Take a cue from Oprah’s teacher with ‘learner safety’

Series takes you through the four stages of Psychological Safety; Step 2 defines learner safety.

Every 26 seconds a high school student drops out in the U.S., and it isn’t because they can’t do the work.

It’s more about emotions than ability. When people don’t feel the support they need in the learning process – they give up.

And when they do feel nurtured, the possibilities are endless. Take Oprah. She became so emotional in this video when her favorite teacher visited her show. She credits Ms. Dunkin, her 4th grade teacher, for building her confidence; allowing her the ability to develop her potential. Oprah truly experienced learner’s safety.

Ms. Dunkin got it right – this is what learner safety leaders do and here’s how you can become one.

  1. Mistakes are good. Failure can be frightening, and as a leader, you can take the sting out of it.  Own up to the mistakes you’ve made and celebrate failures as learnings – in front of your team. Regularly ask employees what they’ve done that didn’t work out as expected and what they learned from those experiences. This will help team members recognize they won’t be punished for mistakes and feel more comfortable taking risks and speaking up.
  1. Ask for help. Employees must see you do this. Vulnerability builds bridges.
  2. Invite everyone to teach. It is one thing to learn – but teaching accelerates learning. Practicing this will take learners’ safety to a totally different level.

When learners feel safe, teams are more productive and engaged – leading to better performance.

Next month, we’ll dive into step 3 of psychological safety, “Safe to Contribute.” Read the kickoff article for more information.

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