SBM Articles


Creating an Emotionally Safe Culture

by Jonathan Jones

On the quest to understand great cultures, I recently sat down with a group of executives from companies that had been growing profitably and had a reputation for having happy and engaged employees. Many had a variety of process improvement methodologies or systems to encourage employees to get involved in improving results. While there was a theme of establishing a culture where most employees are involved conscientiously, the different companies used so many different programs to get their employees engaged.

When we explored the commonality of all the successful engagement programs, one leader said their team embraced their program once they felt trusted. Eureka! Every leader, to a person, realized their change, improvement or engagement program took off once they had established a “psychologically safe environment.”

As we explored the elements of such an environment, we agreed the common traits were:

1) Strong common values, supported and adhered to by employees and management. Nobody is outside the rules.
2) Humble leadership. Leaders who recognize that the frontline employees know the details of the business better than they do and will allow the employees to take the lead for improvements.
3) A positive environment. The emphasis is on what is happening right and not what is wrong.
4) Freedom to try new approaches or ideas. Leaders set direction, but how things get done is not micromanaged.
5) The ability to make mistakes without being chastised or embarrassed. In fact, mistakes are celebrated as a lesson learned on the path to improvement.

Each organization made mistakes along the way and had ups and downs. In the end, these elements were key to creating an emotionally safe culture and the first step to starting an improvement program that lasts.

Jonathan Jones ( or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.
Submitted 1 years 24 days ago
Categories: categoryCulturecentric Leadership
Views: 920