What is psychological safety.

According to the Harbard Business Review, Team psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences. 

Being able to take the initiative is an essential skill or attitude for your team members. Let’s look at how to help your team to feel confident in taking the initiative.



The video in Module 3 of the How to excel as a line manager course


The exercise on pages 15 & 16 in the How to Excel as a Line Manager Workbook

  • It’s easy to think your team welcomes the freedom to take initiative, simply because you do! But, this passion to contribute conflicts with a natural instinct to protect ourselves against things like failure, rejection, embarrassment, or retaliation. Some people see more danger in taking initiative than there are benefits. The way you act (and the “company culture”) will directly influence this.
  • Individuals who are driven by the fear of failure often struggle to take the initiative. This is because they want to just excel in their comfort zone. Taking the initiative can often be seen as taking them out of their comfort zone.
  • It can be easy to assume that somebody is lazy or no good because they don’t take initiative. If you’ve created, fostered or simply not removed any fear that they have; it’s as much (if not more) your fault than theirs.

5 ways to help your team to take the initiative:

If you want to grow your profile you need to be prepared to put your hand out and volunteer for stuff outside of your normal day-to-day workload.

There are normally many ways for you to contribute to your firm. This could be standing on the social committee, supplying articles for the department’s newsletter or intranet, writing a blogspot for the website, organising or getting involved in a corporate social responsibility initiative etc.

There are always opportunities to get involved in cross-firm projects outside of your client work. Do choose carefully, and aim to be present on committees, steering groups, projects or assignments where you will get to increase your internal network and contact with key influential partners.

Having a presence on cross-firm initiatives, projects, or committees should form a part of your personal Networking Strategy. It’s one of the best ways to get noticed. These projects and initiatives will still be happening whether or not your firm’s senior people work mostly from the office or their home.

  • 1. Look out for times when people in your team are taking initiative

    Then comment positively on it. If you want to see the behaviour again you need to notice and thank them when they do something that needed to be done without being asked.

  • 2. Make it clear that you want and need your team to take initiative

    Your behaviour may hide that fact, or worse still be in contradiction to this. It’s not just about the words you say, it’s the way you say them and the way you act. But ensure you say that that you want them to take initiative. If there are limits beyond which you don’t want them to go, explain them clearly. But that means anything they do, which is sensible within those limits should be praised.

  • 3. Do not focus on mistakes

    Look for the intent and think about learning. Criticism will only cause compliance with rules, no extra thinking and resentment. If they did something that was silly, discuss the thought process with them and help them to learn. Simply criticising the outcome will stop them from trying again. It doesn’t mean you can’t correct them, but look at the input, not the output.

  • 4. When they come and ask for help, focus on training

    Unfortunately, that’s the very time when it’s easiest to tell them what to do. Instead, help them to explore the problem or suggest a couple of possible things they could do; encourage the thinking process and use the opportunity to coach them, rather than tell them.

  • 5. Think about how the team act together

    It’s no good focusing on one person in the team and expecting them to act differently. Help them all along this journey of discovery, yes it takes time but the results can be worthwhile. The tendency always will be for the team to set the norm, that’s how peer pressure works, so you need to focus on the team not an individual.