Creating Psychologically Safe Spaces to Boost Performance
In today’s fractured and polarised society, business leaders must work exceptionally hard to ensure that teamwork prevails over politics in the workplace. This is even more challenging in hybrid workplaces, culturally diverse teams, and in teams in which remote working is becoming common.
What is the secret to creating a psychologically safe culture, in which collaborative working is empowered and enabled?
We've spoken previously about critical leadership skills like generative listening; here we want to discussion some key 'communication strategies'. Where communication is the lifeblood of high performing teams, leaders must create a culture where conscious communication, mastering communication strategies like non-violent communication, is the norm.
What is non-violent communication?
Non-violent communication is a communication strategy in which we listen to the needs of ourselves and others. It helps us to understand what we are observing, and this, in turn, negates the need to judge, blame, or dominate. By listening first, and then speaking, we can frame conversations with deeper compassion and contribute to shared wellbeing.
When we combine this with the mainstays of conscious communication – speaking calmly, slowly, using brevity, and pausing for feedback — we are more able to create an environment for reconciliation and understanding.
This isn’t new thinking. Indeed, as Marshall Rosenberg PhD, author of books such as ‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life’, points out:
“All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions.”
So, what makes it so relevant today?
The Leadership Circle promotes conscious communication as a critical skill when it comes to the creative competency: 'Relating'
The Leadership Circle™ is a system that uncovers insights and opportunities to sharpen skills and improve leadership behaviours in the modern world of flatter organisations and generative, agile styles of leadership.
At the top of this circle sits 5 Core Creative Competencies, from building relationships to successful task management.
Many studies have found that leaders who are strong in creative competencies are most effective. These leaders bring out the best in others, leading with vision and integrity. They also have a high focus on self-development and improving the organisation. Those leaders who score highly in the creative competencies tend to have the highest levels of leadership effectiveness and business performance.
Four ways for leaders to develop their creative competencies
The most effective leaders today lead with authenticity and compassion and participate in honest conversation. Perhaps the lack of trust in our political leadership is because all these elements have been cast aside?
A business leader cannot afford to lose the trust of his or her employees. They must be strong in their creative competencies. While there are many ways to develop these, the following four themes are paramount for effective leadership. Conscious communication is at the core of all of them:
- Building strong relationships
To inspire, influence, and engage people, leaders must develop strong relationships. To do this, a leader must employ effective communication through five key strategies:
- Active listening, receiving more information to personalise communication
- Demonstrate empathy, to empower meaningful conversations
- Give feedback positively, to enable discussion about performance and promote development
- Understanding their own conscious biases, to manage reactions and responses
- Practice clarity, to eliminate confusion and enable people to do their best work
Practising these strategies habitually improves how a leader manages conflict, develops team and individual skills, and aids in building a team that is bound by strong relationships.
Think beyond the task
Today’s workforce wants more than to do their job and take their paycheque. They need a purpose and desire to work for an organisation that helps them deliver that purpose.
Leaders must learn to look beyond the tasks that their people perform to enhance their people’s performance. Key to understanding people and improving as a leader is the ability to actively listen. This will help the leader to develop strategies that enable people to contribute more effectively to the greater goal of the organisation.
Focus on emotional wellbeing by providing purpose
Having a purpose in life is crucial to mental wellbeing. In general, people spend a third of their time at work or engaged in thinking about their work. Shouldn’t we focus on providing more meaningful work, sharing our organisation’s purpose with our employees, and helping them to engage with it?
This can only be achieved when we put transparent communication at the heart of business performance. If we fail to communicate effectively, we risk causing confusion and creating a misalignment between actions and business goals. To communicate your organisation’s values and purpose, paint a picture of your vision, communicate it in readily absorbed and understood language and mediums, and do so consistently.
Employ a VUCAR response to the VUCA world
Traditional leadership is failing in the VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). Instead, we need to approach leadership with a VUCAR framework (vision, understanding, capabilities, agility, resilience). Leaders need to employ a transformational style of leadership, in which team development that stands on emotional intelligence, self-confidence, and feelings of efficacy take centre stage. We must practice self-awareness, develop a greater sense of awareness of others, and communicate to have a positive impact.
To lead effectively, don’t be nice: Be authentic
Communicating effectively is the most powerful strategy for modern leadership. To do so, it is crucial that a leader listens actively, develops a greater sense of self and of others, provides feedback positively, and builds relationships built on trust and understanding.
Non-violent communication isn’t about being nice. It is about communicating consciously, authentically, and compassionately. It’s about having those honest conversations that lead to strong relationships and the ability to inspire and engage.
Find out more
View our Scaling Talent programmes designed to develop critical skills needed in today's organisations.
Read more about Leading through Effective Communication.