We as leaders face an impossible challenge when working towards team cohesion. We do our best to build trust, develop better communication skills, embrace diversity, and learn to be inclusive of different ideas and opinions without creating intentional conflict.
If we don’t provide our staff, coworkers, peers, and leaders space to have honest dialogue to express our opinions and ideas our efforts to build high-performing teams will fail because there is no respect or genuine concern for the health of the team or organization.
If you are working to create or support a safe space you need to ensure your people that you are genuinely interested in what they think and there will be no backlash. It would help if you were very clear about that point. If they catch you smirking or rolling your eyes, then you need to learn in public, in other words, acknowledge you did that and apologize to them, seriously. If you don’t you will damage any trust they have with you.
When you ask your staff what has to happen to feel safe enough to speak, here are some responses you might hear:
- It is a space where I feel respected
- It is a space where I am heard
- It is a space where my ideas are not shot down
- It is a space where I can share my opinion without being put down or laughed at
- It is a space where I am seen as a team member
- It is a space where I feel important to the team
- It is a space where I can be my authentic self
In your journal, track the triggers that prevent open dialogue, and track the situations where people suddenly stop talking or sharing their opinions and ideas. This falls under social awareness and your ability to identify when and where these events trigger a shutdown in trust, respect, and honest communication.
Once you can identify these situations work together as a team to come to a consensus or agreement on how to work through these triggers to maintain a healthy space for dialogue.
As a leader, it is crucial to remember that creating a safe space for dialogue is an ongoing process. It requires continuous effort, deliberate practice, and a commitment to personal and professional growth. By valuing the input of team members and actively seeking their feedback, leaders can foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and high performance.