Anne Crarey: Why psychological safety is your agency’s secret weapon

I landed my first job in property management almost 25 years ago.

I remember walking through the doors of the real estate agency that morning so clearly.

I was wearing my three-piece, imitation Ally McBeal power suit, fresh from the Portman’s sale rack, and felt very nervous.

Guy Sebastian’s Angels Brought Me Here was playing for what was probably the 78th rendition that day on the office transistor radio.

My leader was warm and friendly and probably taught me most of what I know about property management.

Would I have given her feedback on her approach though?

Definitely not.

Would I have taken to time to share my experience as an 18-year-old joining the workforce for the first time?

Absolutely not! 

I didn’t feel it was my place to give my direct manager the benefit of my fresh set of eyes either, it didn’t even enter my mind to do so, but then, nor was my feedback requested.

The concept of providing someone in a position of authority with feedback felt alien back then.

Police officers, bank tellers, health professionals, teachers and yes, middle managers, traversed life mostly unchallenged. 

Nowadays, the concept of a psychologically safe workplace is very much at the forefront of our minds.

We recognise its impact on employee wellbeing, innovation and performance.

A psychologically safe workplace encourages open communication, trust, and mutual respect among team members, leaders, and peers.

When married with high performance standards it is a recipe for greater success.

To enjoy personal and professional growth, we need to foster an environment where feedback can readily be given and received. 

A psychologically safe workplace thrives where a culture encourages all individuals to feel secure in expressing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.

It needs to be free of the fear of retribution and can only occur when there is a foundation of respect and care. 

Constructive feedback helps our teams to be the best they can be and to grow and develop and improve our overall business performance.

For feedback to be effective, it must be specific, actionable, and focused on behaviours rather than personality traits.

Feedback needs to be delivered in real time.

Employees should be encouraged to offer both positive and constructive feedback to their peers and their leaders.

Leaders play a pivotal role in initiating the feedback loop.

We should lead by example and demonstrate our own openness to feedback, authentically receiving and rewarding those courageous enough to provide it.

By being open to input from our teams, we create an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute.

We can create fertile ground for feedback with regular catch ups, performance reviews, and even informal conversations.

When leaders value their team members’ perspectives, it boosts their collective morale and encourages collaboration.

Psychological safety should run in tandem with accountability and positive performance management.

If team members feel safe taking risks and making mistakes, accountability is nurtured rather than stifled.

We can emphasise learning from failure rather than assigning blame and this encourages a culture of ownership and resilience.

Performance management within a psychologically safe workplace focuses on growth rather than punishment. 

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is a progressive undertaking and requires meaningful effort and dedication.

An environment of trust, open communication, and accountability, unleashes the full potential of our teams.

The exchange of feedback with leaders, becomes a launching pad for growth, innovation, and overall success. 

In business, as in life, we must learn from our mistakes.

The great success of the Apollo 11 manned moon landing was made possible in large part by the tragic failure of Apollo 1.

NASA was forced to confront its culture of complacency towards risk and safety.

Great lessons are learned equally from failure as much as they are from success.

It was estimated that an extraordinary 300,000 people worked on the Apollo program.

By collectively accepting responsibility for the non-performance along the way, they were, in the end, able to move forward and execute one of mankind’s most incredible achievements.

Regardless of scale, leaders should never stop learning from their own mistakes as well as those of others.

On their final flight transmission, the Apollo 11 astronauts paid a humble tribute to everyone involved in the Apollo program.

Effective leadership is one that recognises that success is a combination of management vision and workforce commitment.

It is rarely one or the other, and almost never “just about me.”

If I were entering the workforce today rather than 25 years ago, I would do it differently.

I would accept the opportunity to receive and provide feedback on the understanding that feedback is actually a gift and overwhelmingly it is delivered with the best of intentions.

Ally McBeal is long gone and so are those polyester suits and transistor radios.

Portmans and Guy Sebastian are here to stay, and so is psychological safety. Embrace it.

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Anne Crarey

Anne Crarey is the Executive General Manager - Property Services at Little Real Estate.