Psychological Safety and Performance: Encouraging Your Team to ‘Lean In’

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The workplace evolution of the past few years has opened up new opportunities for employees across the globe. But it’s also created a sense of unease. As some companies transition to remote or hybrid work and embrace employee-first philosophies, others are laying off staff and increasing their demands on those employees who remain. Employees may feel insecure in their roles, afraid that any misstep or miscommunication could put their job at risk as well.

Today we speak with workplace expert and renowned consultant Teresa Mitrovic, who coaches Fortune 500 companies on the value of promoting psychological safety in their workplaces. This approach, when adopted properly, can radically improve employee happiness and performance, giving team members more control over their working lives and lifting the pressures that can lead to dissatisfaction, unhappiness and burnout.

Learn more about Teresa here: And, for a limited time, podcast listeners can use the promo code HAW50 to receive a $50 coupon that can be redeemed against any product on the Oro Collective website.

Psychological safety and trust are pillars of the Management 3.0 ethos. It peremeates all throughout our Management 3.0 modules and practices, and we write about it in our blog on a regular basis. Want to know more? Want to learn more? Check out the Management 3.0 blog


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] The workplace evolution of the past few years has opened up new opportunities for employees across the globe, but it’s also created a sense of unease as some companies transition to remote or hybrid work and embrace employee first philosophies. Others are laying off staff and increasing their demands on those people and employees who remain employees may feel insecure in their roles, afraid that any misstep or miscommunication could put their job at risk as well. So today we speak with workplace expert and renowned consultant, Theresa Mitrovic, who coaches Fortune 500 companies on the value of promoting psychological safety in their workplaces.

This approach, when adopted properly, can radically improve employee happiness and performance, giving team members more control over their working [00:01:00] lives and lifting the pressures that can lead to dissatisfaction, unhappiness and burnout

Before we dive in, you are listening to The Happiness At Work Podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness.

I’m your host, Elisa Tuijnder, Happiness Enthusiast and Management 3.0 team member. In this podcast, we share insights from industry experts, influencers, and thought leaders about what it takes to be happy, motivated, and productive at work, so that loving your job becomes the norm and not the exception. We’ll be publishing every fortnight on Friday, so be sure to tune in and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.[00:02:00]

Our guest today is Theresa Mitrovic a Psychological Safety Consultant who coaches executives from Fortune 500 companies like Hasbro, Disney, and Accenture to build trust and help their employees feel safe and secure in the workplace. Welcome, Teresa.

Teresa Mitrovic: Thanks for having me, Elisa.

Elisa Tuijnder: Great. So we’ll get into psychological safety and some frameworks and approaches that employees can adopt in just a moment.

But here on the podcast we always start with the same question, which is, what does happiness mean to you?

Teresa Mitrovic: It’s such a good question and I actually had to really think about this. Because I guess kinda like psychological safety, it’s such a big topic, right? But it’s also a really subjective one.

So I thought about it from my perspective, what happiness means for me. And essentially it’s two things. It’s presence and flow. And I guess what those things give me is presence gives me the sense of inner stilness, the [00:03:00] ability to just fully be in the moment and not have to worry about things I’ve done in the past or any feelings I have about that or concerns about the future.

So when I think about presence, it’s about 100% being physically here and now physically and mentally, emotionally, just here and now the moment. And then when I think about flow, it’s about that sense of forward momentum of motion and being in action. So for me, happiness is that interplay between that sense of presence and stillness and being able to be.

As well as that sense of movement. And but from a perspective of flow, so rather than feeling rushed or pushed or driven, feeling as though you’re in a groove and you’re flowing and everything feels synchronous and, and so all the bumps in the journey, all the rough weather, the rough war, the rough conditions feel like they’re part of the journey and that they’re happening with you or for you, not just to you.

So for me, That’s when I feel happiest is when I’ve got both of those [00:04:00] things working in tandem, whether it’s my private life or my professional life.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. That’s fantastic. It’s the one has I’m almost a stillness and no movement in it. . Yeah. No, not that one. Not the back one. But then, and then at the same time, there is a flow.

I love it. No, you do. We’ve used psychological safety on the podcast a number of times. But, I think we’ve never actually given people like an explanation of what this is. And some people, some of our listeners might actually not be very familiar with it.

So I’d love to ask you what is psychological safety?

Teresa Mitrovic: Sure. So at its absolute core, Psychological safety is simply the absence of psychological stress. And psychological refers simply to what we are thinking and what we feel. So when we think about psychological safety, it’s the sense that, our thought processes are feelings.

It exists in this place of [00:05:00] safety. So psychological safety really means a felt sense of safety and an ability to think. Without self-control or not self-control necessarily, but self-editing. So it’s an ability to freely think and express in the environment that you are in. And traditionally, we’ve often looked at psychological safety in terms of what it means for our ability to speak up.

So often when people are talking about psychological safety, they’re saying, do you feel safe enough to speak up? Do you feel as though you can speak up without the risk of causing harm to others or harm to yourself? So reputational risk, career limiting moves, those kinds of things. Psychological safety at its core is really just about feeling emotionally and intellectually safe enough to engage, whether it’s speaking up, whether it’s contributing ideas, whether it’s interjecting when things are happening on the team or with a peer that, that, that aren’t conducive to great team performance or healthy team performance.

Or if you see a better way of doing things. So [00:06:00] it’s really simply about removing friction from your thinking and emotions, .

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, that’d be great. That’d be great. And I think that applies to all, I think, we always talk about it in a context of work or often talk about it in a context of work.

. But I guess it can be it can be interpreted a little bit more broadly than that. But obviously we are here to talk about the work side of psychological safety, so how does it relate to employee interactions, perceptions on a day-to-day basis? So how does that work?

Teresa Mitrovic: Sure. How it so how it tends to show up in a work environment is primarily in our interactions with other people. So psychological safety or a lack of psychological safety shows up in in how we engage and work with each other. From the perspective of are we leaning in or are we holding back. So if I, another thing to know about psychological safety is [00:07:00] humans really only have two operating modes.

We either connect or we protect, connect we’re only able to do when we have psychological safety and connect means we’re operating from, our executive brain, our prefrontal cortex. We’re thinking creatively, we are making sense. We’re actively trying to make sense of what’s going on. We’re relation to others.

We’re in a problem solving mood, but we are, we’re all in. So that’s what full engagement feels. When we’re in connect mode, that’s when we start to actually be concerned with self-protection and self-preservation. And so if you think about that, you can start to see in organizations where you see protective behaviors and where you see connective behaviors.

Cause if you, if as leaders, if you’re looking at the behavior on your team and people withdrawing, holding back, not participating, then that’s a sign of self protectional, self preservation. And that indicates that they’re not feeling psychologically safe. And also the reverse is true. So if you see people leaning in, taking ownership taking initiative, [00:08:00] offering to help other people, sharing resources, sharing agendas, that’s a sign of connection.

And that shows that they feel psychologically safe in themselves and with each other and in the work environment. So it shows up as in terms of the practical ways that it shows up at work. If you don’t have psychological safety, then you are less likely to speak up when you are not sure about what’s going on because you don’t feel like speaking up does anything for your reputation as not in terms of knowing what you’re doing, right?

So you’ll be quiet rather than seeking clarity and confirmation around what you need to do and what the expectations are. You also won’t correct behavior when you see it in others, if it’s, if it’s behavior in the team that either undermining another person or taking the team off course, you’re less likely to call it out.

So it’s not just about what you’re contributing, but it’s how you can from a personal work and value standpoint. [00:09:00] It’s also about what you’re contributing culturally across the team as well, and how that then manifests in a team culture. So everything from how much you, how vocal you’re on a meeting, how much you participation in a meeting.

To how quickly and effectively you do your work, to how how clear you are about the work that you’re doing, the outcomes that are being looked for and what your stakeholders need. Psychological safety shows up in all of those ways. It shows up as either the ability to get clear feedback when you’ve got issues, ask questions when you don’t understand, or you need more information, and then raise issues if you see them coming, or to ask for more support or guidance or input.

If you don’t have psychological safety, then those things don’t happen. And what leaders end up seeing is their team members will raise their shoes late in the game. So suddenly there’s a lot more stress and less time to deal with the issues that have come up. [00:10:00] People won’t speak up and get clear about what they need to do.

So they’ve been more time doing work because they’re not really clear on what it is their leader is looking for or what their stakeholders are looking for. So they’ll just they’ll overwork it. You’ve also got a more duplication of work because people aren’t clear about their roles and their responsibilities and where they specifically add value.

So there’s a lot of crossover and people stepping on each other’s toes and a lot of uncertainty around how much agency or authority you have to make decisions as well. So if you if you are watching your team and you feel like they’re not taking ownership and responsibility, it may be because they just lack clarity on how much control and how much responsibility they actually have and how many decisions they can make without causing risk to the organization. So all of those things are are influenced by psychological safety. And numerous research studies have shown that psychological safety is a core precondition [00:11:00] of team effectiveness, team learning, organizational growth and innovation but also impact people’s ability to do their work quickly, effectively, and efficiently.

And if you think about that, right? If you think about the fact that before the pandemic, we were spending something like two and a half hours a week in the office being productive every day, and the rest of it was, there was all the other stuff that eats up our time, right? But when you have psychological safety, what you have is the ability to make more of those hours in your day productive, which means that you’re actually working short for hours to get the same amount of work done.

. . Does that make sense? See,

Elisa Tuijnder: yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It does. It does to me. . So you touched really briefly on innovation and what was going through my head as well. Is, you’re talking about product productivity, but and more in a sense you can do more, you can do more because more, you know exactly where your boundaries are, et cetera.

You’re not duplicating. But is there also a way where it’s in the creativity [00:12:00] side of things because you’re actually scared of doing somethin in a different way than it’s normally done, or, in an innovative in an innovative way or you’re scared of bringing up something and say, Hey, maybe we should try a different process, or maybe we should try a different way of approaching this subject.

Teresa Mitrovic: Absolutely. It’s really hard to be creative when you’re in a fearful state of mind. And fear is fear can feel really big or it can feel small like doubt, or whether it’s doubt about yourself and your own ideas or doubt about how your ideas will be received. So for us to be able to unlock organizational innovation or innovation in teams, we need to be able to help people become really curious about their own thoughts and what their thoughts might lead to and what other people are thinking.

And it’s, and to do that, we need to create this environment where people feel safe enough to speak up and to connect ideas. [00:13:00] To come from a place if no idea is a bad idea, is just a starting point for the next thing. So let’s throw all the ideas out there and create this incredible constellation of ideas that’ll help us, if not gonna help us understand the landscape and move towards a direction of travel.

We just need to figure out what those ideas mean for us as a team in our particular context, given where it is we need to go. But yeah, to access that innovation. People have got to be creative and to be creative, people have gotta be free from fear and free from friction. They’ve gotta know that it’s okay to speak up.

And one of the things that leaders can do in this situation is think about how do I, how can I lead inclusively? How can I create this this landscape that says diverse opinions aren’t wrong or necessarily right? They’re just diverse and different. And it all adds to our understanding of either the challenge, the solution, or the landscape that we are trying to navigate both with them.

To [00:14:00] get to that level of innovation, you do need curiosity. And to get to curiosity, you absolutely need psychological safety. Because everyone each one of us comes into work with our own unique ability to add value, right? And part of the leader’s job is to un unlock that and uncover it, because sometimes we can’t even see it ourselves.

But we all come with this rich backstory. Our institutional experience, our career experience, our life experience, the cultures that we’ve grown up in. So we’ve got this incredible wealth of ideas and insights and thoughts. And as a leader, if you can harness that, then suddenly the sky’s the limit.

Great. .

Elisa Tuijnder: So talking about, companies and leaders I, I touched upon it really briefly that we’ve spoken about psychological safety quite a lot on the podcast cuz it’s almost a bit on vogue to talk about, psychological safety, you hear the word pop up. So my question to you would be, is there, is that the [00:15:00] case or is it people just using this word but actually not doing anything with it?

Or, often that’s sometimes the case with leadership trends, right? , we’re all talking about it, but we’re actually not really actually implementing it. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So do you feel like it is getting the attention that it deserves, and is it getting the attention that it deserves, not just on LinkedIn, but also on the ground from your experience?

Teresa Mitrovic: Yes and no is the short answer yes in that it’s amazing to see psychological safety now hitting a zeitgeist. But it’s really been around for decades, right? Although it’s been a concept that’s been more understood and practiced and considered by people who are in the people space exclusively.

In the people space. And the benefit of, if I can say this, the benefit of going through an experience or it’s global experiment that was the pandemic is that we’ve had to, we’ve been charged to think differently about what psychological safety looks like, right? So [00:16:00] what does it take for someone to feel psychologically safe enough in their work environment, wherever they may be, so that they’re able to contribute maximum value to the organization and in turn receive maximum value from the organization that comes as generative relationship.

So what we’re seeing now is leaders who used to think in terms of trust, now actually thinking, going a little bit deeper and thinking. Okay, so I understand what trust does generally speaking. So if my team trusts me, I know that I’m gonna be able to go further, do more, ask for more push the envelope a little bit more.

But psychological safety is actually the precursor to trust. So part of the job and in making psychological safety feel less like a concept and more like a practice is helping leaders to understand how you actually start to weave it through all of the different parts of the organization so it becomes part of the culture, not a leadership tactical tool.

And I think that’s the difference. , it’s

Elisa Tuijnder: not just with HR or like a concept, but then No. That that’s something that permeates throughout the [00:17:00] organization. It’s,

Teresa Mitrovic: it’s not Right. And it’s kind, it’s I don’t say this lightly but I do say it with grain of salt, but psychological safety to me feels like oxygen for organizations.

As a human, if we don’t have oxygen, we don’t tend to think about air until it’s suddenly hard to breathe. But in organizations, you don’t think about psychological safety until you’re going through a huge change, a huge transformation, and your engagement slips. People start resigning, or you’ve gone through a restructure and people are being let go, and other people start to get shaky because they’ve got survivors guilt.

They’re wondering if they’re next or there’s bullying and, so there’s all these things that we don’t tend to think about until we have a specific event that points to the fact that it doesn’t exist. And it is certainly and, or it exists as a program or a piece of work, not philosophy. And so I think that’s what we’re, that the great thing, again, if I can say it was a great thing. The great thing about the pandemic is that [00:18:00] it’s making us realize, Mental wellbeing and psychological wellbeing isn’t something that either exists at home or exists at work, or exists just within the person.

It’s this very organic inter meshing of everything, right? Because psychological safety is core to humans and how we function. It changes how safe we feel about stepping into the world and how much we wanna retreat from it. So it’s a factor for us at individually, but also in every single relationship that we have, whether it is with our family is our friends, our colleagues, or our work or the organization itself.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, that is a silver lining as they say it so nicely after the pandemic. You go into all these large international companies and you see them from, from the US to Australia, cuz I’m talking to you in Australia at the moment.

So , like how, won’t get into any real specifics, but talk me through what happens? So somebody contacts you [00:19:00] and says Hey, we don’t have psychological safety, or I think we have a problem with psychological safety. What are they then actually looking for? That, that is going to happen?

And how do you approach.

Teresa Mitrovic: So it’s interesting because my work pre 2020 was all in person and face-to-face . So I was doing this work in London, in New Zealand and then in Australia. And since 2020 it’s been 100% virtual. And the other ship since 2020 is I’m now no longer exclusively working with larger organizations, but I’m trying to get these tools into the hands of individual leaders. So part of the move into creating Oral Collective was really to help democratize learning, develop leadership development so that any leader who wanted to create a healthy, high performing team culture that gave as good as it’s got could actually put their hands on these tools.

Because my experience with organizations is they’re always spending hundreds [00:20:00] and hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars or pounds. On whole suite of programs, whereas psychological safety sits almost beneath all of that as the connective tissue. And so it can be very hard going to organizations to say, okay, we actually need to look at the systemic influences around psychological safety.

We need to look at what’s happening from a leadership perspective, a team perspective, and from an employee perspective. Because they’re already investing so much in so many different programs, it starts to un, it starts to unsettle the apple cart a little. Whereas when you’re going into organizations and speaking direct to the CEO of small, medium sized business or leaders with a mat, they are saying, Hey, what do I need to do?

Robert hits the road. How can I put, how can I put this into practice right now? And they see results very quickly. But I can give you an example of a client that I did a piece of work with in, in the UK. They pulled together 200 people. So that was just their European HR team was 200 people. [00:21:00] And I was tasked with taking global behaviors that had been established at the C-suite level.

So the C-suite internationally had come up with six core behaviors that they wanted to filter down, cascade down to the entire organization. The trick was they wanted the entire organization to really feel it and live it and breathe that they wanted it to be. Yeah. That they wanted them to make a connection with it.

So for me, the role was can you help us to engage the HR teams that they understand and embrace these six behaviors in a way that they can then champion to the rest of the organization out, in their day-to-day work. And honestly, I would tell you that I was speaking to very senior people in L&D and HR side, and none of them wanted to do this piece of work.

And I said, look, give me an hour. And so I design, and this is what I say to people, you’ve gotta design for psychological safety if you really want to, if you wanna create fast change design for it, right? You can build trust and slack, safety, slow or fast. So [00:22:00] what we did was I created I designed this experience where we had mixed groups around the room.

They were all focused on one individual behavior. And I got them to talk in their groups about where they’d seen that behavior already in play in their various parts of the organization. Cause this is a huge enterprise wide organization. And then we we got them to share those stories, pick one that they felt really demonstrated it, and then share that back to the whole room.

And it took me an hour and 15 minutes. But we started off with people going, this is interesting. And the sense of we are going to have to try to make a, how do we say it, make a silk purse out of a pigs ear. So we’ve

Elisa Tuijnder: been Australian idioms, but yeah, I

Teresa Mitrovic: love, I love it, . It’s this idea that, cause I know having, cuz my background is corporate as well, I know what it’s like to be given a whole lot of stuff and told, [00:23:00] okay, make it your own.

It’s great. But I didn’t have any input. And so we turned this into an experience where people could actually relate to it, tell their stories to each other, and then choose one that they felt was really powerful that they could share back to the organization as a demonstration of what that core behavior was about.

And at the end of that, at the end of that workshop session, that working session, there were tears in the room. There was laughter. It was, I had goosebumps. So suddenly we had this room of 200 people who an hour earlier were hearing this for the very first time. And suddenly we had not just people understanding these behaviors, but we had people who had incredible stories from other parts of the business they would never have otherwise been exposed to.

Yeah. So that’s an example of what it can do and the power and impact it can have, because now we’ve got 200 people who have six different stories that are specific and contextual to the business that they can then take out. You can imagine how if you bring that down to a smaller team or a smaller business, you get rapid responses really [00:24:00] fast.

Elisa Tuijnder: Psychological safety and trust are pillars of the Management 3.0 ethos. It permeates throughout all our management 3.0 modules and practices. That’s why we also write about it in our blog on a regular. Want to know more, want to learn more? Check out the Management 3.0 blog at

What I’m thinking is that sometimes people might have very high expectations but for me, psychological safety is also complet. Interlinked, like you said, permeates throughout and that is your organizational culture. So I can imagine that you might have this company that is really corporate and really cutthroat and all of a [00:25:00] sudden they’re like, okay psychological safety, we need this.

And then you come in and you’re like, and they’re like, yeah, just give us psychological safety. But their whole culture and ethos is a complete opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. So I can only imagine how hard that task sometimes.

Teresa Mitrovic: That’s so true. It’s so true. And I’m thinking, oh, I’m gonna start with this. The reality is that you psychological safety to work well, it needs to have sincerity. You cannot have insincere psychological safety. It just doesn’t work, right? Because humans, even if our logical mind is saying no, you can trust this person.

Our Neurons are going uhuh, you cannot don’t like tread very carefully. Just watch yourself. So we can’t outsmart our neural networks. So the tricky thing for me is that when organizations approach me, So smaller organizations, when they come to [00:26:00] me and say, where, and we wanna do this, we’re all in.

Great. And I’m right there with them and I will meet heaven and Earth to help them achieve psychological safety throughout their organization. Larger organizations come with a whole lot of other agendas and paradigms and ways of thinking. So if it’s not something that they genuinely want to cascade through the entire organization, They’re not ready for the entire thing.

It is more about, okay, so which cohort, which part of the business do you really wanna see this take effect in? And bringing it down to a scale where actually it can still, where I can do the work with them, but it comes from a place of sincerity and readiness because, it’s, I, the part of this work is psychological safety isn’t about knowing, it’s about being, it’s about doing.

You can’t tell people that you care about psychological safety. No.

Elisa Tuijnder: It doesn’t work like that. Exactly what

Teresa Mitrovic: you said. You’re safe now. You can trust me. If you have to tell people they can trust you, they probably can’t. [00:27:00] People. Exactly. You can’t tell people. You’ve gotta show them. So it’s about what you, it’s about what you, it’s only about what you say.

If you can follow that up with what you’re doing. But it’s about who you are as leaders. It’s about who you are being as a leader and what you’re doing as a leader consistently over time. And if you’re, if you can’t put that work in, then this isn’t ready for, this isn’t right for you right now.

And there will be a time in the future when it might be, in which case reach out. But when you’re ready to do the work, the workers actually the steps to do this are actually quite simple. It’s really just a shift in thinking. And for leaders, it’s the ability to know how to safely let go without causing risk.

Because that’s part of the, and I know this as a leader, my self, leading teams myself, you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna let go so much that suddenly you’ve got more of a mess to cleanup, or suddenly someone’s really stuffed up in a really big way and now they’re upset and you are upset and the client’s upset, or, so it’s about [00:28:00] understanding which bits do I need to have oversight on.

Which bits do you know? And my role with them is just to coach and provide a little, some direction and course correction every now and. Which, but I really to get involved with and partner with them on so that we can, we can execute this really well or we can develop this looking really well.

But for the most part it really is some simple changes around process, a change in the way that leaders think about leading. So I always talk to leaders about partnering for performance. How do you create a relationship where they’re growing and developing and you are helping them to grow and develop so that you can also as a leader, grow and develop and scale with the organization?

How do you create that partnership? Where performance is at the heart, but you’re doing it together, it’s not a it’s not hierarchical power relationship. It’s a more equitable power relationship. Yeah,


Elisa Tuijnder: And when you were talking, I was thinking like, how does like empathy come into that are your leaders, your leading by [00:29:00] example.

Always. And I feel like empathy seems to. A big characteristic of providing that psychological safety for leaders.

Teresa Mitrovic: It is. Yeah, it is. And empathy is a really poor trait of great leaders who connect well with their teams and who really, who have that ability to read the room.

So empathy gives you an ability to connect at an emotional level. So when you’re thinking about psychological safety, we’re talking about thinking and emotion. You’ve got if you’re intellectually intelligent, then you are understanding how people are thinking, right? If you’re emotionally intelligent, you’re understanding how people are feeling, and that’s what empathy gives us.

And so great leaders are able to balance or engage both logical thinking and empathic thinking so that they can understand or at least get curious about what someone else’s viewpoint looks like and not all leaders, or not particularly [00:30:00] CEOs, not all CEOs had a lot of empathy because often the people who become CEOs are the people who are very gritty, very action oriented.

THey’re doers, and sometimes when you’re busy doing, you’re not in that place where you are present and being and connecting to others. So sometimes like it’s not uncommon for leaders who are very ambitious and who have a vision and who have the drive to race on ahead. And forget to take everyone else on the journey with them or make space other people to have their, yeah, to take place.

To find their place in the story and find their seat on the journey and actually understand where they add value and how they can continue to evolve. So empathy is absolutely core. And what I would say is if you feel like you don’t have it or you don’t have it, love it. Cuz some of my clients. When we do psychological assessments sorry.

Psychometric assessments. A lot of my clients realize that their empathy levels are quite low, but you can still connect to other [00:31:00] people and you can start to develop the quality of empathy by listening, being curious particularly active listening, curiosity taking time to be present and respond to what people are sayings.

And it and just taking the time to learn from your. Yeah, sometimes

Elisa Tuijnder: it’s interesting as well with, when you do psychometric testing with leadership teams and then you come across the fact that a lot of those people, like you said, are doers, but it doesn’t ne necessarily exclude that they can learn to be more empathic or learn.

At least you know exactly how to listen more and take that in.

Teresa Mitrovic: Here’s a, there are two schools of thought when it comes to personalities that one is that your personality is fixed and you’ll always have preferences and traits and you’re really not gonna change. Yeah. The other is that you’ll have, you have some core preferences and traits that can’t orient who you are.

It’s almost like our values. Power, our values guide us but you also have the ability to grow and develop. And that’s the school of thought that I subscribe to. And same, that’s the school of thought that the, yeah. [00:32:00] It’s be hard to be in the learning and development part of the world. Space yeah.

and not believe in that right? Yes. But so the tool I use is called Living and Learning, and they, their tools are very good at getting people to understand there are some traits that are in innate and some traits that you have learned, which now are second nature to you and other traits which you are learning.

But they’re still requiring time and thought and attention from you because they’re not yet second nature. So when you think about how we learn right, when you go through a DV psychometrics with people, you can say to them, here are your natural inherent traits. Here are the traits which are now, which you’ve had to develop, but are, you are now unconsciously competent and here are the traits where you are consciously competent.

So you are good at them, but they take effort and energy from you, which is why sometimes it feels like a bit of a stretch to do it. And we also talk about, hey, so yeah we’re, what are the traits that you need? What are the behaviors that you need to really excel in your role. Given where the organization is and where you want it to go [00:33:00] in the next 12, 24 months.

And what does that look in terms of what you’re currently, what you’re currently representing, what your fault, where you are strong and where you’ve got potential blind spots or areas that really need Yeah, you can develop and how the will look at developing those. All of these skills can be developed.

It goes back to readiness, which is, back to my point earlier, if an organization is ready to think about psychological safety, then they’re ready to learn and grow and they’re. And those open minds, when you have open minds, amazing things can happen.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. Yeah. Sometimes even just, being aware of it can already open up a whole new culture.

Teresa Mitrovic: Exactly. Just on that point, vulnerability is another piece a really important piece of leadership going forward. Because if you don’t have some of those skills and you don’t wanna be vulnerable, you are less likely to watch. Those skills. Yeah. But if you are open to being vulnerable, you can develop them.

You can say to people, and you can say to your team, I know this is something that I’m not great at demonstrating right [00:34:00] now, but my intention is to get there and I could use your help. Yeah. And here is what you can do to help me. Yeah. You can still be a leader and hold that leadership space and have the authority, but you demonstrate vulnerability as a human being as well, and you make performance.

Everyone’s agenda, not just yours.

Elisa Tuijnder: So we’ve talked a lot about, what the organizational benefits are and how that always seeps in and innovation and faster and better and all these kind of things. , but I wondered if we take it down one more level what do you see happening on the employee level?

What are the impacts there? I’m sure there’s a lot of similarities, but I wondered whether there was something, different as well.Yeah.

Teresa Mitrovic: Yeah. I think the real. The really incredible value is at the employee level from a individual perspective as well as a team perspective.

But what happening is employees, and this is what I’ve [00:35:00] witnessed both as someone who’s done the work and as as a leader, but as someone who’s helped other leaders do the work and watched the employees change. As an employee, you start to understand with much more clarity what’s expected of you.

What you are really good at, and you get the sense that actually success is the objective. It’s not just the team success or organization success, but also yours. So there’s a sense that actually this is a learning platform for me where I’m going to, the more I lean in, the more I learn, the more I’m rewarded with development opportunities or new projects or great idea, or people hearing my ideas and therefore I feel acknowledged and I start to belong. So there’s a deeper sense of belonging. There’s a deeper sense of connection to the work that you’re doing, which always brings more meaning and joy. There’s a deeper sense of being acknowledged and seen.

And a lot of people feel like they work really hard to be visible to the organization. Whereas when you know what you’re trying to do and you know it [00:36:00] matters to the organization and you deliver. Being seen and being visible is much easier. So you don’t have to labor. You don’t have to labor doing great work so that people are gonna notice you and you don’t have to, you don’t have, be someone who’s great at self-promotion because actually you are nailing your targets and all of the uncertainty or ambiguity around, oh, should I be running this presentation this way?

Should I be, yeah. How do I, how should I go back to that stakeholder? How should I prepare for this meeting? All of those things become crystal clear. The effort that it takes to do the work is the significantly lower. So we, so as an employee, you work, you get your work done in much fewer hours, which leads you more time to think about what else could we be doing?

What else could we add value? What else would I like to do? What else could I, what else from my experience could be really helpful at this point? It gives you the sense of being completely in flow, being acknowledged and rewarded for where you’re at and [00:37:00] what you’re doing for the business, but also feeling like you’re actually genuinely getting something back as well, and you start to actually enjoy work again.

It feels less like a crushing job and more like an ability to just to do what you love and be rewarded for it. Yes, and I think that’s just. Yeah. You get in touch with

Elisa Tuijnder: your motivators beyond Absolutely. Money. ,

Teresa Mitrovic: so which is leaders as well.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. It’s a two-way street and a win-win situation in that case Yeah, so Theresa, so some companies are leaders maybe thinking, okay, this all sounds great, and we all know that there’s a lot of these skeptical people out there.

You just go to work and you don’t enjoy it, and you just do your thing. And I know there’s some back and forth thought of the pandemic. Now people taking back control or some leaders trying to take back control and getting people back in the office and workplace surveillance and all these kind of things.

What would you say to companies that [00:38:00] that believe, that there’s not enough manpower and not enough hours in the day to start implementing all these things and it’s all just, those skeptics. Yeah. What would you say ? I

Teresa Mitrovic: would say to the first thing I would say, so prompter mindset shift, and then I’d give you some tools.

The mindset shift I would say is consider psychological safety as an opportunity to spring clean what you are already doing. So you don’t have to necessarily do anything new. What you need to do is tidy up and tighten up what you are already doing. So let me give an example of this. Leaders frequently will say, we want everyone to speak up.

Said they’ll be in a meeting and they’ll say, okay, has anyone got any ideas? Or how does everyone feel about that? And they’ll invite feedback, right? And then someone will go, actually, I’m not sure that’s the best thing that we should be doing because last time we did it. You know it, one of our stakeholders got really annoyed with us and tried to pull some funding, and the leader goes, oh, look, we’ve talked about that before.

That’s a dead issue. Don’t [00:39:00] bring it up again. Like we’re trying to think positively here and go forward. What the leader has just done is tell that person not to speak the entire room. Don’t speak up unless you think I’m going to agree with you, or I’m going to approve of what you’re saying. Yeah, the leader has automatically, yeah, and we do it all the time. I used to do it all the time. What leaders, so really so you leaders have to have meetings and leaders are gonna have this conversation. The one thing that leaders can change is how they react. When people speak up with a surprise, a comment that they disagree with, or a comment that they think might be a little bit unusual or unexpected, the leader can simply say, that’s interesting.

Tell me more about that. Tell me, given that it yeah. Given that it hasn’t worked before, how do you think we could do this differently going forward so that this time we’ve got a better chance of success? Yeah.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be a. Massive framework or a whole organizational overhaul, it can start very small.

And I like that. And this

Teresa Mitrovic: is, and exactly. And in fact, so when I talk to people about trust frameworks, it’s really [00:40:00] anything. A trust framework is anything that helps you to create trust and promote psychological safety is your assessment of whether or not it’s safe to lean in.

If you’re safe to lean in, that’s you tr that’s the act of. When you speak up, you’re trusting that it’s safe to speak up. When you’re contributing, when you’re physically moving, you’re trusting that it’s okay to do and performance is the outcome of that, right? So leaders performance isn’t what they want, then they’ve gotta backtrack.

They’ve gotta look at how, if we’re looking at the performance we need, it’s not the numbers that we need to be looking at. It’s our people experience we need to be looking at, because people are our lead indicator. Performance is the lag indicator. So how do we look at people? Yeah. How do we look at the people’s side and say.

Okay, what can we tighten up an hour in the way that we are leading and managing ourselves and each other so that this friction drops away and we create a space where everyone does speak up, where everyone participates. But it [00:41:00] starts it’s everything from the time an employee walks in the door to the time an employee walks out, everything that touches that employee.

Which sounds like a lot, but actually it is a lot because every touchpoint with the employee is either going to reinforce or undermine psychological safety and trust. And ultimately performance. But as a leader, the interventions are simple because it’s just a different lens through which to tructure your thinking.

Yeah. The employee

Elisa Tuijnder: journey is incredibly important. time

Teresa Mitrovic: and time again, incredibly complex. Yeah, that’s, but I know I know that, time, no one wants to spend time having to learn new concepts, learn new tools and so everything that we’ve got on our site is. Here is how to approach this, so it is really just guidance around thinking and guidance around how to structure your thinking and structure your conversations and structure the way that you set, manage, and create accountability around, around performance.

[00:42:00] But it’s genuinely speaking it is really just a shift in mindset and behaviour. Yeah.

Elisa Tuijnder: And of only those were really easy yeah. Good point. Yeah, so here on the podcast, we always wanna end, or the last question we always end on is, we already did this, but is, we’re such a big fan of tangible practices.

So let’s give us one more practical tip of somebody wanting to adopt some psychological safety framework, or at least bring some of those elements in. As as soon as there’s heard these podcasts.

Teresa Mitrovic: So as a leader, the simplest thing that you can do is start recognizing the behavior and the team that you’re a part of, and the team that you lead.

So look for signs that people are either connecting or protecting. And if they’re connecting, acknowledge it. Encourage it. And because when you do that, other people see you doing that and they’re more likely speak up when you see people protecting and withholding or [00:43:00] pulling back. And sometimes protection isn’t just about pulling back.

Sometimes it’s about throwing a bomb into the center of the conversation or self-sabotaging or sabotaging others. So if you see that kind of protective behavior, don’t judge it. Just get curious. So ask a question. I could, so if we were having a conversation and, around a meeting table, Elisa, and you threw a bomb into the, in the seat of the table, rather than react to it, I could say to you.

Elisa, that’s a really, that’s a really loaded statement, and I wanna understand that more because if I can understand what’s behind the statement, then I’ll un then we can look at how we need to resolve that, or which aspects of that we need to consider as we are to solve this next piece.

Yeah. We are all in conversation all the time, right? So as a leader, you can practice this, whether you’re at home or at work. Just look for those behaviors. Is someone connecting or protecting? And if they’re connecting, how can I encourage it? And if they’re protecting, how do I get [00:44:00] curious and how can I draw that out so that people know that even the difficult stuff is good to say because there is something in it somewhere.

There’s a nugget there that we need to understand. Absolutely.

Elisa Tuijnder: Oh, thank you so much, Teresa. So I could keep going. I love it. I really think it’s an incredibly important topic, but and I’m sure our listeners do too. So where can they find you? What if they want to know more or want to get in touch with you?

Teresa Mitrovic: Two best places to find me are on my website or And on LinkedIn. So just find me on LinkedIn, and if you would like an article on my psychological safety model, which is a psychologically safe performance model, then drop me a note on LinkedIn and I’ll send it straight to you.

Fantastic. That’s great. All

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for this wonderful [00:45:00] conversation and yeah, we hope to see you again at some point.

Teresa Mitrovic: Yeah, sounds good.

Elisa Tuijnder: You’ve been listening to The Happiness At Work podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and if you enjoy our shows, don’t be shy. Write us a review. Share the happiness with your colleagues, family, your friends, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn Under Management 3.0.

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