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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #202

The Dialogic Learning Weekly
The Dialogic Learning Weekly #202
By Tom Barrett • Issue #202 • View online
Welcome! How is your week progressing? I hope you are safe and well. Today a lingering look at psychological safety and some strategies to explore.
A few weeks ago, in front of 100 or so educators, I said that the majority of my time is spent “creating safe spaces for dialogue.” My emphasis is important as I had not previously referenced psychological safety so directly.
Safe spaces are good for us all. For relationships, for trust-building, creativity and critique. Overtly safe spaces - where we talk about how psychologically safe we feel - are ideal for dialogue. We take risks without feeling insecure, judgement or embarrassment.
However, you can’t just say, “this is a safe space” and hope that it will become manifest through repetition. I think that moniker is earned over time and through experience.

How to Create Psychological Safety
The strategies for building, piece by piece, a secure environment, are varied. Ryan Jenkins presents a range of leadership methods in the article below.
Here is my summary with a few additional comments and thoughts in parentheses.
1. Listen to understand
Active listening is a hallmark trait of psychological safety.
(We can do better than just Active Listening, which falls foul of the nominal fallacy. Think about how present you are when someone else is speaking. Don’t rehearse your response, don’t wait your turn. Allow yourself the freedom to centre on the speaker and their voice. Choose to be present.)
2. Conduct proportional conversations
Psychological safety exists when team members feel they have the opportunity to speak in roughly equal proportions to their peers. 
(This often takes an agreed protocol before your start. It should also be the team’s collective responsibility to ensure all voices have space and time to share. Also, to clarify, it is not always about the contribution, it is the equal opportunity to contribute.)
3. Speak last
By speaking first, leaders undermine the dialogue and thwart creativity, because the team will be less likely to volunteer any ideas that conflict with the leaders.
(That is not always true. It depends. This is a lot to do with the power in the room. Power, or even the perception of power, is antithetical to the ideal conditions for creativity. Over time, through deliberate effort and intentional facilitation, you can suspend that power dynamic, to share freely.)
4. Identify blind spots together
When leaders invite others into helping identify blind spots, it’s an admission to not having all the answers.
(Yes to vulnerability. That is all)
5. Productively address problems
High-performing teams deliver five times as many positive statements (supportive, appreciative, encouraging) to every negative statement (critical, disapproving, contradictory).
(I suppose this is about the phrase “Yes, and…” Which is the simplest way we can respond to a contribution. Every time we say it, we add to the collective safety. Short and powerful, ‘Yes’ affirms, ‘and’ builds. Over time a team will create enough shared experience that proves what is possible.)
6. Connect contributions to value
Humans have an innate desire for their contributions to be valued by the community. For centuries humans have found safety in numbers. Contributions that add value to a tribe or team safeguard the contributor from being excluded and vulnerable. 
(There are a couple of potential layers we can explore here. One is the shared values we have as a team and how the ‘work’ is aligned. The other is the act of participation itself. Show your gratitude for how others stepped up and shared ideas. Notice the active building of the safe space, or how people encourage and affirm. Draw the team’s attention to the meta-experience. Reflect on what makes the most difference to how safe we feel.)
How to Create Psychological Safety Among a Team
What resonates with you? What connections are you making? Which methods have a high impact?
Drop me a note and let me know.
In dialogue we trust.
~ Tom Barrett
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Tom Barrett

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