Unleashing the Power of Psychological Safety

Dec 15, 2022

Just over a month ago, I asked our LinkedIn community of more than 34,000 followers for your help. The response was overwhelming.

I had identified 8 critical components of psychological safety and asked for your feedback.

What did you like?

What would you add?

What would you change?

Engagement on the post was through the roof.

I was asking for this help because I was dialing in the leadership hour of an upcoming presentation for the Alaskan FBI National Academy Annual Conference. The focus was about how to create environments where police officers, 911 dispatchers, and support staff would feel safe and confident to come forward and ask for help if they were struggling. We shared “Gold” standard strategies on how to prevent, mitigate, and eliminate PTSD.

Psychological Safety is the foundation in creating cultures that embrace and prioritize Brain Health and Wellness, in this case PTSD.

Did you know that 15% of police officers in the United States have been diagnosed with PTSD? That is more than 125,000 men and women in uniform.

Did you know that over the past decade, suicide has been the number one cause of death in police officers, excluding one year of COVID. Police officers take their own lives at 2.5x’s the rate they are killed by criminals.

In the end, we narrowed down the 8 critical components to 6 powerful elements of psychological safety.

They are:

  1. Be Human
  2. Trust
  3. Inclusion
  4. Encouragement & Support
  5. Justice & Consistency
  6. One-Voice Leadership 


“Be Human” is fueled by 4 powerful drivers: EMPATHY, COMPASSION, HUMILITY, and VULNERABILITY. These drivers were heavily shaped by our LinkedIn community’s feedback.

Empathy is the heartbeat of leadership. It is the great connector. Compassion is empathy in action, action that helps a person go from where they are to where they want to be.

Humility allows us to demonstrate we are grounded; we are just like our team members; we are one of them. Vulnerability allows us to share our struggles and connect through common experience.

Humility and vulnerability tell our team members that it is okay to be human. It is okay to struggle. We all struggle. Struggle is human. It is okay to share when we are struggling. It is okay to ask for help.

All 4 of these drivers let our people know that we care about them, we have their back, we have experienced the same or similar struggles, it is courageous to share these struggles, it is safe to share them.


Trust is the currency of leadership. Without trust, psychological safety and leadership cannot exist.

We all have a relationship, or as we refer to it, an influence bank account. As leaders, we are making deposits and/or withdrawals every day. People trust us to do what we do consistently.

Great leaders understand the importance of proactively making deposits into this relationship account. We do this by being human, having our teams back, making decisions in the best interest of the team, having the courage to stand up to our boss when they are wrong, and protecting our team members.

We build trust by giving respect, communicating transparently, leading by example, and by being fair and consistent.

We gain trust by doing what we say we are going to do.


People support what they create. People trust what they create.

Whenever we are implementing a CultureShift, such as reducing stigma around PTSD and other Brain Health struggles, giving our team members a voice is critically important. While we cannot include everyone in the initial creation process, we can involve team members from every level of the organization AND we can do tentative rollouts in small groups to gain feedback and support. From there, we can make appropriate adjustments before finalizing processes and policy.

While inclusion is an important component of creating healthy cultures, it is critically important when creating significant CultureShifts, especially on sensitive topics like emotional and psychological wellness.


Encouragement and support are powerful connection, trust, and safety builders. When we know that we are cared about AND when our leaders empower us to action, great things follow.

Encouragement and support allow us to engrain wellness into our everyday culture. This can be done through environmental design, proactive communication, reinforcement following difficult incidents or circumstances, and consistent positive messaging.

Encouragement must be accompanied by support. If someone does come forward for help or if someone is stepping outside of their comfort zone, they are keeping a keen eye to the reaction of the leader and their team members. If they are met with support, psychological safety increases and they can share their full truth. They can seek and get the help they need.


A lack of fairness, or justice as I like to refer to it, is one of the fastest destroyers of trust, teams, psychological safety, commitment, and morale. If we are committed to specific values, they must apply to everyone in a fair manner.

If we have policy governing response to traumatic incidents or difficult situations, they must be applied fairly to everyone. Failing to do this drives very negative emotions of dissention, betrayal, shame, and contempt.

Especially on the topic of wellness, everyone is paying attention to see if the culture we talk about is the culture that exists. On sensitive topics like this, there is nothing that will destroy trust and psychological safety faster than a lack of justice and consistency.


While I do not believe divided leadership teams can create healthy, thriving teams and organizations, divided leadership teams and messaging around wellness and safety will destroy any CultureShift we are trying to create or a Culture we have already created. It is critically important for executive leadership to give a voice to their leadership team, but once a decision has been made, the entire leadership team must move forward with one voice in the same direction.


Leaders and organization who know how to harness and unleash the power of PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY create the foundation of winning cultures and championship teams. In police, fire, and military organizations, psychological safety is a must if we are going to prevent, mitigate, and treat PTSD, severe anxiety, and depression.

The good news is that the benefits of psychological safety extend far beyond the battle of PTSD. When there are high levels of psychological safety, our team members can bring their full selves to work without fear of judgment, social isolation, or retaliation from leadership. Our team members can admit when they don’t know the answer, ask for help, question a decision they feel is wrong, and speak up with suggestions about how we can make things better.

Psychological safety creates environments where creativity, innovation, and ownership flourish. Not only does employee experience reach all-time highs, customer service, performance, safety, and in the private sector, profits dramatically increase. 


Danny’s featured keynotes and workshops are:

  • Empathy: The Heartbeat of Leadership
  • OwnerShift: 7 Pillars to Unleash the Champions in Your Organization
  • Unleashing the Power of Psychological Safety
  • Protecting the Protectors: Leadership Strategies to Prevent, Mitigate, and Treat PTSD

Click here to check out Danny’s sample speaker video.

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