This is merely a summary of a great post from Amy Edmondson on psychological safety when you're not the boss that I thought it worth sharing widely. It speaks to a language and approach that I've loved and that our team tries to live, day in day out (with all its discomfort!) and that is around 'being the change you want to see'.

Some key takeaways from me:

  • Yes! but... - In great psychologically safe teams, it's not about being nice to each other and it's not about agreeing - it's about feeling safe to challenge, and if you have ever struggled with that, the 'yes, but' approach to conversation is a great starter. Pixar develop their script ideas in this way in their 'brain trust', where each idea is clarifying and additive, not reductive.
  • Ask genuine and curious questions - There's a big difference in reception between 'You're really busy and I never get to meet with you' and 'You seem incredibly busy, is there anything I can do to help?' - this talks to Kim Scott's 'Caring Personally' in the radical candor framework.
  • Act as if the environment is already psychologically safe - The quote below from the article is great. This speaks hugely to me and really is the hardest but most rewarding part. Exhibiting vulnerability in the workplace is courage. 'I'm sorry, I dont understand and I'd really like to - can you talk me through that again' is not weakness. But we all have to mirror those behaviours and 'be the change we want to see'. It's far harder when you're not the boss to put yourself in a position where you are raising your own interpersonal risk in an attempt to lower that interpersonal risk going forward.

Dress your work persona for the culture you want, not the culture you have. Be the change you want to see at work. This is my favorite tip of all, but it takes some guts. We all have a natural tendency to look up, to look in the direction of the managers above us. We have to train ourselves to look down and across instead. Removing your mask helps others remove theirs.

Bringing vulnerability and candor to your position, especially when you're not the boss, will rarely have a negative outcome - especially at my current employer GSK. If you found that was happening in any consistent way in any employer, it's time to 'change your culture'.

I for my part will attempt to be the change I wish to see around this and put my vulnerability out there in these conversations (hence this wider post to thousands of people I've never met before!), and I'd love to have conversations with people who want to be that same change :)