Insights for High Stress Professions
Keeping Your Word
While seemingly straightforward, adhering to this principle can be challenging. Do what you said you were going to do. Keep Your Word.
Every time you keep your word, you add marbles to the jar. Every time you don’t, you break trust and take marbles from the jar.
When You Fail To Keep Your Word
Sometimes things come up, information is missed, estimates are incorrect, and circumstances change. This is part of living in the world as a human and with other humans.
If we consistently fall short of doing what we said we would do, we need to reevaluate our priorities and get more realistic on what we promise others. On the occasion we don’t meet the marks we set, here are some things we can do to maintain and build trust:
Owning up to our mistakes is an act of courage and integrity. It entails refraining from assigning blame elsewhere and taking responsibility for our actions. If appropriate, apologize for your mistake and the negative impact it had on others.
Notify Early and Often
If something comes up and you know you can’t follow through on your promise, let the appropriate people know as soon as possible. Addressing challenges promptly enables more effective problem-solving.
The Power of the Do-Over
Arguably, the most potent tool in the psychological safety toolbox is the "Do-Over." Mistakes are inevitable, but how we respond is critical. This opportunity allows for acknowledgment of missteps and a chance to rectify them.
Picture a scenario where someone inadvertently stifled your contributions in a meeting. Now, envision them pausing to reflect, saying, "I realize I unintentionally steamrolled your ideas. May I have a do-over?" This demonstrates they are paying attention and are making genuine commitment to improvement. This action is still impactful if the realization dawns later in the day, prompting their return to acknowledge their oversight and seek your input.
So, when faced with feedback that triggers defensiveness, when a trusted colleague shares when you handled something poorly, or when frustration prevents you from choosing better responses, remember to pause, take a breath, and request a do-over. This simple act can be transformative in rebuilding trust and nurturing psychological safety.
As we navigate difficult situations, remember that every act of accountability, every honest conversation, and every do-over contributes to the cultivation of trust and psychological safety. These acts hold transformative potential in rebuilding trust and nurturing psychological safety within our teams and relationships.
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Random House.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Penguin Random House.
Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. John Wiley & Sons.
For more articles about building psychological safety, check out my series here:
Flipping the Script: Language Shifts for Building Trust and Psychological Safety
Tactical Transparency: A tool for building trust and psychological safety
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