Psychological safety: the global challenge

Daniel Chain 2

Creating psychological safety in teams is a challenge in itself, but doing it on a global level brings a whole new layer of complexity to the issue – one which Daniel Chan, global workplace & wellbeing lead at creative network dentsu international, will speak about at The Watercooler Event in his panel session on the topic.

He brings a unique perspective to the debate, given he comes from a clinical nursing background and his focus is always on evidence based solutions (for more on this topic, see here). The fact that he’s worked in wellbeing roles in Asia and for different industries from transport to finance, too, also gives him a broad insight.  

We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out more…

What do you think your background brings to this topic of creating a culture of psychological safety?

I really understand the importance of mental health and I bring a different dynamic to the business; I not only understand preventative health, but also acute and chronic healthcare and how these are all intertwined.

Why did you make the shift from practicing to doing this role?

I realised exactly how I could use my health knowledge to support and make a difference to a business. When I started out, it was predominantly health promotion and giving advice around chronic diseases and stress management, increasingly moving towards wellness, which is where my passion really lies.

What do you think your deepened understanding, and that clinical base, brings when you go into a corporate setting and you’re trying to cultivate psychological safety?

It brings a different perspective, in terms of the language I’m using and my approach.

Coming from a clinical background, I use a lot of evidence-based research and analyse what is, and what is not, working in the industry. We see stress and burnout in all industries, for example, but there are differences in how the industry deals with it from the financial to the creative sector.

Yes, and you’ve worked in both. What kind of differences do you see?

I’m generalising, but in the finance sector, for instance, many of the personalities are type A, so very driven, which is coupled with highly stressful environments, such as working on the trading floor.. So, again, it’s about adapting the language and approach you use.

You’ve also worked in Asia – how was that different from a wellbeing perspective?

Yes. Especially around the language you use because there is still a big stigma around mental health. When you say ‘mental health’ people do shy away from it, so it’s about looking at ways you can change your narrative around it. For instance, instead of calling a programme ‘stress management’ we called it ‘lifestyle management’, using softer language.

What have you learnt in the creative industry?

It’s about empowering the markets more than anything else. Obviously different markets have different cultural nuances, so we create a framework, but we encourage them to adapt it to support their own needs. It’s about trying to be more human around the things we are trying to do.

What about fostering psychological safety with regards to innovation and collaboration?

Like many companies, we’re using digital platforms more than ever which is great – because we can speak to our colleagues across the globe – and we’re focusing on how we can use tech to build communities and foster better collaboration. To do this people need to feel psychologically safe by being able to be open and really express their needs. We’re using a combination of virtual learning and upskilling our managers in terms of understanding what psychological safety actually is, but also how to build a psychologically safe team.

Do you think managers should have KPIs for creating psychological safety in teams?

We put a lot of pressure on managers, so we have to be careful not to overwhelm them.

For me, it’s not about going straight to putting KPIs on the manager – first, we need to ask does that manager have the capability and understanding around psychological safety that is needed? If you put KPIs in without adequate support and resources then the KPIs are never going to be met.

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To meet Daniel in person, and contribute to the conversation come along to our sister event the Watercooler on April 25th and 26th, 2023. 

Daniel is taking part in a panel discussion, alongside Save the Children’s Lucy Vallis (who is profiled her), talking about creating a culture of psychological safety.

The Watercooler, named in recognition of those crucial moments of connection between employees, is a free to attend conference and exhibition which demonstrates that wellbeing IS the future of work. For themes that were ‘hot topics’ at last year’s event, like line manager wellbeing, see this article.

Taking place at Excel London, The Watercooler event is where you can gather to join ideas together, make connections, learn from peers’ experiences and find the right solutions for your organisation – whatever its size and shape.

For reasons why this is a must-attend event for anyone interested in workplace wellbeing, see this article here

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