How Appreciative Inquiry builds psychological safety

How Appreciative Inquiry builds psychological safety

Blogs and Stories

How Appreciative Inquiry builds psychological safety

Author: Peter Maguire
Published On: September 7, 2021
meeting happy appreciative inquiry

Over the past decade, the term “psychological safety” has become more and more prevalent in conversations about how we can make high performing organisations and how we can deal with mental health challenges in the workplace.

There has been quite a bit of activity in building tools and platforms that organisations can use to improve their policies and practices in workplace wellbeing and mental health. Most of these use what many see as the proven risk management methodologies that underpin Workplace Health and Safety compliance models.

In our view, these will be of limited effectiveness because setting policies, educating people about their responsibilities under the policies and enforcing the policies does not make people feel psychologically safe.

These systems rely heavily on people making complaints/reporting non-compliances and they are not likely to do that if they don’t feel psychologically safe to do so.

Let’s reframe psychological safety through an Appreciative Inquiry lens

Appreciative Inquiry is a proven change methodology that utilises a positive psychology approach with a focus on how to utilise the strengths of an organisation or group to address challenges or improvement opportunities.

In “Appreciative Inquiry A Positive Revolution in Change” by David L Cooperrider (Co-Creator of AI) and Diana Whitney (An AI Consultant and Author), one of the interesting questions explored is why AI gets such engagement from people and such great results.

A study done by Whitney and an associate Amanda Trosten-Bloom identified six essential conditions that AI generates to achieve that engagement and success – the six freedoms:

1. Freedom to be known in relationship: Essentially this means that people have the opportunity to be themselves as human beings and get to know each other on that basis rather than being typecast in roles. That builds bridges across “boundaries of power and authority” and helps to level the playing field for everyone.

2. Freedom to be heard: This is more than just listening to what someone has to say. It is about being curious and empathetic and really understanding the person’s story. By having appreciative conversations with people, they feel included and that they have a voice which is being heard. By acting on what people have to say, you tell them that their voice is valued.
3. Freedom to dream in community: In today’s complex world, visionary leadership means unleashing the dreams of people at all levels of the organisation. It is about being a safe place where large, diverse groups of people can share their dreams in dialogue with each other.
4. Freedom to choose to contribute: When people believe that they can choose to make a contribution and commit to doing a project, they are buying into it, not because they have to but because they want to. That creates determination and
people do what is necessary to make it work.
5. Freedom to act with support: When people know that people care about their work and are anxious to cooperate, they feel safe to experiment, innovate and learn. Whole system support stimulates people to take on challenges and draws people into acts of cooperation that bring out their best.
6. Freedom to be positive: In organisations today, it is simply not the norm to have fun, be happy or be positive. AI works because it creates the context for people to be positive and it has the power to not only make people feel pride in their work experiences but also to transform negative discourse and negative thinking into positive ideas and innovation.

Let’s reposition that to everyday work

As noted above, the common approach to dealing with psychological safety is the classic risk management model – risk assessment > policy > education > compliance. That is deficit thinking and it is actually part of the problem rather than being a solution.

The 6 freedoms set out above are related to the Appreciative Inquiry process and what it delivers in practice through a positive thinking approach.

Let’s take those freedoms and transform them into a set of 6 statements that might shine a really different light on what psychological safety really means every day at work.

Here are those 6 statements:

1. I get the opportunity to be myself and I am appreciated for that.

2. I genuinely have a voice which is listened to with curiosity and respect, and I believe that I have a positive impact with what I say.

3. I am encouraged to share my ideas and dreams with everyone, and I do that because it feels safe to do so.

4. I have opportunities to get involved in projects and I can make the choice myself as to whether I do, and, if so, what I do.

5. I am happy to experiment and learn new things because I feel supported by the system and the people.

6. I enjoy positive emotions because I feel good about the way we do things here.

Of course, our businesses and our people all experience challenges of one sort or another every day. We all have our struggles as individuals, teams and organisations.

Adopting a positive psychology approach won’t eliminate the struggles – they are just part of life. What it will do is make the process of dealing with those struggles so much more positive and engaging and deliver far better outcomes than just “fixing the problem”.

CONTACT US

PosWork

A Division of Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

info@poswork.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

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More Lessons on “Work Wellbeing”

More Lessons on “Work Wellbeing”

Blogs and Stories

More lessons on “work wellbeing”

Posted by: Peter Maguire
Posted On: July 3, 2021

“Work Wellbeing: Leading thriving teams in rapidly changing times” is a book written by social researchers, Mark McCrindle and Ashley Fell and released in 2020.

In the book, they explore the findings from a series of surveys and other research that they undertook over the period 2017 – 2019 on the questions of what the state of work wellbeing is in Australia and what are ways to enhance work wellbeing.

As the above infographic shows, there are some very significant findings for employers:

  • 83% of employed Australians say providing work wellbeing is very important and the responsibility of the employer
  • 62% say mental health and stress of workers is the biggest factor impacting the future of work
  • 72% say that work wellbeing is the most important element of a workplace
  • Workplaces that have a commitment to worker wellbeing perform much better in staff retention (x2.6), employee engagement (x3.1) and worker recommendation of their employer (x4.3).

These findings are highly consistent with other wellbeing studies such as the National Workplace Wellbeing Surveys undertaken by AHRI in conjunction with the Wellbeing Lab and those undertaken by Superfriend.

This book features a wellbeing wheel which displays the authors’ concept of a wellbeing framework with 8 fields of wellbeing:

  1. Family relationships
  2. Financial security
  3. Vocational purpose
  4. Personal mental, emotional and spiritual health
  5. Social relationships
  6. Current financial earnings
  7. Vocational impacts and workload
  8. Physical health and fitness

This is just a slightly different way of looking at wellbeing and arguably complements other models such as PERMAH (Positive emotions – Engagement – Relationships – Meaning – Accomplishments – Health) or the Superfriend framework (Leadership – Connectedness – Policy – Capability – Culture).

Importantly the study recognises one very significant point which is that the average person spends 33% of more than half our years of life at work.

As a very wise shop steward said to me 40 years ago: “You spend a third of your life at work, Peter….. you had better bloody enjoy it!”

That is very true and obviously the better we can make the work experience for people, the greater the positive impact is going to be on the mental health of our broader community.

That is one of the reasons that we developed our Better Workplace suite of programs – because we know that businesses who invest in wellbeing can have a really positive impact on societal mental health….and we want to help businesses do that.

In conclusion, the book is worth a read and does provide some different ways of looking at work wellbeing and how to make it better.

We use tools like PERMAH and Appreciative Inquiry because they are tried and tested and universally recognised models and we know that they are simple to use and they work.

Having said that, it never hurts to look at the issues through someone else’s eyes.

 

CONTACT US

PosWork

A Division of Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

info@poswork.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

LET'S HAVE A CHAT

Do you want real protection against workplace risk?

Do you want real protection against workplace risk?

Blogs and Stories

Do you want real protection against workplace risk?

Author: Peter Maguire
Published on: June 1, 2021

I recently read an article published on the ABC about what organisations need to do to address one of the main issues in the spotlight at the moment – sexual harassment.

Here is the article: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-01/preventing-sexual-harassment-workplace-reform/13187766

It features a couple of academics advocating a “systemic and proactive approach” and it points to guidance material released by Safe Work Australia – “Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment, National Guidance Material, January 2021”.

Unsurprisingly, that, in the main, takes the form of the normal and established risk management approach of:

  • Legislative obligations and penalties
  • Hierarchical workplace responsibility chains
  • Risk assessment and control measures
  • Policies and procedures
  • Complaint/non-compliance reporting and investigation
  • Consequences for non-compliance

One of the interesting things about this article is the premise that organisations are now being required to address sexual harassment as a Workplace Health and Safety matter as if this is something new – is it really?

We have had a duty to provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work for a long time, haven’t we? Personally, I can recall dealing with cases of psychological and emotional risk to people in workplaces as far back as the 1980s.

Even leaving aside the unfortunate facts of sexual harassment in itself, surely we have all known for a long time that it also adds substantial risks to the mental and emotional health and, in some cases, physical health of the victims?

Do you know what the biggest problem that we have in addressing what we really need to do to change attitudes and behaviours in our workplaces is? It is the belief that we can solve this with the traditional “systemic and proactive approach” which is really one of WHS risk management as embodied in Safe Work Australia’s guidance materials ie do a risk assessment, identify control measures, create a policy, communicate it to people, require compliance and punish non-compliance.

That might help to suppress the more obvious and overt sexual harassment for fear of punishment, but it won’t change the underlying attitudes and (anti)social norms that drive the unwanted behaviours in the first place.

What is needed is a new human-centred approach that treats all people as human beings rather than just human resources.

We need to apply a positive mindset and focus on using strengths to foster the right behaviours rather than just having a deficit mindset about fixing what is wrong.

We need to change language in organisations and ensure that we call out and correct inappropriate language at all levels and in all contexts with everyone feeling both empowered to do that and psychologically safe to make the call.

We need to be real about managing the human risks ie the people who we know are most at risk of doing the wrong thing and educating and coaching them to do the right thing as a matter of habit.

We need to develop real character in our businesses where values are reflected in everyday behaviour and people believe them, practise them and trust in their wellbeing at work.

We need to have systems which recognise and reward the right behaviours not just sanction the wrong behaviours.

We need to do all of this in an engaging way ie one which is inviting, educational, culture enriching and accessible in a modern way.

This is where ShareTree comes in. It is a revolutionary platform for bringing about cultural change through a combination of positive mindset, character strengths, gratitude and modern technology. It supports every one of the needs identified above.

Check it out at https://sharetree.org or give me a call to have a chat about it on 0438 533 311.

CONTACT US

PosWork

A Division of Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

info@poswork.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

LET'S HAVE A CHAT

Better Workplace Projects – The Foundations

Better Workplace Projects – The Foundations

Blogs and Stories

Better workplace teams – the foundations

A key ingredient in employee engagement and high performing teams is trust which can only happen if there is authenticity at all levels of an organisation. That is also part of our Better Workplace Projects.

CONTACT US

PosWork

A Division of Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

info@poswork.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

LET'S HAVE A CHAT

The Power of Vulnerability

The Power of Vulnerability

Blogs and Stories

THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY – Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a world leading authority on vulnerability and the underpinning power of having a sense of love and belonging to having a belief of self-worth. She talks about having the courage to be imperfect while practising self compassion and having connection that empowers authenticity, an essential quality for great leaders.

CONTACT US

PosWork

A Division of Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

info@poswork.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

LET'S HAVE A CHAT