Updated: Dec 1
Recently I found myself in quite the conundrum. An urge to question the process, and by questioning I was signalling apprehension, a distrust, so I had to dig deep, to challenge my perspective, that it wasn’t bias loaded and using my very own one-way mirror.
My fear of speaking up held me back, my internal self-talk focused on multiple scenarios that where personally risky and damaging. I over thought it trying to strategise an approach that would welcome an open honest and robust two-way dialogue.
Akin a tug-of-war on steroids, the friction between courage and fear turned to internal turmoil.
But this was an important issue, the stakes high, I couldn’t ignore it. After much reflection, I took an approach where I sought permission to speak up! Still filled with doubt, I let courage take the wheel.
What happened next shocked me, amygdala hijack kind of shock, I froze.
I tugged on my breathing to stay present, to listen, stay curious, be respectful and take it in. Knowing our brain loves to add "assumptions and biases" as if they are facts, I took careful note to not misinterpret what I heard. The dialogue ignited a train of grief, self-doubt, more questions then answers, and self-blame. I catastrophised, I felt powerless. I couldn’t derail the train of negative thinking. I berated myself for not staying quiet; it was stupid to think I had a voice.
I had all the best mindset tools at my disposal, and I couldn’t access any of them.
It was surreal moving from the anguish of the repercussions to observing my inability to access productive thinking.
I went into overdrive, over analysing, looking for what I couldn’t see, wondering why the outcome was more severe than I had expected, why I didn’t see it coming. Why I thought it was ok to voice my perspective, wondering if I jeopardized important relationships. All the while trying to navigate my emotional skydive so that people couldn’t see, didn’t ask. I wanted to not be seen, and the best way to do that was to stay quiet. I wanted to apologise for asking my question. Mostly, I blamed and beat myself up for weeks.
I accessed every tool at my disposal to navigate the situation and discover what I couldn't see, didn't know I didn't know. Even though I couldn’t see a way forward, there was opportunity in this dark place, I just needed a torch.
In a more productive thinking space, I asked myself better questions. Although I was in a storm right now, eventually it would pass, and the blue skies that followed would bring clarity, and I would reflect back on the resilience I mustered to sail through it and the new found skills I’d have for the next part of my journey.
A psychologically safe culture is a necessary foundation if you desire to create a workplace where people thrive. Signs it’s not safe? When leaders struggle to explain their decisions with facts; explanations that leave you wondering what's not being said; when staff are quiet and turnover high; When people question themselves more than necessary; When you ask for feedback, and are met with crickets! When people feel left out, on the outer, excluded. When there is a theme of apologising for questions! When performance drops. When people overthink how to communicate/respond, to the detriment of productivity! When people are finding ways to avoid leaders, including more WFH.
In part 2, we continue the story by talking about how to activate safety in your workplace!