Fearless Pioneers Talking Psychological Safety – Wayne Clarke

Wayne Clarke
Founder of The GGI & World Class Manager

About Wayne

Wayne Clarke is the founder of the World Class ManagerTM platform, which has trained over 35,000 managers across 30 countries. His insight is sought by leaders from Fortune/ FTSE 100 companies to Governments and NGOs, advising more than 1000 CEOs globally. He is passionate about the positive impact of management on employees, customers, shareholders and society and his team at The Global Growth Institute are based in the UK, Netherlands, Turkey, Bahrain and Mongolia. Wayne is author of a new book sharing lessons and stories from his more than two decades improving company performance through great people engagement – How to be a World Class Manager: Skills and Insights for Unleashing Your Leadership Potential (March 2023).The book harnesses their exclusive data from over 15,000 managers across the world. In 2011 Wayne was made an Ambassador for JCI at the United Nations. Previous recipients of this honour include the past UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon. Wayne is a visiting lecturer at Bayes Business School and The University of Kent, and has been recognised as a Top 25 Most Influential Thinker for five years by HR Magazine. He began his career at Arthur Andersen/ Deloitte and went on to lead employee engagement for BDO, the fifth largest accounting network. He subsequently ran the advisory arm of Best Companies, producer of The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list.

Q1. Why do you believe psychological safety is so important for organizations?

It’s important for organisations for several reasons. It refers to the individual’s perception that they can take risks, such as speaking up, sharing ideas, or asking questions without fear of negative consequences to their self-image, status, or career.


When employees feel safe to express their ideas, even if they might be unconventional or risky, it fosters a culture of innovation. Psychological safety encourages employees to share their unique perspectives and contributes to a diverse range of ideas, leading to better problem-solving and creative solutions.


Psychological safety positively impacts team dynamics. When team members feel safe to express themselves, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, communicate openly, and provide constructive feedback. This openness improves overall team performance and cohesiveness.


In a psychologically safe environment, employees are more willing to admit mistakes and seek help. This promotes a learning culture where continuous improvement and development are valued, leading to higher levels of skill acquisition and professional growth.


Feeling psychologically safe at work reduces stress and anxiety, which are common contributors to burnout and other mental health issues. Organisations that prioritise psychological safety demonstrate care for their employees’ well-being, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.


When employees feel safe, respected, and valued, they become more engaged in their work. They are more likely to invest their time and effort into the organisation’s goals and feel a stronger sense of commitment.


Constructive feedback is vital for individual and organisational growth. In a psychologically safe environment, employees feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback, which can lead to improved performance and increased accountability.


Psychological safety is particularly important in diverse workplaces. Employees from different backgrounds and experiences may hesitate to share their perspectives if they fear negative consequences. Fostering a psychologically safe environment helps ensure that all voices are heard and valued, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable workplace.


Fear of failure can hinder employees from taking necessary risks or pursuing new opportunities. A psychologically safe environment encourages a growth mindset and allows employees to view failures as learning experiences rather than personal setbacks.

Q2 Which organisational layer and enabler are most important to psychological safety?

The manager plays the most influential role in the individuals experience of any team or workplace. A good manager can make a bad company (with a toxic culture) tolerable, conversely a bad manager can ruin the experience of it for the team in the best company on the planet. Mangers have a huge weight of responsibility on them. Many key stakeholders inside and outside of the organisation have high expectations of them. However managers are often not prepared to deal with these multiplicity of stakeholder expectations. The modern 2023 manager is expected to be everything from a counsellor to an ESG expert. Managers are instrumental in creating the right team culture. If they get it right, it ‘feels’ like it’s a safe place to work.

Autonomy says so much about how trusted the individual feels. And autonomy speaks to most people’s desire to have a sense of creativity and ownership of how they spend their time at work.


Q3. What do you think are the biggest challenges in creating psychological safety?

Getting people, both leaders, mangers and team members, to see how increasingly important psychological safety is.