Psychological safety : the individual’s perspective

Last week I wrote about Psychological Safety from the perspective of a leader trying to create that environment for their team or business. But what about the individual? Do they have to just wait for someone else to come and create that for them? You can probably guess that’s a no — but read on to explore more…

Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

I can’t work with that person they’re so intimidating.

This team just seems incapable of a decision and drive me crazy going round in circles.

I’m too introverted to get my point across, the extroverts just take over.

Nobody ever listens to each other. It’s pointless.

All possible scenarios where we can drop into the role of victim, believing that we need a rescuer to come and change things for us. The leader in his coat of shining armour who will take responsibility for the dynamic and make it all better. read more

My experience of flotation!

This is my experience of a flotation pod at Calm Water Flotation, Nottingham who (despite how you’ll see my thought flowed) were very helpful at explaining how everything worked and how we might feel in the pod.  Giving floating a try was for our Aligning Teams Christmas Do and on the back of Mark Gilroy’s experience – we decided that the usual meal and drinks wasn’t for us and instead we plan to try a different therapy or experience each year……

I step into the warm, thick water….

Oh it’s not as thick as I expected.

[Closes the lid]

Lie back. Oo I’m floating!

The blue light and sounds of the ocean on the shore are calming.

Is my ear plug in right? I’ll just adjust that.

[Sits up, with difficulty! This water’s floaty! Lies back down.]

I’m breathing. But it feels hard. there’s a tightness in my throat. Is that anxiety?? Even with the light on??

Just breathe. In and out. Calm down. You’re just in a tank. Floating.

Rest your head right back. Test out this buoyancy thing. Oh yes, that works.

[Lies there for a bit, still thinking about breathing quite alot]

Wow my neck really hurts!

I wonder what it’s going to be like when it goes dark. If I close my eyes I won’t notice when the light goes out and it’ll just be the same.

They do turn the light off for me…don’t they? Maybe not…. Maybe I have to do that for myself….

I’ll just turn it off.

Wow it’s dark. I swear I’m moving. Spinning. Oh, there’s the side. Am I on the opposite side? I think I am. It’s hard to tell. I’ll put my hands out to see what I can feel.

I can feel the wall on one side. And one of the struts from the lid. Where’s the other side? That’s where the light switch is. I want to be near the light switch.

Slight panic sets in. [I’ve since realised there’s a light switch on both sides!!]

[Fumbles for the other side]

Just open the lid. See where you are. Then you can get back to being near the light switch and relax.

[Opens the lid]

Wow I’ve turned 90 degrees and yes, I’m on the opposite side! This thing is so big!

Right, back to where I want to be.

[Closes the lid]

Now there’s a gap where the lid meets the pod! Have I not closed it properly? I’ll just open and close it again. No, the gap’s still there. Oh well. I’ll just close my eyes, it’ll make no difference. It’s still darkness. Oh but the man said to replicate the REM state you need total darkness. This will affect my experience. I could go and tell them. Ask to move pod. But that means getting out, using a towel to walk to reception.   I don’t think I want to walk to reception like this!! It’s fine. I’ll just keep my eyes shut.

Just relax and make the most of the time.

But I’ve paid for this. Am I being silly not going to ask about this? Should I press the alarm button? But is that just for real emergencies? I can’t remember what they said.

Maybe if I open the lid fully like I did to start with then it’ll close fully.

[Opens lid fully and closes it again]

No. that’s not worked. Oh and now I’ve got a splash of salt in my eye. Ow that hurts.

[Blink, blink, blink]

Why do I have no tears! Has the salt dried my eye up?? There’s the spray bottle out there on the seat to wash eyes out with. Oh it’s fine. It’ll pass. I can’t be bothered to get it.

Close your eyes again. Rest your head back. Relax.

My eye still hurts. Just keep them closed. It’ll pass. My neck really aches. It’s always the left side. I needed a massage before I got in here.

I can feel a tiny breeze coming through that crack from the lid. Quite soothing on my eye actually.

Relax. Look at your knees. They’re so tense. Relax them.

[After a short while]

Shall I open my eyes?

Oh! It’s properly dark! The lid’s closed fully by itself!!

And my eye’s stopped hurting! I did have some tears afterall. But don’t wipe them away. You might get more salt in your eye!

Lie back. Relax……


I’ve no idea how long I spent with all this faffing! It might have only been 10 minutes! Felt like ages!!  But after this was all done I was able to lie still. I was able to meditate, with my mind drifting off to work, kids, back to breath, more work, how I was feeling, what I was noticing, back to breath. Sometimes with my eyes open, sometimes they naturally closed. I didn’t sleep but I can see how you could. Towards the end I felt like I was just a head, neck and shoulders floating in the water. If my neck hadn’t kept aching I might have just been a head. My arms, body and legs seemed like they’d disappeared and I didn’t have the inclination to move them to check if they were still there. It was nice!

When the music came back on it seemed so loud, although I’m pretty sure it won’t really have been. And the light was so bright. Sitting up I felt really heavy but once I was up and showering I felt so refreshed and alert.  This was followed by relaxing with a herbal tea in their quiet space which was the perfect way to absorb the experience before heading home.

So would I recommend? Yes. Definitely! I could never lie in a bath that long to switch off – the managed temperature of the water and the air make it perfect. And I don’t think I could ever meditate that long on dry land. In future I’d seriously consider a shoulder massage first so my neck aches less and, although the relaxation wasn’t as deep as I’ve experienced in acupuncture, I did spend a VERY long time faffing about so it’s not altogether surprising!  Next time I’d have it down!





Coaching at Work

Final session for me at the L&D Show with David Clutterbuck. Which coaching techniques help improve business performance.

Not easy to put financial numbers against benefits but it’s seen that colleagues who experience more coaching and mentoring –
– feel more engaged
– will stay with their employer longer (a third more people stay)
– understand how what they do fits with the strategy and the difference they can make
– knowledge is transferred and retained better within teams
– organisational reputation because there are open conversations about whats going on

So direct cause and effect is difficult
Also hard to say the duration of benefits
Although certainly the highest performing senior teams are coached and have a coaching mindset

And there’s no one best coaching approach to make a business difference. As with counselling, it’s the competence of the coach that makes the difference, not the approach they use. And in fact, the more approaches they employ the better the coach they’re likely to be.

There’s an evolution of coaching capability –


Then Systemic Eclectics, which feels akin to Nancy Kline’s very calm approach. They look at the whole, guiding the client through the conversation with very subtle interventions. These mature coaches constantly develop themselves through experimentation, personal reflection and supervision.

David’s asked the room to discuss together that these stages of competence mean. And it appears he’s challenged the thinking in the room about their potential development needs around coaching. Delegates recognising that they’re at the lower levels of competence. I’m delighted that this session has already prompted that discomfort for someone to develop!

However this is a worry for me about the number of people experiencing ‘coaching’ at work and not gaining the most from it that they could possibly gain because it’s been over simplified as a one dimensional ‘process’ to be followed.

A solution to this is internal supervision to maintain internal standards but managers could still be getting themselves into situations they can’t help the coachee resolve. A little knowledge can be a bad thing! How do you get that balance?

Now looking at goals in coaching and the development from
1. SMART – signing up to specific goals too early can be damaging because when things change they can’t let go of the goal, focused on short term
2. Solutions of which goals become part
3. Focussing on philosophy, free of goals
4. Transcendence of goals – trusting that goals will emerge and change with time and to help see the context and bigger picture, focused on longer term

I’m not sure these need to be mutually exclusive. Start in a transcendence space but if necessary bring that to a level of specificity to raise levels of self commitment to what they plan to do.

SMART goals don’t motivate – no, you need to have a big ‘reason why’ for what you’re doing to get stuff done. And you need to have the self belief that you can do it.

What does this mean for performance plans? What’s the connection to the purpose of your org?

Audience discussion on goals….agreement that SMART goals can be dangerous. Replace with purpose or vision. SMART goals can cause crazy behaviour because people are trying to hit targets / numbers for the goal.

Team coaching now increasing because being seen that effective coaching cultures are created by developing that approach together, collaboratively, as a team.

Line managers developed in isolation is like sending them back into work to dance with their team when only the manager knows the steps.

Coaching’s a mindset, not just a skill. You need to learn the skill and then develop the mindset.

Team Coaching isn’t just team building or team facilitation. They help teams develop the characteristics of a coaching team culture –


And team maturity can impact on how you introduce team coaching. How long has team been in existence, what skill level are we starting at, what are the different extraversion/introversion preferences in the group.

Team coaching needs to
– create new norms, new neural pathways, new habits so that a change to a coaching culture is embedded and sustained
– create shared purpose and strong alignment on how those goals are achieved
– create new approaches to team meetings with strong future and purpose focus to the agenda, keep it short bursts of sessions with frequent breaks, slow people down – e.g. what do you want to say about this topic, what do you want to hear, what do you want to achieve – write these answers for 5 mins before anyone speaks. Then each person answers in turn. Makes conversation focused, shorted and respectful of all contributions.

Get people thinking about how their team operates –


Group discussion has lead to appreciation that some simple interventions can help save time – coaching culture should create time not drain it.

The ultimate would be to have everyone engaged in coaching themselves and others around them – not a leader-only responsibility.

I’m now reflecting on how we start to shift organisations to move to this new world. How do we help orgs see that if they step off the ‘doing’ wheel into a ‘thinking’ environment so that they can change their own performance and the performance of those around them. There’s something in it for them because it shifts them to leading instead of managing (a la Covey or Steve Radcliffe’s FED) and helps them get people around them doing their jobs better and more autonomously.

Listening – without agenda, to understand
Questions – personal, resonant, incisive, reverberating, innocent, explicit
Purpose – use your wisdom to help your coachee grow their’s

With so much talk over the last two days about coaching and bringing it into the role of a line manager, I wonder how the profession will evolve over the coming years.

It feels as though there needs to be greater understanding of the different depths coaching can reach so that, even if you’re just having an ‘in the moment’ coaching-style conversation as a manger you appreciate your limitations. And that you equally value what the most competent coaching approach can bring and how you can access that for yourself, and develop yourself to bring that to your team.