February 2021
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TD Magazine

Make the Workplace a Safe Haven

Monday, February 1, 2021

Help leaders develop a psychologically safe work environment.

In its 2012 Project Aristotle study, Google found that psychological safety—when individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking interpersonal risks—is a critical predictor of high-performing teams. Now more than ever, psychological safety is important.


How can companies create the foundation for such a culture? That is where talent development practitioners come in. Kenneth Nowack and Paul J. Zak outline in "Sustain High Performance With Psychological Safety" how talent development professionals can help leaders hone their leadership skills and create a psychologically safe environment. Leaders must take these key steps.

Connect. Strong relationships are built on respect, caring, and appreciation. Leaders can ask employees about nonwork activities and genuinely request others' perspectives and echo back what they have shared.

Involve. "Solicit input and feedback on planning, decision- making, and problem-solving processes," write Nowack and Zak. Leaders can do that via in-person or virtual team meetings using the round-robin method. They should also take into consideration that introverts may be aided with some time to collect their thoughts before weighing in.


Support. Leaders should ensure that employees have the tools they need to reach performance goals. "Act as a servant leader focusing on team wins rather than jockeying for a promotion," advise the authors.

Nowack and Zak also delve into how talent development professionals can help sustain a psychologically safe culture by encouraging leaders to measure psychological safety, communicate organizational culture when hiring, and value individuals' emotional intelligence.

These tips were adapted from the February 2021 issue of TD at Work. Learn more at td.org/TDatWork.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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