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How Leaders Can Support Psychological Safety In Meetings

international business team interacting at a presentation
September 20, 2022 10:40 am

Leading Highly Inclusive and Productive Teams

We are being asked with much more frequency to train leaders on the behaviours needed to foster trust and psychological safety in their teams, particularly in team meetings. With the increased focus on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and the impact Covid has had on how teams work.

It has never been more important for leaders to understand trust building and busting behaviours.

 When employees feel comfortable asking for help, sharing suggestions informally, or challenging the status quo without fear of negative social consequences, organizations are more likely to innovate quickly, unlock the benefits of diversity , and adapt well to change—all capabilities that have only grown in importance during the COVID-19 crisis.(McKinsey & Company)

 Here are some signs your staff may not feel safe contributing in your meetings

  • You speak far more than team members or answer the majority of questions that come up
  • Very few questions are asked
  • Options are not debated at all or in a fiercely competitive manner
  • Discussions around problems are avoided
  • Discussions around mistakes tend to degrade, to blame and personal attacks
  • No one asks for help
  • Team members show impatience when a newer member raises a new idea

Four Ways to Foster Psychological Safety In Your Meetings

Click on the links for great tips and techniques

Set Critical Interpersonal Norms: Failure to deal with building resentments or dysfunctional behaviours can drastically reduce the quality of interaction, collaboration and morale of the team. This in turn typically impacts productivity and relationships amongst team members. It is critical that the team defines their interpersonal operating guidelines together to build buy-in and ensure all members understand the types behaviours that will best serve them as a team.

Make Your Meetings Pop: When setting the context and opening any collaborative session, it’s imperative that the leader provide basic information that outlines the why, what and how of the meeting. The more people know of what is expected and what is on and off the table, the more comfortable they are contributing in a meaningful way.

Maintain Neutrality When You Want Input: For most leaders,  being completely neutral is impossible due to a vested interest in the outcome of the company, group or meeting itself.  So the question is; can leaders be effective, neutral facilitators? I believe they can if they are very transparent as to which hat they are wearing at the outset of a meeting or as they “change hats” throughout the meeting.The goal is to maintain neutrality when you want to maximize input from the group and only slip back into your “expert” role when absolutely necessary.

Be An Active Listener! Our ability to actively listen and demonstrate that we really hear what is being said, encourages the speaker to continue speaking and to want to engage with us. Ultimately, we all want to ‘feel heard’. When we’re heard we feel validated that what we’re saying is interesting or important to the other individual(s). We also sense indirectly and perhaps unconsciously that “I trust this person who listens”.

A key element of active listening is asking questions that help to clarify what the speaker is saying or to go deeper and wider into the topic area. Beware of the trap some meeting leaders fall into when they are trying to lead the group towards a specific outcome or opinion. Check out this article on signs you may be a Facipulator (Facilitator + Manipulator) which can quickly erode trust.

Let us Know

Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!