there to grow and develop as people. I think when that latter emphasis isn't a part of the workplace, you're more at risk of higher turnover. @AmyCEdmondson Click To Tweet When what gets said publicly is different from what happen privately, things get toxic. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Chris Hodges

Chris Hodges had a battle with depression back in 1999, but the last thing he expected was to face it again in the summer of 2020.

In a very transparent interview, Chris explains his battle with anxiety, depression and panic attacks, what felt like a season of ministry suicide, and how he came back and grew his resilience.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 431.

CNLP 430: Amy Edmondson on How to Create a Psychologically-Safe Workplace and What to Do if You Don’t Work in One


  1. moto x3m on July 27, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    This is a great article! I really like the way you present it and the way you make it interesting

  2. cookie clicker on July 26, 2021 at 3:03 am

    It is not easy for all employees to be guaranteed to have a healthy mentality to work and dedicate, but managers can still go through many different measures to make them feel psychological safety.

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