Celebrating 10 Years: How a Leap of Faith Turned into An Epic Adventure of Growth, Resilience, and Impact

How often do we pause, truly reflect, and express gratitude for the milestones shaping our life path? Today, as I celebrate a decade of growth and transformation, I invite you to join me in this moment of reflection.
Ten years ago, on a chilly January evening in 2014 (Jan 23 to be exact), I found myself alone in the building, where I had worked for several years, standing at the last of my co-worker’s workstations. I had left thank-you/goodbye notes for everyone and now it was time to leave the last note. I knew that this small final gesture would mark the end of one chapter, but little did I know that it would also mark the beginning of a transformative life-changing adventure – one that would redefine the very essence of my career.
As I walked out of the building for the last time, I bid farewell to the comfort of a stable job, one which I enjoyed in many ways for several years. Leaving behind the security of my steady employment was daunting, but an inner voice persistently whispered, “There is more for you to do.”
In time I would realize that this whisper was indeed steering me toward a fulfilling purpose beyond my wildest imagination. Yet in that moment, given the many unknowns that lay ahead, I was not so sure. With a deep breath, I went all in with trust and chose courage over comfort, uncertainty over stability, and took a massive leap of faith.
Things moved quickly!
In the week following, the Universe had its own plans steering me toward my first unexpected adventure. It began with a phone call from a Fire Department seeking help to find ways to enhance the health, well-being, and resilience of its members. I am in awe when I reflect on everything that has been given wings and taken flight from that single phone call.
Over the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with our courageous first responders—both in law enforcement and firefighting all over Vancouver Island and B.C creating custom programs and training to help them to improve their overall health and well-being, enhance personal resilience, strengthen team, and hone leadership skills.
My journey continued to proliferate; from initially offering mental fitness and resilience training in my living room (OG Mental Fitness Boot-camp peeps I’m looking at you 😄) to creating a tailored program to develop and sustain winning mindsets for high-performance athletes. These athletes not only gained an unfair competitive mental advantage for sport (and life!) they proved it by winning gold medals at World Championships!
And it didn’t stop there.
My initial successes allowed me to expand into empowering workplace teams —to build resilience, enhance well-being, foster psychological safety, build trust, and strengthen communication. Working with healthcare teams, engineers, government branches, private organizations, and non-profit groups, has exposed me to a wide diversity of people and teams. This dynamic exposure constantly challenged me to stay agile, tailoring offerings to meet the unique team needs for maximum impact.
Beyond working with workplace teams, my focus has also extended to serving and supporting individuals, harnessing the power of coaching to uplift leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, parents, and partners – essentially, empowering human beings to become their best.
Throughout B.C., Canada, the U.S., and beyond, I am grateful for all the people I have met and have had the privilege to serve and support. All of you and the experiences we have shared have left an indelible mark on my heart. I honour and celebrate the contribution you have made to my life; and the trust you have placed in me to allow me to contribute to your lives.
On my fridge, I have a magnet. It was my Gran’s that she got out of a Celestial Seasons tea box – one of those bonus gift giveaways from way back. She gave it to me when I was a teenager along with the sentiment that if I always trusted and followed my intuition and was true to myself, I would never be led astray. On it is a picture of a buffalo and a quote by Euripides –
“The wisest follow their own direction.”
Well Gran and Euripides, I couldn’t agree more – such sage advice.
Were these ten years a smooth sail? Absolutely not. Were there doubters, naysayers, and voices whispering “crazy” – including my own? Undoubtedly so. But do I regret this leap of faith? Not even for a fleeting moment. I have never looked back. Every challenge became a stepping stone, every hurdle a lesson, every setback a catalyst for growth. It has all been worth it.
Reflecting on this first decade fulfilling my life’s purpose, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the remarkable experiences and the incredible people who have made these past years nothing short of extraordinary. Every moment shared, every lesson learned, and every opportunity to make a contribution has been greatly appreciated.
To my cherished husband Rick, family, colleagues, and friends: your unwavering love, support, care, and encouragement have been my anchor throughout this remarkable journey. I am profoundly grateful for each of you. You are the best of the best.
As I set my eyes on this new year and decade, I have a heart full of excitement. I embrace the myriad of opportunities to continue to serve and support workplace teams fostering environments where resilience and trust thrive and individuals flourish – it’s my jam!
I look forward to a future brimming with new opportunities, continued growth, and an unwavering commitment to empower teams to thrive. This isn’t just my story; it’s a testament to the power of courage, resilience, and the pursuit of purpose. Thanks to each of you for being a part of this adventure! 🎉 

A Post Office Encounter and The Power of One

Amidst the hustle of the holiday season, as I hurriedly set out to mail parcels to loved ones and clients, the looming possibility of facing serpentine queues at the post office crossed my mind. Surrendering to this possibility, I arrived only to discover a stroke of luck – just two, then one person in front of me. Jackpot! The unexpected brevity of the line was a relief, but what ensued was far more captivating.

In line, I inadvertently became an observer of an uplifting exchange between the post office clerk and an elderly gentleman ahead of me. He showered the clerk with praise for her infectious positivity, ability to “keep her cool” despite a previous long line, and exceptional service. “It is rare that anyone actually looks up and sees me, let alone treats me as if I am human. You did this not only for me but for everyone in the line before me. I had to compliment you!” Curious about the conversation, he turned to me, inviting my agreement with his appraisal. Fresh on the scene, I acknowledged the clerk’s demeanor, commending him for taking the time to acknowledge her – indeed a rarity too in our fast-paced world.

What unfolded next was a testament to the profound influence of one person’s outlook. The clerk, blushing but noticeably invigorated by the praise, confessed to a recent experiment. During a recent shift with another long line-up, she could sense the tense, stress-filled, impatient, energy building. Consciously choosing in the moment to shift the atmosphere, she focused on positivity, being diligent yet injecting some playfulness along the way. The switch happened. Her intentional shift not only lightened the mood but also significantly impacted how customers engaged with her and each other. Inspired by this experience, she committed to arriving at work every day with the same uplifting energy, acknowledging how it not only benefited others but also amplified her own job satisfaction. Win/win!

From this seemingly ordinary encounter emerged invaluable insights for work and life:

  1. Energy is Contagious

How we present ourselves – our attitudes, emotions, and overall demeanor – has an astonishing impact on those around us. Just as negativity spreads like wildfire in a room, positivity holds the same potential. The challenge lies in consciously choosing and maintaining a positive outlook, regardless of the prevailing atmosphere. As individuals we sometimes forget just how powerful we are and how embodying higher vibing states we can catalyze a ripple effect, transforming the dynamics of our environments (at work and in life).

  1. Appreciation For Frontline Service-Oriented Roles

The post office clerk’s story is an important reminder of individuals in service-facing roles. Their contributions can often go unnoticed amidst the daily grind. Simple acts of acknowledgment, kindness, and appreciation can significantly impact their morale, reinforcing the importance of their work and fostering a more positive work environment.

Ultimately, this encounter serves as a testament to the transformative power of one individual’s attitude. By mindfully choosing how we show up, we not only influence our immediate surroundings but also contribute to a more positive, inclusive, and fulfilling workplace culture. Never underestimate the power in how you show up; it can positively infect and affect others, and cause a ripple effect.

Let’s Connect for Positive Change!

If you’re keen on exploring how fostering this transformative mindset can elevate your team’s culture and bottom line, I invite you to connect with me.


Beyond Right and Wrong: The Nuance of Inclusive Conversations in the Workplace

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern workplaces, the words of the 13th-century poet Rumi still resonate profoundly: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” These words serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of creating a space where all voices can be heard, a space where nuance, tolerance, respect, and acceptance flourish.

In today’s diverse and dynamic work environments, embracing the “field beyond right-doing and wrong-doing” has never been more crucial. It is in this metaphorical field that the seeds of innovation, collaboration, and understanding are sown. It’s a space where the richness of diverse perspectives and lived experiences not only enriches our workplace culture but also propels us forward as a collective force.

Diversity as Enrichment, Not Division

In the pursuit of fostering inclusive workplaces, we often hear the term ‘diversity’ being championed. While diversity is undoubtedly a fundamental aspect, it is not the mere coexistence of different individuals that makes a difference; it’s the interplay of these differences that truly counts.

When we focus solely on division, differences, and polarities, we inadvertently create silos where people become entrenched in their viewpoints, unable to see beyond their immediate perspective. This siloed approach stifles creativity, innovation, and collaboration. In contrast, when we recognize the beauty of nuance, the power of tolerance, and the value of embracing diversity in thoughts and ideas, we create an environment where people can thrive together.

Meeting in the Middle

At the heart of this endeavour lies the invitation to meet in the middle. It’s an invitation to rediscover and realign with what truly matters to us as individuals and as a team. It’s about exploring our shared values and common goals, all while acknowledging and respecting the differences that make us unique.

When we meet in the middle, we embark on a journey of discovery, where conversations become bridges, not barriers. It’s a journey that leads to the “field” Rumi spoke of – a space where connections are forged and understanding blossoms.

Psychological Safety: More Than Just Belonging

Creating this “field” goes hand in hand with establishing psychological safety in our workplaces. It’s not just about feeling like you belong; it’s also about being heard and knowing that your voice matters. It’s about fostering an environment where all team members feel safe to share their views, perspectives, and concerns.

Psychological safety is the cornerstone upon which genuine connections are built. When people feel safe to speak up, they become more engaged, innovative, and committed to the shared goals of the organization. And it all starts with conversations.

One Conversation at a Time

In our fast-paced work environments, it’s easy to overlook the power of one conversation. Yet, it’s often through these seemingly ordinary interactions that genuine connections are forged, perspectives are broadened, and new ideas take root.

So, the next time you find yourself at the table with your colleagues, remember the “field” beyond right-doing and wrong-doing. Let go of judgment and an impulse to self-censor. Instead, embrace curiosity and the diversity of thought and experience and encourage others to do the same. Listen actively, speak honestly, and foster an atmosphere where every voice is valued.

In conclusion, Rumi’s timeless wisdom reminds us that in transcending the boundaries of right-doing and wrongdoing we discover a world full of possibilities. Let’s bring this wisdom into our workplaces, where we can meet in the middle, rediscover our shared values, and create a culture of psychological safety and genuine connection. In this space, remarkable possibilities emerge – one conversation at a time.

A Countermeasure for Disengagement

Have you observed a decline in engagement lately? This is a common challenge faced by many teams. During my interactions with workplace teams, while conducting psychological safety training, I’ve come to realize the importance of addressing a fundamental question. I encourage individuals to take a moment and reflect: “As Sunday night approaches or the evening before you head back to work, how do you feel? What thoughts arise?”

If these reflections lean towards negativity, it’s time to consider a pivotal solution that often remains overlooked. While elaborate and showy training programs might catch the eye, the true catalyst for positive change is something leaders always have in their arsenal – trust.

Trust forms the bedrock of psychological safety, an essential ingredient for a thriving workplace. Amid the pursuit of elaborate solutions, nurturing a culture of trust emerges as the pivotal driver of transformation. It’s not merely about discovering a glossy new program or course to aid in trust-building; it’s about forging an atmosphere where every team member senses security, appreciation, and empowerment. Trust is constructed through countless subtle agreements woven together over time — agreements fostered by the pathways we establish for connection.

The antidote to quiet quitting and dwindling engagement isn’t found in external showcases, but within the core values that uphold our teams. Let’s build trust, and in turn, nurture psychological safety for a brighter, more engaged workforce.

What one small action can you do today that can help steer your workplace culture in the direction of trust?

#psychologicalsafety #employeeengagement #trust #leadershipdevelopment #workplacewellbeing

Practical Ways to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace (and life) part 4

In organizations, it is an uncontested finding that high psychological safety drives performance and innovation, while low psychological safety incurs the disabling costs of low productivity and high attrition. Building on this, given the nature of events and uncertainties that continue not only to unfold on the world stage but also in our workplaces and lives, it only makes sense that committing to leading and modeling the way for others through psychological safety is critical. If you are keen to look for ways to foster more connection, compassion, and curiosity and discover strategies to model the way for others read on for the fourth and final installment of this series on psychological safety.

In Kouzes and Posner’s book “The Leadership Challenge”, they deep dive into the five practices of exemplary leadership as uncovered by their research. One of these practices is modeling the way for others. In this chapter of the book, they explore the importance of leaders clarifying their values and setting an example through personifying their values. Exemplary leaders don’t just espouse their values they live them through their actions. When it comes to psychological safety and modeling the way for others it only makes sense that it emanates from the leader of the group through their action, speech, and behaviours which in turn helps shape the culture in a workplace. In my experience in working with teams, there tends to be a propensity toward an underlying belief that everyone on the team is waiting for the leader or someone else to go first. Team members temporarily forget that they too can lead from where they are and with what they have regardless of their rank, role, or position in the organization. In fact, they too play an important role in creating, shaping, and maintaining psychological safety in their workplace. Let’s now explore ways we can model the way for others in our workplace and in life!

Own and admit your fallibility. Less bravado; more humility. Too often we fall into the thinking trap that as leaders we must have all the answers or at least look like we do for if we don’t, we will look incompetent. This is a trap, and this thinking can lead to more self-censorship amongst team members, people taking fewer risks for innovative solution finding, sharing their ideas, and identifying problems ergo less psychological safety. Leaders can show their fallibility by sharing that they might not have the whole picture and inviting others’ input on how to approach something to ensure it is correct. A significant memory that stands out for me is when I worked in ICU. During patient rounds one morning our Intensivist (Intensive Care Specialist Physician) asked me for my input on the best course of care for the patient I was looking after. He sensed my disbelief that he was asking this of me, the newest ICU team member, and said something along the lines of “Sara, I am human just like you and also have blind spots just like you. I want to make sure we get things right and provide the best care here for our patients. As the most responsible nurse for this patient, help me understand what I might be missing and from your perspective, what you think might be our priorities are to deliver the best course of care to achieve a successful outcome for this patient.” In that moment, I felt like I was a part of the team, that my perspective mattered and that my contributions were not only invited but were valued. Owning and admitting your fallibility can sound like: “What am I missing here?” “I need your help. I want to make sure I have this right.” “Ok everyone, I need extra sets of eyes on this matter. Let’s put our heads together to solve X.” Be vulnerable and humble about not having a clear plan or having all the answers and let your team know that you will do your best to find answers or share information as it is available. Be open about how you’re thinking about managing your own challenges and be integral with your word. If you’re not willing to be candid with your team members, why should you expect them to be candid with you?

Taking Stock – We are here. To create different results and build something sustainable it’s important to have an honest conversation about the current state of things. Leaders must be willing to see things clearly, as they are not worse than they are, and no matter the outcome. Leaders must understand the notion that trust is built on honest and open communication. Trust comes from an open dialogue about the current state. One of the ways you can foster trust and psychological safety is to have an honest discussion of the status of psychological safety in the workplace. This offers the opportunity to take stock and get clear on where the workplace is now so that the team can better create where they want to go from here. Some strategies that can assist with this discussion are:

  • Set the pre-frame – provide clear messaging about the background for the upcoming discussion; what is going to happen; why this discussion is important; and what’s in it for the team member
  • Involve the team from all facets of the organization in this discussion
  • Encourage diverse perspectives from a variety of roles. Do not cherry-pick team members who you think will tell more of what you want to hear
  • Hire a skilled facilitator/team coach so that all members including the leader can fully participate and be heard. This allows for a safe space for all members to have their voices heard and ensures a productive and fruitful discussion

Once the current state is known, then you can explore, build, and create what the inspired shared vision of psychological safety can look like in your organization. From here you can begin to take those first few actions to make it become a reality. Action makes the vision real.

Lead by example; consistency is key. Words are cheap, and when it comes to psychological safety, there are far too many stories of managers who demand candor from their employees — to lead by example — without demonstrating it themselves. How you show up matters and impacts those around you that you live and work. Your energy is contagious. In the wise words of Simon Sinek, “Words may inspire but only action creates change.” To assist you in this practice of leading by example, you may wish to test-drive the following strategy. Take a few minutes each morning to reflect on the day you have ahead and ask “How will I foster psychological safety today? Who do I need to be to achieve this? What will I do or how will I act that would demonstrate this?” Then take a moment to envision yourself going about your day while modeling those psychologically safe fostering behaviours.

Embrace and appreciate messengers. When a team member comes forward via text, email, or in person with their ideas, concerns, input, or challenge, acknowledge and appreciate their action regardless if you will implement or utilize their suggestion at the time. You can honour and appreciate their contribution with a simple yet effective thank you “Thank you John, for bringing this to my attention. I appreciate your input.” Or “I’m glad that you brought this idea forward. Thank you for doing that. Give me some time to think on it and I’ll get back to you.” Doing this not only reinforces connection it fosters trust with that team member that it is safe to bring things up or share their ideas. This strategy strengthens one we covered in part 1 on connection and declaring there is space at the table for everyone’s voice to be heard.

Look for learning and growth in all situations. Too often we get caught up in focusing on what went wrong in situations and then look to blame, criticize, or judge ourselves or others for not getting the outcome we wanted. Instead, embrace the principle that there is no such thing as failure only feedback or results. Either we get the results we want or the lesson, learning, and growth that we need. One way to assist in modeling this strategy is to first scan for at least three things that did go well in the presentation, meeting, or project. From there then begin to explore as you look back on the entire situation what one thing would make it even better for next time or ask what our one big takeaway from all of this is. Looking for learning and growth in all situations helps to maintain perspective it also helps us to foster a workplace that promotes and values the safe passage of learning including taking risks, making mistakes, and developing fresh approaches.

Enroll others in helping to find solutions. Doing so helps facilitate a shared mentality that we are all part of the team and that all members’ perspectives are valued. As we covered in part 3, fostering curiosity through asking high-quality questions are also a terrific way to enroll others in helping to find solutions. High-quality questions spark creative thinking and innovative solution-finding. They typically begin with “How” or “What”, are open-ended, and give you the set-up for finding solutions. Here are some examples, “How else might we approach this project/challenge?” “What are new ways that we haven’t yet thought of that we can use to approach this that will amplify our results?” “If those possibilities are no longer available, how else can we achieve the result?”

Be patient. Many times, leaders get caught up in thinking that shifting a workplace towards one that is more psychologically safe can happen overnight. It takes deliberate and consistent effort and over time will yield results. The invitation here is to value doing what’s right over what is fun, fast, easy, and yields instant results. Start small and be consistent. Know that tiny and consistent inputs over time will compound and yield incredible results.

In conclusion, shifting a workplace culture to one that is more psychologically safe takes time, consistent effort, and a megaton of patience. I encourage you to value progress over perfection, and the process over outcomes/results. Know that every time you step up and model the way for others you are putting in your vote for building a psychologically safe workplace. For any of you who may find yourself saying something like this to yourself “Yeah but, I am only one person” consider the following. A study from Leeds University suggested that it takes only 5% of the workforce to influence the behaviours of the rest. Be a force for good and keep stepping up and leaning into modeling the way for others. Who you are, and how you show up matters. Lead with what you have from where you are.

Finally, my charge to you is this, in the most basic sense, to treat human beings as they deserve to be treated—without arbitrary distinctions. See, acknowledge, accept, encourage, and respect them. I can promise you that if you can create a little more psychological safety for your fellow humans throughout your facets of life, it will positively impact and change their life and yours.

To explore impactful and results-driven strategies on how to improve psychological safety in your workplace team contact Sara@sarawegwitz.com or visit sarawegwitz.com.












Practical Ways to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace (and life) part 3

Organizations that are looking to become more resilient, adaptive to change, innovative, productive, and efficient must emphasize building a psychologically safe culture. This culture supports team members and allows them to feel like they belong, feel safe to learn, contribute their ideas, and challenge the status quo or bring potential obstacles/challenges into focus. Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe environment will ensure that the organization and all its team members will benefit and have a positive impact on business outcomes.

In parts 1 and 2 of this four-part series on exploring practical ways to foster psychological safety in the workplace (and in life) I covered the important role that connection and compassion can play in positively impacting psychological safety. In part 3, I will share how enabling curiosity can amplify and bolster psychological safety in the workplace and enhance engagement.

In the wise words of Simon Sinek, “Curiosity is essential for progress. Only when we look to worlds beyond our own can we know if there is room for improvement.” Curiosity also helps us to grow, learn, expand, innovate, create, explore, and understand; it also helps to build bridges of connection to and fosters compassion towards others. The following offer simple, easy, and effective strategies to cultivate curiosity in your interactions with others.

First things first, declare that there is space at the table. Each team member deserves a seat at the table – to offer their perspective, viewpoint, input, experience, value, and ideas. With that, there must be a mutual understanding amongst the team that all members matter and deserve to be heard. In most organizations, 80% of the conversations are dominated by only 20% of the participants. Psychological Safety is not just about helping people feel safe but encouraging participation – all voices must be heard. Leaders play a pivotal role in modeling, facilitating, and taking the lead to ensure that there is space at the table for all team members’ voices to be heard.

Approach conversations like puzzle pieces. Taking this perspective acknowledges that you have one piece of the puzzle and thus may not have the whole picture. It encourages you to hold the perspective that each member of the team holds their puzzle piece and perhaps knows something that you don’t. When you come together and share your perspective or information you start to get a sense of the bigger picture. In team training sessions I often use the analogy of attending a hockey game. Some team members have scored center ice seats while others are viewing the game from the “nosebleed” section. All can agree that they are watching the same game and yet what they notice, observe, experience, perceive, and can see will be much different. This analogy underscores that no matter what situation, challenge, or spot you find yourself in you might not have all the same information, observations, perspective, etc. Yet when we invite others in to share their perspective, ideas, and input we have more to work with in finding solutions, understanding, and identifying action steps.

Talk less; listen more. Good listeners create strong teams. Yet too often we get caught up in listening to respond, fix, or win. The invitation here is to be fully present with the other person and practice deep listening. Pay attention to what is, and what is not being said; how the environment may be impacting the conversation; notice what is happening with their physiology. Being an effective communicator is not about being perfect; it is all about presence. It is okay not to know the ‘right’ thing to say or do. Just show up, let others be seen and heard and you’re halfway there… (cue Bon Jovi – apologies for the earworm that this may have invoked).

Mind your tone. When it comes to communication only 7% are the words that we use; the rest is our tone (38%) and body language or physiology (55%). Knowing that your tone of voice plays a vital role in how you communicate and more importantly how your communication is received can be a fantastic tool for fostering curiosity. One of the best ways to embody a curious tone is to take on the tone of the wizard. This tone elicits conspiration, collaboration, and connection. The tone of the wizard is soft, slow, and in a low-pitched inquisitive voice.  Next time you want to foster curiosity in an interaction, channel your inner Gandolph (Lord of the Rings reference) and watch what unfolds.

Use softeners. Softeners are a fantastic and effective way to establish rapport, build trust, start a conversation, and keep one going. Some great examples are: “I am curious…”; “Hmmm. I wonder…”; “Tell me more.” “Hmmm….” “May I ask you a question?” “May I offer you something?” “I’d be keen to hear more from your point of view…”.

Ask more high-quality questions. Using high-quality questions in any conversation will take it up a notch. High-quality questions typically begin with “How” or “What” and are open-ended. They help to create the structure to set you up for finding solutions and strategies. Some examples: “What might be our best ways to approach this challenge?” “How else might we approach this that will give us even better results?” For best results combine a softener with a high-quality question such as “Hmmm. I’m curious, what are we missing or not seeing here?”

Follow the #2 principle of improv comedy. The words we use can have an impact on the level of engagement and direction of a conversation. Using the words “Yes and…” allows you to find agreement and in improv allows a scene to progress. When we use “Yes, but…” it shuts down the conversation and acts like a verbal eraser to what was said before. Being in the habit of using “but” or the more upscale version of “but” which is “however” can lead others to not so readily share their ideas or self-censor next time. Using “Yes and…” will take you somewhere with the conversation and will let the other person know that what they shared was heard and received.

Cultivating and enabling curiosity not only builds bridges and connections with others it helps to foster psychological safety in the workplace.  In turn, having high levels of psychological safety can lead to team members putting in more discretionary work effort for projects and tasks; productivity increasing and thus yielding positive business results; and vastly improving the agility of an organization to adapt and innovate in a fast-changing and competitive market. A win/win for all involved!

A couple of questions for you to consider in fostering curiosity with those whom you live and work with:

How specifically is curiosity showing up in your interactions with others?

What additional ways might you use curiosity to amplify engagement amongst your team members?

Next week we’ll conclude this four-part series by exploring practical ways to foster psychological safety in the workplace and life.

To explore impactful and results-driven strategies on how to improve psychological safety in your workplace team contact Sara@sarawegwitz.com or visit sarawegwitz.com

Practical Ways to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace (and life) part 2

Psychological safety can be defined as a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for speaking up.” When psychological safety in the workplace is high it helps to foster trust, enables others to act, bolsters engagement, and enhances the resiliency of individuals and the organization. The benefits of having high levels of psychological safety can also look like team members putting in more discretionary work effort for projects and tasks; productivity increasing and thus yielding positive business results; and vastly improving the agility of an organization to adapt and innovate in a fast-changing and competitive market. Each team member, regardless of rank or role within an organization, plays an integral part in the creation, maintenance, and sustainability of psychological safety.

In part 1 of this four-part series on exploring practical ways to foster psychological safety in the workplace (and in life) I covered the important role that connection plays. In part 2 we’ll explore how compassion can positively impact psychological safety.

In times like these many folks are operating with shorter fuses and frazzled nervous systems which can adversely impact the way they show up, especially in the ways they interact with us. Some of these interactions may include phone calls from disgruntled clients or community members, short-tempered and edgy family members, or snappy interactions with discontented co-workers. All of which can add unnecessary stress to our already at-capacity mental and emotional state.

And yet, when you choose to see beyond the presenting behaviours, you’ll realize that what these folks need (especially now more than ever) is to be seen, heard, and cared for. To put it another way, the more you can understand what’s going on with people, the more compassion, connection, and positive influence you can have as a peer, team member, parent, leader, professional, loving partner, or friend. Awareness of others’ circumstances by trying to “put ourselves in their shoes” and showing compassion are conduits to how we can achieve that.

What is compassion?

Compassion is often regarded as being sensitive to caring about the feelings of others. It involves feeling another person’s pain and wanting to take steps to help relieve their suffering. The word compassion itself derives from Latin and means “to suffer together.”

Compassion is related to other emotions such as sympathy, empathy, and altruism, although there are some key differences. Empathy refers more to the general ability to take another person’s perspective and feel the emotions of others. Compassion, on the other hand, is what happens when those feelings of empathy are met with the desire to help. Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to relieve the mental, emotional, and/or physical pains of others and themselves.

The great news is that developing compassion does not require years of training and can be cultivated quite quickly. With deliberate focus and intention, we can nurture and cultivate a more compassionate outlook and by extension take compassionate actions. Doing so will help to foster more psychological safety in the workplace and life. Here are some ways to foster compassion with others:

See the person beyond the behaviour. All behaviour has a positive intent (no matter how it might appear). What is important is to see beyond the presenting behaviour and be curious to discover the intention. Doing so will also help you get a clearer picture. Most times the person’s intention can get lost in their behaviour and speech gets lost in translation. In these situations, it can benefit all involved if you come from a place of curiosity to try and understand their point of view or situation. By doing so you will begin to build trust, rapport, and connection through this compassionate action.

 Seek to understand. 99% of the time most people’s intentions are pure and good. Take a genuine interest in getting to know what is important to other people; seek to understand their perspective (especially when it is opposite to yours). To jump-start, consider asking yourself ahead of the interaction “What are three things that I am going to like, appreciate, or admire about this person?” You can also seek understanding by first finding commonalities. Rather than focusing on how you differ from others, try instead to recognize what you have in common. Reflect on the commonalities you have with everyone else – we are all connected to the larger human experience.

Hang up your judgement and labels and exchange them for appreciation and acceptance. When we label someone, we lose our ability to see what we can gain or learn from the other person, and we miss out on an opportunity to positively influence them. We short-change ourselves on experiences and the ability to learn and grow from one another. When we label ourselves, we cut off the resources we have available that could help or serve us. Keep labels for soup cans, not people.

Remember you are a W.I.P. Spoiler alert: You are a work in progress (W.I.P.) like everyone else. Everyone (including you) is doing the best they can with what they know and have from where they are. Be mindful that you may not have the whole story or picture of what is going on with someone else. We will never know what might be going on for someone behind the scenes. Remembering that you are a work in progress will help you to maintain compassion for others.

BE present and fully listen. Avoid allowing your ego or bravado from jumping in to instantly “respond”, “fix” things, or “rescue” the person. Despite our good intentions, in doing so, we rob the other person of getting the lesson, learning, and growth that they need. Hold space for the other person with your focus, attention, and listening. Another thing to keep in mind is that only 7% of how we communicate is through the words we use. 93% of how we communicate is through our tone of voice and largely our physiology (body language). When someone is speaking do what you can to minimize distractions and be fully present. It’s never about having the perfect things to say; it’s about your presence. So rather than overthinking what you should or will say in response, simply BE present. By providing a safe space for the person to share what is going on for them you’ll foster compassion, connection, and trust.

Show compassion, especially when your own experience is different. Your model of the world and perspective is different based on your past, history, experiences, decisions, memory, current outlook, life circumstances etc. Remember your humanness and that human suffering is something we all experience at times in our lives. At some point, you may need compassion and understanding from others too.

When we show and share compassion with others not only do they feel seen, heard, and connected we reap the positive benefits as well. Compassion is contagious and is a cornerstone for psychological safety. The higher the level of psychological safety a workplace team has will yield many positive benefits that will positively impact individual team members, the team, and ultimately business operations. Be sure to model, offer, show, and share it with others that you live and work with and watch what unfolds.

A couple of questions for you to consider on fostering compassion with those that you live and work with:

Taking the perspective of a detached observer, like a “fly on the wall”, how do you show compassion in your daily life towards others whom you live and work with? What do you notice or observe?

Given that, what new ways might you use to demonstrate and foster more compassion with those you live and work with?

Next week we’ll continue part 3 in exploring practical ways to foster psychological safety in the workplace and life.

To explore impactful and results-driven strategies on how to improve psychological safety in your workplace team contact Sara@sarawegwitz.com or visit sarawegwitz.com


Practical Ways to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace (and in life) part 1

Dr. Amy Edmondson, the Harvard Business School professor, researcher, and author, coined the term psychological safety which can be defined as a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for speaking up.” Google discovered with their Project Aristotle research that psychological safety is the key factor in determining the performance of any team.

When psychological safety in the workplace is high it helps to foster trust, enable others to act, bolster engagement, and enhance resiliency of individuals and the organization. Each team member, regardless of rank or role within an organization, plays an integral part in the creation, maintenance, and sustainability of psychological safety.

How psychological safety works and shows up is unique to each organization. Many organizations know that they want more psychological safety in their workplace and yet have a disconnection on how they might go about creating and maintaining it. The following is part one of a four part series that will outline concrete and practical strategies that any team member can begin to implement that will help to build more psychological safety at work and in life.


We as human beings are hardwired for connection. In fact, human well-being is not achieved alone: our psychological health is grounded in attachment to and acceptance by others. Human connections are especially critical for addressing the effects of stress, anxiety, burnout, and other forms of workplace distress.

When people feel connected and accepted by others several things can occur: self-confidence rises; levels of engagement increase; productivity improves; team members become more willing to “roll up their sleeves” and participate in problem solving and creative solution finding; and finally, team members have more courage to ask questions, speak up and learn from each other, and take risks. The list of benefits goes on. So how might we begin to foster connections at work? Here are a few strategies to help spark your own ideas:

Sincerely connect and get to know others personally. This might be done by taking time to chat at coffee breaks with others to explore what you might have in common; inviting a team member to a “no shop talk” lunch; or creating post work fun activities like a mini golf outing. One organization that I worked with started a “No cell phones allowed in the lunchroom” policy to build connection. This in turn yielded a positive effect with team members engaging more with one another at breaks which enhanced their level of trust and cohesion with one another.

Be liberal and genuine with your appreciation. Never underestimate the power of a simple and genuine in person “Thank you!” When offering a “thank you” be specific about what you are thanking the team member for. “I really appreciate your wordsmithing efforts to date on project X and recognize your quick catch on problem Y which helped us deliver even more value for our client.” You can also express your appreciation through putting a post-it note with appreciative words on a team member’s computer or offering a hand-written note or card. Another organization I worked with started 30-minute “Thursday afternoon Team Huddles” where the team would go around and share their wins of the week and do a brief yet fun team building activity to encourage connection with one another.

Show respect and positive reinforcement for participation. In most organizations, 80% of the conversations are dominated by only 20% of the participants. Psychological safety is not just about helping people feel safe but encouraging participation – all voices must be heard. Be sure to hold space in your meetings and interactions so that all members have an opportunity to participate. When an idea or input is offered be it in person, at a meeting, or even in an email be sure to thank the person for contributing their input, idea, or thoughts; especially participants who typically might not speak up. The more that someone feels seen and heard the more that they will be willing to speak up next time.

Every interaction offers an opportunity to build connection and trust. Maya Angelou suggested that we all ask four questions in every interaction we have with another person. These four questions are always silent. When we can answer yes to all four questions, especially with folks we interact with regularly, we feel seen, heard, and a connection. If any of those questions are answered with a “no” this is where we can feel that we want to hold back, pull back, self-censor, etc., which can lead to less trust and connection. The four questions are:

  • Do you see me?
  • Do you care that I am here?
  • Am I enough for you? Or do you need me to be better in some way?
  • Can I tell by the way you look at me that I matter or that I am special?

In our modern day world with all the distractions and where things move so quickly, we miss everyday opportunities to connect with those we live and work with. When it comes to building and fostering trust and connection, it never comes down to what you do with another or even how much time you spend with them. It always comes down to the quality of your presence. The next time you say hi and ask how someone is, meet them with your eyes and hold eye contact for one extra second. Be present in your interactions; a simple yet powerful strategy to foster connection.

In conclusion, fostering connection plays an integral role in the creating and maintaining of psychological safety with those we live and work with. I encourage you to be deliberate and intentional in strengthening your ability to connect with others. I’ll leave you with a couple of questions to ponder:

How do you consistently foster connections with those that you work with?

Moving forward, what new ways might you try that would foster more connection with those that you work with?

Stay tuned for part two of this four part series on practical ways to foster psychological safety next week.

If you are interested in learning more strategies and/or discovering training offerings related to team building, resiliency, and psychological safety in the workplace contact Sara@sarawegwitz.com.

Improve Your Mental Wellbeing in as Little as 5 Minutes

Thanks to the power of nature, you can improve your mental health in as little as five minutes.

Researchers at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom looked at the impact exercising in a green environment has on mental health. They found that only five minutes of movement in a green setting (e.g., walking, gardening, cycling outdoors) was enough to mentally recharge and boost mental health. After five minutes the benefits plateaued suggesting that the biggest return on investing time outside is gained in the first five minutes.

It is incredible that in as little as five minutes of outdoor activity in nature, you can give your brain a break, gain a fresh outlook and offer a mental reboot. Take time throughout the day to take a break and tap into its health benefits.

Research also suggests that spending time in nature may:

Lower the stress hormone cortisol

Lessens the physical and mental effects of stress

Reduce blood pressure and heart rate

Increase immune cells called natural killer cells that fight viruses

Give a boost to your mood

Help to lift depressive symptoms

Decrease feelings of anxiety and worry

Improve mental clarity, focus, and concentration

Ways to incorporate more nature into your day:

  • Spend time outdoors on your coffee or lunch break by taking a walk through a local park or find a spot near the ocean or body of water to take in nature.
  • Consider moving your meetings outdoors. Walking meetings are a terrific way to connect with others while benefitting from being outdoors. Win/win!
  • Put it into your schedule; block time each day to head outside
  • Head out for a hike on a day off and notice the different shades of autumn that are present
  • Consider bringing the outdoors in by incorporating more plants into your workspace

Write yourself a “wellness prescription” of taking a nature break 5 minutes/day and repeat, as necessary. Your wellbeing will thank you for it.

Stressed? Try this circuit breaker

I am hearing from many professionals in a variety of organizational settings that the cumulative wash out effects of uncertainty, loss of control, immense organizational shifts, and staff changes over the past couple of years have helped drive burnout and exhaustion to an all-time high. Many folks are reporting feeling a great deal of stress and overwhelm in their personal lives as well. Add another layer of intensity from witnessing the events happening around the world and things get even more muddled.

Having all these thoughts and worries swirling around in your mind can be draining and can have a detrimental effect on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. The great news is there are many ways to shift this. The following strategy is one of them.

The following six questions are designed to assist you in breaking this pattern of thinking and interrupting your emotional response to allow for greater clarity and perspective. The questions also propel you to create space for new solutions, opportunities, and next best action steps to take.

For best results, take a pen and a piece of paper and divide the paper into two columns. At the top of each column, you will write one question. The two questions are designed to work as a pair. For example, at the top of the column on the left side write “What’s mine to own in this situation?” and at the top of the column on the right side write “What’s not mine to own in this situation?”

Allow your answers to the questions to flow. No editing; no overthinking. Capture what first comes to mind.

Going analogue (putting pen to paper) for this exercise is a great way to get all your thoughts out, organize them, and see them from a different angle. All of which will help to decrease stress and create more ease.

6 Pairs of Questions to Break the Pattern of Stress and Gain Perspective, Clarity, and Empowerment

  1. What’s mine to own in this situation; and what’s not mine to own in this situation?
  2. What’s my responsibility here; and what’s not my responsibility here?
  3. What’s mine to do; and what’s not mine to do?
  4. What’s mine to say; and what’s mine not to say?
  5. What’s mine to care about; and what’s not mine to care about?
  6. What’s in my control; and what’s not in my control?

Following this you may consider asking: Given what you captured on the left side, what might be your next best action to take? What other options or solutions have emerged?

Given what you wrote on the right side what can you do to let it go? Who else needs to be aware and involved?

It’s okay to own what is yours to own; do what’s yours to do; care about what’s yours to care about. That’s enough.

As organizations are re-emerging in a post-pandemic world, many are looking for new ways to reinvigorate their teams, foster resilience, and enhance psychological safety. Our fall 2022 training offerings can assist and deliver on these items. Contact Sara@sarawegwitz.com for more information.