A work culture with fresh new ideas that takes a team or organization to the next level is a dream come true for most leaders.

As a leader, you play an important role in creating and maintaining this culture.

A woman saying,

How do you encourage your team to pursue their ideas as a leader?

Is it safe?

Contributing or sharing ideas can be a daunting or scary task for team members. This can be for different reasons but the most common one is psychological safety.

As a leader, it's important to recognize this before encouraging the team to pursue their ideas. A woman in an office saying

Leadership consultant Timothy Clark defines psychological in 4 stages:

[Psycholigical safety is] a condition in which you feel:

  1. included,

  2. safe to learn,

  3. safe to contribute, and

  4. safe to challenge the status quo

— all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.

Whether the team is new or old, or you're new to the team, the first question to ask and possibly solve is: "Is it a psychologically safe environment for a team member to share ideas they want to pursue?"

Build a safe haven

A painted smiley face on a road with the words “stay safe” stencilled under it. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Psychological safety is not a one-time occurrence. It's an ongoing process that requires dedication from the whole team.

Here are some tips to maintain a psychologically safe environment for the team:

  1. Actively listen and confirm

"So, if I understand correctly, you're suggesting [their idea]. Would you like to elaborate further?"

This highlights both confirming your understanding and encouraging them to add details.

  1. Explicitly define and practice trust

Develop a team behavior expectations document which the whole team signs in agreement.

But this isn't a one-time thing! Revisit this document and quote it regularly.

Flaticon Icon Here are some common trust-building statements a leader can make:

  • “We value all ideas, regardless of experience or position.”

  • “There are no bad ideas. Let's explore all possibilities before making a decision.”

  • “When an idea is adopted, let's acknowledge the person who brought it forward."

  • “Let’s have a healthy debate and celebrate both successful and unsuccessful ideas.”

  • “Remember to always focus on the merits of an idea, rather than the person delivering the idea.”

Leaders should remember to not only say this, but mean it too.

  1. Be patient with the 4 stages

Remember that psychological safety builds in stages: from feeling included, to being comfortable learning and making mistakes, then freely contributing ideas, and finally reaching a point where challenging the status quo feels safe.

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Patience with different team members will look different. For example:

  • Dominant team members: Redirect attention by encouraging others to contribute with "Mary, what are your thoughts?" and highlight diverse perspectives.

  • Shy team members: Avoid pressuring them to speak up. Offer them alternative ways to participate (chat, email) and celebrate small steps like asking clarifying questions.

  • Aggressive team members: Acknowledge their passion, and say "Let's hear what others think."

  • Unprepared team members: Offer them time extensions or pre-meeting materials to gather thoughts, and suggest brainstorming sessions beforehand.

Recognize ideas

It's great that your team now works in a psychologically safe environment!

However, as a leader, do you know how to identify when someone is sharing an idea?

A wooden panel with Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

"I have an idea!" isn't a phrase everyone will say when they have an idea. This can be due to different personalities or language barriers.

Here are some cues to show that someone may have an idea:

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1. Facial expression

A raised eyebrow or a thoughtful expression might suggest they're thinking of an idea.

2. Body language

An open posture, making eye contact, and using hand gestures (raising a hand) can signal that someone has something to contribute.

3. Sharing resources

If a team member starts sharing articles, data, or other relevant materials, it could be to support a new idea they're forming.

4. Asking for clarity

If someone seems interested in understanding a specific aspect of a task or problem, they might want to share an idea.

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You're presenting a new software in a meeting. A teammate raises an eyebrow at the end of your presentation. What should you do? Select all that apply:

Support, support, and more support

A spin class instructor cycling and saying,

Being supportive as a leader and feeling supported as a team member are possibly two separate things. As a leader, it is vital to understand that different team members will feel supported in different ways.

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It may take a while before team members feel supported. Consistently showing that you want to be supportive will encourage team members to not only share their ideas but also share what kind of support they need.

Here are some ideas that you can try to be supportive:

  • Remember ideas and bring them up at relevant times during touch points

  • Share interesting resources that will contribute to growing the idea

  • Regularly check in or follow up on the progress of the idea

  • Provide constructive feedback or refer people to experts who can provide this

  • Sponsor, mentor, or arrange exposure opportunities

  • Celebrate good results and milestones of ideas that have been implemented

Find out what feeling supported for each team member means.


Your sales associate had a great idea for a new sales technique but they're having trouble getting other teammates to adopt the technique. How can you support the associate? Select all that apply:

Take Action

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It's time to help your team pursue their ideas by exploring these resources below:


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