Raising Awareness Takes More Than a Window

- Submitted by Anonymous


November 2023

Jessica Bensch
Jessica Bensch

When people talk or write about ‘psychological safety’ they often come at it from a theoretical perspective. At Vanguard Voices we’re a little different. We want to take action towards allowing everyone the freedom to bring their whole selves to work, without fear.

The first step toward making real change is raising awareness about the disconnect between what we hear in high-level meetings at work and what really goes on in offices and hallways. That awareness can start with training, but we need to go further than that.

Opening a window is not the same as opening a door

Many organizations require annual training in areas such as code of conduct and good business practices. When you shine a light on these topics – open a window on the concept - it brings them to the forefront of people's minds. This can be a critical introduction or a needed reminder because of the busy world we live in.

However, there is a danger that training can turn into a checkbox exercise. Sometimes organizations run a seminar and then consider the work done. Training, just like the values written on the walls, only scratches the surface. We need to go deeper. We need to open the door so that the ideas, concepts and best practices this training brings forward can move into the real corporate world.

Making it relatable

Real behavioral change must come from leadership and from the very top levels of leadership. This is often challenging because many just don’t get it. Their heads may be programmed for science, or finance or whatever their area of expertise is. In order to connect the dots for everyone, the language must be relatable; it must drive scenarios they can visualize. That can be challenging but since you are asking leaders to put themselves into the shoes of others within the company, starting from their shoes provides common ground.

If the leader you’re speaking to talks past you because they don’t understand the issue, you need to find a better way; a better way to relate to the roots of how they think.

Three tips for starting the conversation

  1. Stand in your own truth. There’s a strong chance you’ll meet with leaders who are what Timothy R. Clark, a former CEO, Oxford-trained social scientist, and author of Four Stages Of Psychological Safety calls, ‘willfully blind’ to these topics. Consider your language; your messaging and whether it is relatable to the person you are trying to address. If it is not, rethink the language.
  2. Bring others with you. When you’re gathering your first followers, make sure you’re aligned. Write down what you stand for to be sure you’re all on the same page.
  3. Start conversations outside your organization. Organizations like Vanguard Voices exist to bring people together to share our experience and raise our collective conscience.

How would it feel to create a movement in your organization?

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Know that you are not alone. By connecting and having the hard conversations, we can start to make change. Share your story here. Let’s raise awareness about these issues together.