Want to be an inclusive leader? Create psychological safety for your team

Several years ago diversity became diversity and inclusion with many putting emphasis on the inclusion part.

How can you walk the talk on being an inclusive leader of a high performing team? Because performance and team happiness is the reward of actually doing diversity right.

Why is creating psychological safety the answer?

Studies have been exploring the effects of psychological safety at work for several years now and Google more recently experimented the concept with something they call Project Aristotle. They discovered that just by having genius or two on the team, you are not going to get the best results. However, if you have a team environment where people can feel safe and heard and valued as themselves, then they can think and perform better and the result is productivity. There are many factors to high performing teams for sure but Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work. This certainly makes sense if you think about it. Women ( and anyone who does not fit the mold of the traditional legacy work persona /expert) can find space to connect with others talking work and/or any other topic of shared interest.

Where to start?

Tip 1: Recognize the belief system in your team. What is the norm for your team? What are the shared beliefs that you all have? How does that make it easy for people to express ideas outside of the belief set? Is cognitive or thought diversity rewarded or silenced? If an event happens, such as a code problem, then what are the thoughts and actions from this? What emotions are attached and how are they expressed? What happens then?

Tip 2: Social identity diversity- having all types of people on your team is a good start but let people talk, let them tell you about their lives. Find out that diversity is not about noah’s ark and not a collectable set of 2 of each “kind”. People have personalities, traits and behaviors that often not aligned with the stereotypes regarding gender, ethnicity and other identities that so commonly prevail. Let people tell you their interests and likes instead of you presuming who and what they are! You might just be surprised at the results. If people have anxiety over being themselves ( for example, an LGBT person cannot mention their significant other by name or pronoun due to fear of not being accepted equally) then they cannot engage fully in the team as trust is everything. Acceptance and trust are interrelated!

Tip 3: Studies show women are less confident than men. I wonder when people are going to connect the dots on this one. Granted, personality has some part to play but really If women are less confident, it is because culturally, whether its explicitly or implicitly, they have been messaged to not believe in themselves to an equal degree as their male counterparts or simply put others have not endorsed them to the same degree. It is a true fact women experience credibility tests multiple times per day from is that your plane seat to are you sure your budget is right. This tedx tells of a man who became a woman recounting the difference in treatment or we can look to the Heidi Rozen Stanford experiment. Or the 50 year long academic body of work Virginia Schein has done on “think manager, think male”. I have written about this every single day for 12 straight years so the glaring systemic and culture issues that remain unaddressed are getting a little tedious. So, as a leader you have to think about your role in ensuring the women on your team get heard. Tell them to ask, but listen when they do!

If it is done properly however, inclusion is the most powerful tool a leader or manager can have in their toolkit because it can provide something that is the basis for individual and team performance.

Need an executive coach? Work with me on the system and your part in it, why you behave like you do and how you shouldn’t believe all that you think! Email for an exploratory (free) chat to see if coaching can help you be a better professional, manager or leader.