The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Book Summary - The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Book explained in key points
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The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety summary

Timothy R. Clark

Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation

4.3 (292 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety by Timothy R. Clark explains how to create a safe work environment by building trust, learning, and improving performance. The book guides readers through the four stages of safety, providing practical advice to foster open communication and collaboration.

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    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety
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    To create inclusion safety, make sure team members feel unconditionally included from the very beginning.

    The first stage of psychological safety, inclusion safety, is a prerequisite for everything else. This involves an initial offering of unconditional respect for all human beings – an acknowledgment that everyone deserves respect and therefore deserves to be included. Later, inclusion might be withheld or revoked – but, at the start, the only condition for inclusion should be a person’s fellow humanity.

    In this day and age, leaders tout “diversity and inclusion” as buzzwords to brag about their wokeness – so why does there continue to be a lack of inclusion safety? For one, not everyone who talks about it actually puts it into practice. More often than not, as we saw with the first team you visited previously, a tense, distrustful environment is favored over an empathetic and inclusive one. A study by Ernst & Young found that not even half of employees trust their bosses. So what can you do to avoid becoming part of this statistic?

    Before you can address this, you’ll need to ask yourself a question: Why do you choose to include some people and not others? 

    According to the author, Timothy R. Clark, children seem to intuitively know the importance of inclusion. It’s strange, then, that this doesn’t transfer to adulthood. One answer could be that, as adults, we continually find ways to justify why we’re superior to other people. We tell ourselves that our differences are a reason for conflict, not celebration. Often, it’s a way of compensating for things we’re insecure about. Interestingly, we don’t always exclude someone because we don’t like them; usually, it’s because we have unmet needs. 

    This attitude starts at the top – with a manager, teacher, or parent more concerned about being right than creating an environment that stimulates safety or innovation. Then it trickles down through the ranks. 

    Clark witnessed this effect first-hand when he started out as manager of a steel plant in Geneva, Utah. The first team he spoke with at the steel plant pulled him aside and insisted that their department was a little special. They had more expertise than the other teams, they said. Their work was more complicated, and they were absolutely essential to the steel plant’s operations. It made sense at first – but every team he met with after that said the exact same thing. They all believed they were special, that they were the most important. And in trying to distinguish themselves, they were putting down the others. This resulted in each department becoming isolated, and averse to collaboration and communication. They were stuck in a cycle of unhealthy competition.

    Now, here’s a solution: suspend your judgment – initially, at least – to encourage inclusion. Think about who you include and exclude. Now ask yourself why? What biases or prejudices might be at play here?

    Perhaps it’s easier said than done. You can’t get rid of personal bias altogether; you’ll always have a bit of it lying around. But by identifying it and noticing where it affects your behavior, you can slowly start working on eliminating its influence. If you’re having trouble with this step, ask a close friend or acquaintance about your unconscious biases.

    Once you’re comfortable providing inclusion solely on the basis that every human being deserves a fundamental level of respect, you can move on to the next stage of psychological safety: the safety to learn, make oneself vulnerable, and make mistakes in the process.

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    What is The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety about?

    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (2020) is a practical handbook for creating and maintaining psychological safety in the workplace. In order for employees to take risks, ask questions, challenge the status quo, and make mistakes – all while learning and growing – they have to feel included and safe. This book shows how leaders can reduce social friction while encouraging collaboration and innovation.

    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Review

    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (2021) by Timothy R. Clark is a compelling exploration of how psychological safety can create high-performance teams. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • The book provides a practical roadmap for leaders to foster psychological safety in their teams, creating an environment where everyone can thrive.
    • Using real-life examples and case studies, it illustrates how psychological safety can improve communication, innovation, and collaboration within organizations.
    • Through its research-backed insights and actionable strategies, the book offers a fresh perspective on creating a culture of psychological safety, keeping readers engaged and motivated throughout.

    Who should read The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety?

    • Managers and CEOs trying to boost employee well-being and productivity
    • Leaders tired of dusty corporate hierarchies
    • Anyone interested in practical approaches to workplace inclusion

    About the Author

    Timothy R. Clark is an organizational consultant. As the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a leadership consulting organization, Clark works with organizations and their leaders to help cultivate psychological safety. He received his PhD in social science from the University of Oxford. His other books include EPIC Change: How to Lead Change in the Global Age and Leading with Character and Competence: Moving Beyond Title, Position, and Authority.

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    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety FAQs 

    What is the main message of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety?

    The main message of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety is creating an environment of trust and inclusion.

    How long does it take to read The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety?

    The reading time for The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety is a valuable read for cultivating psychological safety within teams. It offers practical insights and actionable strategies.

    Who is the author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety?

    The author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety is Timothy R. Clark.

    What to read after The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson
    • Lead from the Outside by Stacey Abrams
    • Teams That Work by Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas
    • Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt
    • Building an Inclusive Organization by Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina
    • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • How to Think Like a Woman by Regan Penaluna