Building Psychological Safety? Think about a Rose and Thorn Moment.


Over the years I have done a lot of work with teams and it’s the one part of my practice that I love. It is privileged work to spend time with a group of people to help them make progress on change that matters to them and the organisation.
A key part of the work is helping the team around psychological safety.

Psychological Safety

There are a number of definitions of psychological safety but at its essence it is the willingness to take an interpersonal risk whether that be to express a relevant thought or opinion, raise a different perspective, call out an elephant in the room or to challenge the status quo. We know from the research that high levels of psychological safety lead to greater team effectiveness and innovation.

The role of the leader of the team is important here and particularly in setting the tone for team meetings. On a recent podcast I was reminded of a beautiful metaphor that can help teams get in the spirit of psychological safety and one that I use with teams albeit under another name. That metaphor is Rose and Thorn. Often a team is unwilling to discuss things that are perceived to be negative or disruptive because the tone of the meeting is one of positivity. There is nothing wrong with positivity but it can lead poor outcomes if people are leaving things on the table and not willing to discuss the real issues.

Start your meeting with a Rose and Thorn moment

So one thing you can do is start your meetings with a Rose and Thorn moment. A Rose moment is where each person shares something that is energising them at the moment. A Thorn moment is where each individual shares what is troubling them at the moment or what is sapping their energy or what might be frustrating them. Sharing both is important and should always be kicked off by the leader to set the scene and tone of the responses. The reason for sharing the Thorn is to say that ‘’mess’ is ok, that our professional life is not just roses but it contains challenges, frustrations and difficulties. What is lovely about sharing this is that it heightens psychological safety as well as empathy and belonging. A team that focuses purely on the positive may end up creating an environment where people are afraid to talk about the negative or the ‘mess’. By including a focus on people’s Thorn it can encourage people to open up about mistakes and debate undiscussables, failures and challenges. It gets people out of their comfort zone and into what I call the productive zone which is where the real work is done.

So if you lead a team or simply wanting to increase psychological safety simply start a meeting with a Rose and Thorn moment.

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