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  • Writer's pictureKaty Craig

The Four Stages Framework Part 4: Challenger Safety

Effective leaders understand that the greatest asset to a successful workplace is an empowered, engaged and productive team. However, creating an atmosphere of psychological safety is a key factor in motivating employees to take risks, use their creativity, and challenge the status quo, which leads to increased performance and productivity. This post provides actionable advice on how leaders can foster an environment where team members feel comfortable speaking up, expressing their ideas, and challenging popular opinion without fear of judgment or retribution.



Challenger Safety


In the previous stages of the Four Stages Framework, we have discussed the importance of creating a culture of curiosity, psychological safety, and experimentation. In this final stage, we will focus on Challenger Safety.

The goal of Challenger Safety is to create an environment where challengers can feel safe to speak up and share their ideas without fear of judgement or retribution. This requires leaders to provide psychological safety for their team members. Here are some steps that leaders can take to create a safe environment for challengers:


  1. Encourage open dialogue: Leaders should encourage their team members to share their thoughts and ideas openly. This can be done by setting aside time for team meetings, one-on-one conversations, or even informal discussions. By creating an atmosphere of openness, leaders can foster trust and respect within the team.

  2. Create a culture of trust: Trust is a key component of psychological safety. Leaders should take steps to build trust with their team members. This can be done by being transparent about decision-making processes, acknowledging mistakes, and following through on commitments.

  3. Protect confidentiality: It is important for team members to feel that their conversations are confidential. Leaders should make it clear that what is said in team meetings stays in team meetings. This will help team members feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

  4. Ensure everyone’s voice is heard: All team members should feel comfortable expressing their opinions and challenging the status quo. Leaders should ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and that ideas are evaluated based on their merit, not based on who proposed them.

  5. Listen to feedback: Leaders should take the time to listen to feedback from team members and address any concerns or issues that arise. By creating an environment of trust and respect, leaders can ensure that their teams are operating in a safe and productive manner.

  6. Respond constructively to disruptive ideas and bad news: Your positive emotional response to disruptive ideas and bad news is a clear signal that you have a high tolerance for candor and will protect your people in their right to dissent.

  7. Weigh in last: Speaking first softly censors your team when you hold positional power. Listen carefully, acknowledge contributions of others, then register your point of view.

  8. Display no pride of authorship: Make it clear your ideas are no better or worse than any others on the team. Consciously welcome criticism of your ideas.

  9. Reward shots on goal: Innovation is the implementation of creativity so it requires many attempts to challenge status quo. Reward the team with enthusiasm and support when they attempt to challenge status quo.

  10. Mandate a no-interruption rule: As the leader, model and mandate a respectful and collaborative non-interruption rule in group discussions. This will empower team members with the respect and permission needed to challenge the status quo.

Following these steps will help create an environment where challengers can feel safe to share their ideas and challenge the status quo without fear of judgment or retribution. This will result in increased productivity and performance for the entire team. Successful leaders must create a culture of curiosity, psychological safety, and experimentation. This is done by fostering a sense of openness and collaboration within the team. Creating an environment of psychological safety requires leaders to take steps to ensure that all team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, challenging popular opinion, and taking risks without fear of judgment or retribution.

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