Take SAFE Steps to Build a Fearless Organization

Building psychologically safe organizations is a necessary, sweeping effort that takes deep commitment and dedication. Fearless organizations are astoundingly people-centric and permit employees always to be human and fallible. But organizations aren’t intrinsically safe; they must be purposefully crafted to hold psychological safety as a core value and practice. This often happens under the guidance of field experts who support the implementation of fearless cultures using the SAFE construct. In this blog, we will review and help you take SAFE  Steps to Build a Fearless Organization: Set Limits, be Approachable, be Fallibility, and Engage.

What are the Four Components?

The SAFE acronym establishes the foundation for building and maintaining fearless organizations. Providing boundaries for employees and employers, these attributes play essential roles:

  1. Set Limits: Leaders need to establish boundaries and expectations surrounding productive and unproductive behaviors. These boundaries need to be communicated so that people understand how to function within them. They must also see leadership participating within the boundaries and enforcing consequences when behaviors step outside of the defined parameters.
  2. Approachable: Leaders must be accessible and relatable to the organization’s employees to have a comfortable baseline for sharing ideas, making mistakes, asking questions, and gathering feedback.
  3. Fallibility: Modeling fallibility across the organization is beneficial for all individuals. Leaders show they value others by openly admitting mistakes, asking questions, and welcoming insight from employees across all levels of the organization, irrespective of rank and role.
  4. Engage: Leaders who proactively engage people across an organization openly foster psychological safety as a foundational value. Using people’s names, asking thoughtful questions, showing gratitude, and inquiring about experiences establish engagement.

How to Begin Using the SAFE Construct in the Workplace?

Establishing the SAFE construct in organizations begins with a commitment to provide psychological safety despite our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) and BANI (brittle, anxious, nonlinear, and incomprehensible) world.

  1. Engaging coaches experienced in applying the SAFE model to an organization is an excellent first step. This individual can lead leadership through self-reflective assessments that identify SAFE construct components already part of the organization’s culture. Coaches can also foster an honest understanding of where an organization needs improvement, where they may adopt better processes and advance standards of behavior.
  2. Identifying how company leaders set limits and establish boundaries (and what the current outcomes are) will determine where additional training may be warranted to correct approachability deficiencies so that they may achieve accessibility that makes a measurable difference in reaching comprehensive safety in the workplace.
  3. Learning effective ways to model fallibility with sincerity will help encourage all employees to participate in the organization-wide effort to achieve fearlessness. 

The SAFE construct helps companies determine what they need and how to maneuver in ways that result in the best possible working environments.

Source: Edmondson, Amy. The Fearless Organization. Wiley, 2018.

Recommended Reading: 

Edmondson, A.C. (2018). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. John Wiley & Sons.

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Meet Jodie, your Culture & Transformation Captain. With over twenty years helping people change, facilitating team discussions, building cultures, designing, implementing and teaching classes, your organization is in good hands.