Getting started with psychological safety

Everyone is talking about it, and everyone also wants to do something about it: psychological safety! A culture where all can speak freely about concerns, criticize, make mistakes (and own up to them!) and be open about insecurities.

Unsure of how to get started?

This new workshop helps you get going as a team. Your understanding of failure is expanded and you learn of the magic effect of Strong Questions. We also touch briefly on non-funny humor. The work takes its departure point in your everyday reality.

It takes about two hours, and you’ll leave the workshop with insights into where there is a need to improve psychological safety and ideas of how it can be done.

The work goes through plenary sessions, individual work and group work. It is active. constructive, fun, and hard.

Designed for all teams/groups of between 5 and approx 40 persons.

Most efficient with everone physically present.

In Danish or English.

Leader: show your values, not your emotions

Being vulnerable and bringing your whole personality to work is a development goal for many leaders. We want workplaces with a strong psychological safety: everyone should feel free to speak their mind. Otherwise the workplace loses its ability improve and innovate.

We need leaders that are human beings! As a leader you may therefore try to show your emotions more.

I believe that to be a misunderstanding

What you feel, is not just a reaction to the situation you are in here and now. Your emotional reactions are grounded far earlier, not just by everything you experience during your upbringing. We’ll have to go thousands of years back through evolution of the human race!

I’m a huge fan of getting to know your emotions. Getting really sharp at recognizing them when they wash over you, categorizing them and maybe even reflecting on their origin and functionality. The total number of emotions is debatable, but there are more than the 3 people usually mention first: angry, sad, happy.

As an example, there is difference between doubt and anxiety, Doubt arises when we are unsure of something new. We focus our attention on our preparations. Our breath is slow and shallow, and we hesitate. Anxiety is the conviction that something can hurt us. Anxiety arises in new as well as familiar circumstances, our breath is quick and shallow and we feel a clenching of the belly, shoulders and neck.

Recognizing and separating between own emotions is like knowing the names of the trees on a walk in the forest: a better experience. This does not necessarily mean acting upon the; they can be part of a survival pattern only relevant thousands of years ago.

That the leader also has feelings will come as no surprise (not to anyone, not to the staff). But emotion-laden reactions, however well-meant, can be perceived as self-centered and cringe, and can hereby increase the distance we wanted to reduce!

What makes sense is to act on your personal values. Values are a set of reflected guidelines, the essence of YOU. Don’t you know them very well, or not well enough to be able to use them actively? Spend some time with me and we’ll clarify them together.

From a former client: “Lone helped me define my personal life values – something I didn’t even realise was so important, but which now forever will define me and my actions. It gives me a sense of direction in life, and it gives me strength to be ME and be mindful of when my borders are crossed”.

Sessions are taking place at Dampfærgevej near Østerport Station. Contact me om hej@lonealler if you’re curious.

How to move on from here. Workshop with results

Every workplace has its own culture and atmosphere, built and continuously renewed by the actual people in the company. You clearly sense it when changing job: the workpace ”scent”, an sense for what is great or not so great. Sticking together, energy levels, management style, meeting culture. Absense due to sickness, resignations, stress, gossip. Collaboration issues and conflict. Etc, etc.

One thing is to have an unclear feel for well-being and culture. Another, to have a common language for the individual experience (what is a good balance between work and personal life? What is leadership?) A third, to actually decide: what will we do to secure workplace thriving?

You can measure the workplace environment (you must, it’s in the law 😊!) or a more detailed, thriving-oriented measurement like GAIS. When results are available, they’ll need interpretation and a plan must be developed. Eg this can happen:

  • Senior management decide what to do, and assign HR to implement. There is a risk of actual initiatives being perceived as irrelevant or less important than the “core mission”. Team leaders may not be fully mobilized and are not supportive. Staff see the project sink to the bottom of the agenda and cynicism spreads…..”we’ve heard that one before…”….
  • Or, work is delegated to the individual teams, and a long discussion begins. Problems may be understood differently. Individuals dominate the work. Representatives are feeling left out or used as rubber stamps. Initiatives are agreed per the ”least common denominator” principle.

A caricature, yes, definitely! But the balance between top-down and consensus is an extra hard nut to crack, when the topic is workplace thriving. It is a phenomenon so individually experienced, and still so collectively important, that an extra process step is relevant between measurement/observation and action plan: a Design Thinking workshop.

The workshop uses methods for structured articulation of all participants’ insight, eg by preventing individuals’ dominance in the group. Leverages timeboxed idea generation and is executed in accordance with a strict schedule, a total of approx. 2 hours. Works with relevant topics: measurement points or observations (sickness leave, meeting culture, energy levels after lockdown, introduction of new staff,..). Is scaleable from 4 to a very high number of participants (I have personal experience with up to 60). Best results when everyone is physically together.

Who joins? The leadership team, workplace environment team, a specific team. The workshop ALWAYS drives a documented result: what are the most important problems, and which initiatives are seen as most suitable and effective.  

Curious? Reach out to

Reflecting on 2022…….

I’ve had huge shifts in workload following lockdown, resulting in my one-person psychology business now having a more focused offering. Setting out as independent 3 years ago, I really wanted to engage in all kinds of projects – not anymore! Now: only leadership coaching (and only in small packages) and workshop facilitation (leveraging a fairly standardized set of tools). The trimming has created headroom to fine-tune, reflect and engage in a more committed way – in a sense, making things smaller has made the experience greater.

Warm thanks to the clients I have worked with in 2022, you have all taught me a lot and I hope I have contributed in a positive way to your business and personal growth.

Also, I stumbled across an opportunity in my home street in Copenhagen and opened Ulden, a small specialty yarn store, in May. This fulfils many objectives including a long-term dream: to work with my family. In the store, a small team of relatives – prominently, my son Jonathan – is delivering fantastic smiles, help and yarn to the Copenhagen knitters! Retail is new to me; fortunately, Jonathan has extensive training and real-life experience, limiting my damage 😊

Warm thanks also to the wonderful, patient, creative customers supporting this tiny shop.

The two activities complement each other perfectly. Business psychology is my primary work: intensive, growth-oriented, high-touch. Life in the store is fun, super-busy and creative. The balance is great. I’m feeling deeply thankful, happy, confident.  

Wishing everyone a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year. Yay, 2023!!

Workshop planning

A workshop to have a leadership team of approx. 60 people identify the most important challenge to employees’ job satisfaction (and agree how to deal with it in practice!), requires a strictly timed process and a LOT of post-it notes 😊, all suitably unwrapped by yours truly to free up participant’s time. Looking forward to an afternoon filled with energy!

I’m with her!!

Warning: this is personal!

Wondering what’s going on in this photo? It’s my daughter Emma wearing a PhD-hat, creatively constructed to her by co-workers at Department of Plant and Environmental Science, in celebration of her completing her thesis on epigenetics and heritable defense mechanisms in plants.

By her side Jonathan, my son and her older brother. On her arm Thea, her 1-year old daughter, the adorable youngest of my four grandchildren. As you can imagine, my joy was reaching spiritual levels.

Not only for Emma’s academic achievement, which in itself is truly important, a milestone in her career and a significant contribution to science.

But for the work ethic and style of her as well as her brother: building a family and a home, raising 4 kids in total with amazing results (no, I’m not biased at all 😊) AND achieving personal growth, pursuing ambition and dreams, balancing Covid (argh!) and even – in Jonathans case – dealing with a nasty accident. They both have careers in industries known to consume every waking hour, science and retail; but they know their values and what’s important in life. This is the greatest achievement.

An aside: I was a 21-year old mother, and negative comments were frequent, acidy and unhelpful, attempting one thing only: to drive shame. You couldn’t imagine the crap I had to take, primarily from elder women. I only met Madeleine Albright later in life, but at the time I could have used her quote about the place in hell reserved for women not helping other women!

When the PhD-hat (with unspoken functionality, but it has a handle on one side?) was awarded to Emma yesterday my heart was singing – about everything, really! The choices I made, all the various coincidences, paths followed and not followed; here we are, and I am proud of my kids and HAPPY about life.

2022, out for you!!

Job satisfaction ownership

Who is responsible for a healthy and stimulating environment at work? When it comes to stress prevention, I have met a common misconception: that this is a “joint” responsibility.

Well, you could argue that anything going on in a business is a joint responsibility, including making products and taking them to market. But if you’re looking to improve – or even transform – the psychological working environment, you need to take a closer look on accountability and structure.

Otherwise – it won’t happen.

In a recent stress prevention client project, this split of responsibility has been developed (with inspiration from and credit to materials made available by Velliv):

Clarifying accountability is key for all projects, also projects addressing human factors. Don’t settle for “joint”.

Job satisfaction – precisely!

A lot of people will tell you that they can only describe three emotions: happiness, sadness, anger. This can make it hard to understand and explain what you need – hence difficult to act or help.

This also applies in the workplace: when you talk about job satisfaction, there is not necessarily a common understanding of what is meant.

Some will find job satisfaction to be about being happy every day, having good colleagues and a nice, appreciative boss. Others think it’s about having a super-ambitious goal and a killer team working towards it. Others appreciate about the security from having a steady job, enabling the pursuit of dreams on your personal time.

This is all true for the individual, but how should a workplace and a leader act in a universe this rich and varied in understanding?

I frequently see initiatives to strengthen job satisfaction, where the intention is good but the mark is missed completely. A few examples:

  • Development of a common ”team charter”; this is a great tool if collaboration is faltering, but won’t help if the boss is a tyrant.
  • Subsidicing fitness memberships and providing fruit baskets in the office may be masked as initiatives to strengthen job satisfaction. In essence, these are hygiene factors, only contributing negatively if they are absent.
  • Christmas parties and other social gatherings, where the idea is to get to know each other better across departments. May lead to huge frustrations and brand new crisis, especially if there is alcohol involved.
  • Frequent 1:1 meetings. Great if you’re a new leader wanting to connect with your team, but won’t fix the absence of vision and strategy.

To be able to address job satisfaction constructively, we need knowledge and a common language.  You don’t have to settle for ”anything goes”. I was recently certified in the platform GAIS, based on ”General Job Satisfaction Index” measured by statistics professionals since 2015. (This is not a commercial, I have no relationship to GAIS, am not a member of Krifa and paid for the education myself).

When you look at a large enough pool of numbers, you’ll begin to see patterns. And when you apply a health-focus (rather than the typical APV-sickness focus) you will have interesting results. GAIS identified 7 factors which impact job satisfaction: meaning, influence, mastery, achievements, leadership, colleagues and balance. The factors have varying impact on job satisfaction, and their weighting will shift over time.

GAIS can be used at no cost, also by businesses (you can see examples here  of regular business clients).

When your satisfaction is measured according to 7 welldefined and benchmarked factors, you get a temperature for each (how are ”we” doing compared to ”others”). But even more importantly, you develop a common language for something that can otherwise be fluffy, and as a leader you are enabled to target the real problems rather than shooting generic initiatives into your team.

Reach out if you want to hear more, or check them out yourself directly.

Diversity, disagreement, courage

Margaret Heffernan, UK scientist and entrepreneur, Professor of Practice at the University of Bath School of Management, is the author of a string of books on effective leadership and the release of hidden or unused talent.

She is featured in this TED Talk about the importance of having diverse ways of thinking; how even freely available information will be of no use unless someone has the courage to fight for it.  And how we need to resist our neurological wiring, driving us to seek companionship with people sharing our world views, rather than actively seek diversity.

Global connectivity and sharing of information are only the beginning. We need the courage to start conflict and disagree, challenge conventional wisdom, and speak up for real change to happen. This is true in politics as well as in business.

A culture where opinions can be shared freely and conflicts addressed without fear of interpersonal retaliation, is a key precondition for psychological safety.

The talk is less than 13 minutes; and it’s great!