Psychological safety : we have a choice

Psychological safety was researched for many years before it hit the headlines with Google’s Project Aristotle. In asking “what makes an effective team?” the key enabling factor was psychological safety. But we have a choice — we can create psychologically safe environments with or without effort. What do you choose?

HT for the image :

Definition : Psychological safety is “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

I’m sure you’ll have been in a conversation or a meeting at some point in your life where you wondered whether to speak up, whether to ask the question, whether to offer the idea you had, whether to say I don’t know, or whether to say it didn’t work. read more

Expectations in a Box

Think of yourself at work and how it feels right now.

If you imagine you’re in a box at work, what would that box be like?

Are you in a roomy box with space to spread yourself out and change position?

Are you cramped in a box that you feel you could burst out of any minute?

Do you remember once feeling like you could burst out and now you feel like you’ve shrunk to fit inside?

What about your team?  What are their boxes like?

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Our brains are constantly scanning for danger, these days danger isn’t usually an animal that wants to eat us, it’s a threat to our self esteem, or our ego.  We’re raised in a world where being ‘right’ and ‘good’ are the things we’re meant to strive for*.  That’s what gets us praise, good school grades, a good job, a pay rise……stuff that boosts our self esteem and positively strokes our ego.  Interactions that make us feel like this are helpful to calm our fearful brain down which improves our thinking, helps us feel more abundant and generous towards ourselves and others, helps us become more creative by connecting dots.  This then leads to a growth in confidence and the desire to try more things, to push the boundaries, to come up with new ideas.  To coin the lyricist R Kelly, we believe we can fly! read more

Is the answer just equal pay?

First, some context and disclaimer stuff: I’m a working mum, I’m definitely not an employment law expert so apologies to anyone reading this who is.  If you’re reading my blog for the first time, this isn’t my normal kind of content and you can read the other stuff I write here.  For the purposes of this post I’m sticking with the stereotypical perspective of women as the main carers of kids, and who want to work part time to fulfil both roles.


I was reading this from People Management the other day and it got me thinking.

I’m always wary of sticky-plaster, ‘tell’, enforcement solutions to problems: expecting businesses to report their pay gap and shaming them to reduce the it feels like that to me.

Of course I believe it’s a good thing to shine a light on the cultural inequality that exists and I also believe that if it was so simple and easy to fix then we’d be doing it by now.

Definitely underlying this is the fact that women remain the primary carers of kids (although we are seeing some changes here), and this, mixed with some fundamental mindset challenges from employers, give us a gender pay gap.  Let me explain more about the mindset stuff –

=&0=& I’ve been that part time employed mum, and 110% committed to my job. Of course there are part time people who aren’t committed. And there are full time people who aren’t committed too.


The times they are a-changing

dylan_timesYesterday I was at a conference hosted by the andpartnership about Leading for a Changing World in the great surroundings of The Art House in Islington – a unique and opulent setting (and they do great food too!) – just in case you’re looking for a venue with a difference!

The human side of change is the thing the andpartnership team specialise in, which would make Leading for a Changing World an obvious choice for a conference topic. And yet, it’s not just that. The team at ‘and’ think that change is changing!

Hearing from the room the trends of change were about the constant-ness and pace of change – you think you’ve just ‘done it’ and then something else comes along.

There was talk about dealing with change from the inside-out instead of letting the outside affect how you feel inside.

There was concern that expectations of leaders are rising – but are we or they really clear what those expectations are?

And there was recognition of a need to move away from paternal, process leadership to heartfelt, innovative leadership – and yet how do we do that in an increasingly complex and globalised world?

This question lead us on to hearing about the broader context we’re operating in. The world is changing, it’s shrinking (don’t worry, not literally!), resources are diminishing, tech is everywhere, the numbers of old people are growing while young people are shrinking (again, not literally!) and people are generally getting more demanding and choosey.

Although, on the plus side, some people are seeing the benefits of breaking down barriers that have existed for years. They’re collaborating which, if you’re interested in this collaboration stuff, pop over here ( to see some recent interviews with L&D / OD / good-people-stuff people who believe in collaboration for better work and better lives. These people are realising the benefit of involving others to create more and better. I reckon these are also the people who are willing to take some risks and fail and learn, believing in what they’re doing and believing that, in the end, they’ll achieve what’s important and they want to make that difference.

There’s more being said in the world about a shift in the type of leadership needed to keep pace with this context and which was echoed in the session….

Egocentric leadership – all about me
Fear of disruption
Providing the answer
Knee jerk reaction
Wait and see – which I would build on with ‘wait till it’s perfect’

Altrocentric leadership – all about others
Intelligent reaction – seeing things coming & having the courage to decide & act
Asking the questions – the knowledge is all around us online & in other people. Coaching to release that power in others.
Balancing agility and resilience – being able to deal with all the stuff that’s going on around us & respond when it’s right.
Fail fast experimentation – it’s OK to sometimes get it wrong but learn fast and iterate what you’re doing


As the day progressed, we heard from two speakers who were at opposite ends of the change experience spectrum – First was Kieran Stigant, Former CEO of Wessex County Council – his was the sort of change that’s like turning a tanker that’s stuck in a sea of treacle – and then Ali Humphries, Group HRD for Aldermore – a new bank for small businesses – her’s is the sort of change that’s like trying to wrestle a new born octopus covered in olive oil! But both of these situations needed, and continue to need, a clear purpose, values around what the organisation stands for, and clarity about how they want things to feel round there.

After some open space to talk about leading through a changing world I noticed a trend emerging – a trend of fear…..
Leaders don’t feel they can be authentic because they’re afraid of what people / their boss will say, of what it means for their business results and therefore pay.
Leaders don’t want tech or Social Media to be part of work because they’re afraid of what might happen if they let people loose (no matter that everyone’s accessing it on their smartphones anyway!).
Leaders want to keep processes and procedures tight because the opposite of this control feels far too scary.

So when Andy Cope arrived to talk about his research into happiness – and the secrets of the 2%’ers who spend most of their time at the upper ends of the happiness scale – there came some links to everything we’d been talking about.

 Trigger – Feeling – Behaviour – Outcome

With so many potential triggers in the world around us, how much time do we spend with feelings of fear, uncertainty, concern?

And therefore how many unhelpful behaviours and outcomes does this create?

And most people aren’t even aware – because the fear can be stealthy and quiet.

But if we’re really going to crack our ability to deal with all this constant, fast-paced change, it comes back to something that was said at the very start of the day – we need to be ‘dealing with change from the inside-out instead of letting the outside affect how we feel inside’.

So how do we do that then?

For my own coaching practice this is the stuff I often work on with people and which I find creates the biggest shifts. It’s the things we believe and the thoughts we have that cause us to even be ‘triggered’ in the first place and I love to help people develop more helpful beliefs and thoughts so those triggers aren’t in control of their emotions any more.

But for now, to start changing how you feel on the inside, try practicing these tips from Andy Cope and theBob_the_builder Art of Brilliance team…..and remember, a lot of our 4000 weeks of our lives have been spent learning behaviours from mood-hoovers, it comes as part of the British mood-hoover cultural norm……so we now need to make a choice to learn to be positive for the weeks we’ve got left…..

Got toothache? No? Fantastic!

It might sound odd, but waking up every morning being thankful for not having toothache will start to help you focus on what’s great about you, your life your amazingly clever body! Do this every day (Andy recommends at least a year) and after a while, maybe progress to another body part you’re proud of for working so amazingly well!

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My first time……..

Back in the summer this year it was my first time having a hip replacement .

I used to have a rubbish arthritic hip which was sore, inflexible and stopped me doing a lot of things with my kids that I wanted to do.  Now that I’m all better (for a good few years anyway…till I need another replacement) I can look back on that time and think it was absolutely the best thing I ever did.

But of course before the operation I was petrified!  Convinced I was going to die on the operating table and leave two children without a mum, unsure whether the replacement would be any good, unsure whether I should stick with my rubbish hip – at least I knew its limitations and it was familiar.

But I chose to have the op, to jump into the big, black unknown and trust the doctors, nurses and physios around me who would look after me and help me recover afterwards.  To trust that my mum and my husband would step in and be ‘mum’ to my kids while I got back on my feet.

So what’s the point of this?

Well, since my op I’ve discovered that a new attitude (or perhaps an attitude that had become increasingly hidden) – an attitude where I just try stuff.  I’ve always prided myself on a belief that I have a flexible approach to life, that I’m open to new things, and to change.  But I hadn’t realised how much that part of me had disappeared as my arthritis had got worse.  My immobility and pain had caused me to say no to things that I might otherwise have embraced, and to choose routes of least resistance – not just physically but psychologically too.

My new-found, pain-free mobility has released a new me – someone who’s up for giving stuff a try.  So that now, just five months after my first time having a hip op, I’ve also had my first time tweeting, hacking, blogging, conference speaking, #connectinghr -ing, volunteer coaching, and generally exploring…….embracing new opportunities.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?  And, I have to say at this point, thank you to @PerryTimms, @HRTinker and @dds180 for encouraging me and making a lot of that stuff a reality.

I was interested to read a great post earlier today by @projectlibero ( where he talks about this year being the Chinese Year of the Snake.  One where we shed our old skin and emerge in a stronger fresh covering.  Very poignant for me.

So what about you?

What do you have in your life that’s not great, but feels safe and familiar?

What choices do you have that fill you with fear and dread because you don’t know what the outcome might be?

Who do you have around you that you trust, and who can give you support and strength when you need it most?

What could be possible in your life if you embrace your inner snake and shed that old skin?