THE FOUR STAGES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY with Timothy Clark


Audio production by James Ede, Be Heard

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A lot has been said about cultivating a healthy culture and the characteristics it should have to drive performance. In a recent guest talk for the CultureBrained Community, our previous podcast guest, Kevin Oakes, has shared a long list of characteristics that his research identified: from being obsessed with delivering value to external customers, actively supporting diversity and inclusion, being highly collaborative, empowering employees, nurturing innovative thinking, etc.

And while these are all desirable cultural traits, there is one thing without which none of the above can come to life – psychological safety.

As a listener of the CultureLab podcast, I’m sure that you know what psychological safety is and are sold on its importance.

But here is the definition that my guest today, Timothy Clark, has given me during the interview:

Psychological safety is an environment of rewarded vulnerability.

I’ve never heard a definition that was pithier or rang truer for me than this one.

You might be wondering, though:

What does it mean in practice? What actions can I take to start cultivating psychological safety in your team?

And this is exactly the reason why I’m thrilled to have Timothy Clark on the show. He is my go-to person when I need actionable insights on how to create psychological safety in the workplace.

Tim is recognized as a global authority in the fields of senior executive development, strategy acceleration, and organizational change. He is also the author of five books, including The Four Stages of Psychological Safety, a wonderful, hands-on guide that shows us how we can build psychological safety in our teams and organizations. The members of the CultureBrained Community will have an opportunity to participate in a live, interactive session where we will do a deep dive on the dos and don’ts of building a psychologically safe company culture.

Episode Highlights

Here are some of the highlights from this interview:

  • Psychological safety as an environment or rewarded vulnerability.
  • The four stages of psychological safety: inclusion safety, learner safety, contribution safety, challenger safety.
  • Framing inclusion safety as a fundamental human right.
  • The best place to start building psychological safety.
  • Why jumping directly into behaviors rather than trying to change people’s mindset is the best approach to building psychological safety.
  • Modeling and rewarding acts of vulnerability as the best mechanism to cultivate a culture of psychological safety.

Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.


Audio production by James Ede, Be Heard

Listen on your favorite app
More about Timothy Clark

Tim is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor and is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tim ranks as a global authority in the fields of senior executive development, strategy acceleration, and organizational change. He is the author of five books:

Tim has written more than 150 articles on leadership, change, strategy, human capital, culture, and employee engagement in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company. He is a highly sought-after advisor, coach, and facilitator to CEOs and senior leadership teams. He has worked with leading organizations around the world.

Tim’s leadership experience is extensive. He was previously President and CEO of Decker, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, and CEO of Novations SDC, a consulting and training firm based in Boston. Prior to these assignments, Dr. Clark spent several years in manufacturing, serving as a vice president of operations and plant manager of Geneva Steel Company. He began his career as a survey research project director for what is now Harris Interactive in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Clark earned a doctorate degree in Social Science from Oxford University and was both a Fulbright and British Research Scholar. He also earned a master’s degree in Government and Economics from the University of Utah. As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, he was named a first-team Academic All-American football player where he completed a triple degree cum laude.

Books and resources mentioned in this episode

The Four Stages of Psychological Safety by Timothy Clark

Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M Steele

Additional resources

Leader Factor website

CultureBrained Community – a one-of-a-kind virtual community for Heads of People and Culture, founders, and leaders who want to up their culture game.

Scaleup’s Guide to Creating a Culture Playbook

Personal Core Values Discovery Guide

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