The Safe Space.

Do Contribute | Social Entrepreneur

Photo by Shane Rounce

The foundation for risk.

I recently read about how employees need to feel psychologically safe before they can unleash their creativity.

Psychological safety is a term often used to describe the state of our relationships in the work place. It sounds pretty formal and academic, but it basically relates to negative behaviours such as humiliation, blame, put-downs, sarcasm, unfairness or favouritism, to name a few.

These behaviours can affect a team member’s ability to make good judgements or take action and influence a team’s ability to collaborate effectively together. All because they damage our sense of safety.

When we feel safe, it’s easier to take risks.

As highlighted by Maslow and others, we need to meet basic safety needs before we can activate more of our potential.

When our environment is less certain or less accepting, it becomes more difficult to put ourselves out there. When we don’t feel supported or trusted in our relationships (at work or at home), that can seem threatening. It can affect our confidence in sharing ideas and views. Or our boldness in suggesting new approaches which differ from what others in “our group” may think.

Emotionally intelligent relationships flourish in an environment of respect, appreciation and value. It takes work. And it’s no different when it comes to how we treat ourselves.

While psychological safety is important to the wellbeing of teams, it’s a state which applies just as much to us as individuals. Take for example people who don’t work in teams or for a specific employer. That could be anyone who spends a lot of time doing work on their own — such as makers, consultants, entrepreneurs, freelancers or remote workers.

When we work on our own, we can be our biggest critics, doubters and ridiculers. So it’s beneficial for us to create a stronger inner culture of acceptance. A safe foundation from where our best selves can flourish.

How do we create the right internal environment, so that we can be emboldened to take risks and do our best work?

Here’s a few ideas to get started …

1. Build resilience to self-criticism and uncertainty.

Develop your emotional and physical strength to deal with disruption. We may not ever be totally comfortable with uncertainty, but we can certainly put plans in place to cope with the discomfort.

Learn to recognise (and ignore) the head-banging death metal heathen on your shoulder when he’s trying to direct things a little too loudly. He has his place, but remember to put him in it when he steps out of line.

2. Recognise that vulnerability doesn’t have to impact your capability.

It’s human to feel fear, to worry what others will think. But we can still be, do and act in spite of it, (or as a result of it).

You’ve got this. Even if you don’t know how to do “this” (or are terrified of doing it despite knowing), know that you can figure it out.

Creative and entrepreneurial paths are multi-disciplinary by default, so it’s a given that you will always need to be learning something new and putting yourself out there in new and scary ways.

It’s important, so find a way. Even if that means asking The Google how.

3. Embrace fallibility as a strength.

Yes, so we don’t always get it right. But if we’re aware there may be pitfalls, then failure becomes part of the learning journey, and may even form the most valuable part of it.

If you get a bit boshed or broken en route, take heart, the process of repair also helps to build your resilience for future uncertainties, (ref. the first point, it’s all connected).

4. See and celebrate the wins.

Big and little. Absolutely everything which moves us forward, is an achievement worth recognising.

Inertia is a real threat. So, appreciate every new decision you make, every good action you take and every person you meet. Every door that opens, every hard lesson you learn and every new skill you master. (Even if it’s just how to brew a good cup of tea — you can celebrate that with an accompanying biccie).

Everything you think, say, do and experience has a role to play in your success. Honour it all. Be grateful. Do more of the good stuff, even if it’s hard.

5. Cross-pollinate to influence and inspire.

Output needs input. Be curious about everything. Feed your ideas machine. Extend your learning to topics, interactions and environments way beyond your usual space. And help others to do the same.

Speaking from experience, the Do Lectures is an excellent mind-expanding opportunity to do just that!

And there’s more we can do. This is only the beginning, because we don’t just jump from A to Amazing overnight.

Life takes practice. It takes risks.

When you feel safe and comfortable in your own identity, then it’s easier to take those risks.

When your foundation is strong, then you’re more capable of doing anything and handling anything.

Are you ready to leap?

In the words of The xx “Go on, I dare you!”


Mich Bondesio

Social Entrepreneur

Mich Bondesio

Curious about connection, communication, design, learning, wellbeing and potential. Sharing thoughts on doing life and business better in our digital world.

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