Psychological Safety in a Virtual World

–Interpersonal Risk & Psychological Safety, which comes first?

Are you creating Safety or Inviting Risk-Taking?

Amy Edmondson uses the analogy of sailing when trying to create the ideal environment of Psychological Safety – that of Tacking Upwind – the reality that the only way to actually arrive at your goal is to zigzag your way slowly but surely, with commitment and purpose towards true north.

But in a virtual world, there is no wind…

  • How is interpersonal risk redefined in the virtual, WFH space?
  • Is that cultivated safety now implicit and does it go beyond purely psychological?
  • Is it simply easier, given the familiarity of our own environment, that innate feeling of comfort in one’s own home?
  • The new reality that permits us to literally disconnect with a push of a button, if and when we feel threatened?
  • The collective anonymity of a webinar / large Zoom call setting?
  • Can I still feel exclusion, when I’m already in isolation?
  • Are we more comfortable finding our voice in a group call, as our awareness tells us we are alone and thus the fear of judgement and the overlaying greater fear of being ostracised seems less relevant?
  • Does this newly found level playing field allow for greater equality and thereby emboldening of Self; representation, creativity, and confidence?

Establishing the same safe space or environment as a leader still requires the usual precursors: attention, appreciation, encouragement, situational humility, cognitive diversity, connection, open communication coupled with heart centred consciousness, transparency, and of course trust.

Albeit only via a virtual plane right now, the commonality of uncertainty and discomfort still creates a unifying connection, which in a typical hierarchical control structure, both physically and metaphysically is not prevalent, though it is fundamental for developing that sense of belonging and ownership which typifies high performing teams.

This connection then leads to open sharing and heart centred leadership, from every participant. The diversity of thought and the unknowable parameters create the fertile ground for truly free ideation and inclusivity. Newly afforded to us by our proximity to decision-makers and each other on a daily basis, allowing those who never found their voice or were never afforded the opportunity before, to now stand up and enter the arena.

We all have a say in the evolution of what the new normal will look like and in creating that new reality it is prudent to remember it is as much about what we let go, as it is about something brand new we can bring to the table.

One of the facets which I hope is no longer a consideration is the need for Psychological Safety…

As the lessons we have learnt through this challenge equip us with the tools to consider others first, allow free discovery, foster resilience, connections which are forged with heart not necessity, unconditionality with all things and acceptance via a relinquishing of the need to be judgemental.

Perhaps the greatest take away from this experience is the belief that we are not alone and that every voice adds value.

This shared, interconnected happening has reinforced that sense of unity, reminding us that at our core we are all one. Reminding us of what it means to be truly human and in so doing removes the toxic situation in which interpersonal risk is a necessary armour to acquire or where psychological safety is a conscious consideration for today’s leaders.

This is my hope…

Rhys Thomas
Rhys Thomashttps://truselfcoaching.com/
I help Leaders and Business Owners reconnect with their truSELF to realise their true potential and optimise their team's performance through the principles of Conscious Leadership; Connection, Cultivation, Communication, Curiosity, Caring, Co-Creation, and Community. Utilising EQ, SQ, and Mindset we can work together to actualise your truSELF. By creating the right environment with incisive questioning, generative attention, and the principles of deep listening we can identify and transform those limiting self-beliefs into liberating ones and empower you with self-worth and self-awareness. Learning to focus on the present moment and to always lead with your heart by putting kindness, compassion, and gratitude at the forefront of everything you do lifts you and those around you. By committing to a practice of daily personal development, becoming aligned with your core values, unlocking your superpowers, and learning to always take intentional action, you will soon be achieving your true purpose! That is when you are one with your truSELF. Founder of TruSELF Coaching; Leadership Transformation Consulting: facilitation, 1:1 and Group Coaching/Workshops; Communication and Connection Catalyst; #TNTESQ Podcast Host – Exploding the Status Quo about what Leadership really means today, inviting us to not only think differently but do differently… 15+ years in Sales and Recruitment in UK and APAC region.

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  1. Such important questions to be asking Rhys! I don’t know that there ever is an arrival point where things will truly change – I think it’s going to be a continued unfolding. But keeping these questions in the forefront will allow all of us to bring more mindfulness to every encounter – virtual or not. How do we ensure others feel safe? It’s essentially the big question the United States is grappling with… Likely the biggest question that humankind can be asking.

  2. Great to see you here Rhys and lovely writing, thanks for sharing.

    I totally share your view that we are all one, however, I do see Psychological Safety as an important bridge to help those that are mainly logical to connect their heart and head :-) but in essence, yes it would not be required if we all operate from source.

    keep up the good work mate.

  3. Welcome to BizCatalyst360. I appreciate your outlook, Rhys. What I hope for is an unrecognizable future in which multiple perspectives are welcomed into the room and those individuals can sit at the table-especially those voices that have been silenced for a very, very long time. May we have the courage to take the risk and deeply listen with open minds and open hearts to other people’s life experiences, ideas, preferences, emotional realities, and creative expression with humility, dignity, and grace. I do not believe that everyone has experienced the pandemic in the same way-some people’s lives are flourishing while other lives have been upended in countless ways-this hasn’t united us, but rather allowed us to see the deep and enduring inequities in our culture and our world. I share your aspiration for all people to experience a deep sense of safety in all ways-physical, emotional, mental, spiritual to speak their truths, to create lives they love living aligned with their values, passions, and vision–to know in our bones and blood that we are all one.

  4. Rhys – Welcome to the BC360 family. Here you will find respectful engagement and encouragement. And the best part is the new online friendships you will make. Your first article should start building a following for your article. Best wishes.

  5. Rhys — I really, really want to believe this: “This shared, interconnected happening has reinforced that sense of unity, reminding us that at our core we are all one.” But as a student of history – and current events – I see so many examples to the contrary. Societies wind up inventing innumerable rules, standards of behavior and systems, e.g. religions that attempt to bring us together as “one.” As humans, that primordial part of our brain sends us messages to “fight, flight, or freeze.” It’s designed to protect us as individual humans. That said, human history also shows that we possess the desire to overcome our tendency to individualism and to work together as one – there is safety and productivity in numbers. I agree with you wholeheartedly that “every voice adds value” – or at least the potential to add value – and we need to organize our conversations to protect that practice.

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