Brave spaces are an evolution of a pretty well known idea. You have probably heard managers and leaders using the phrase ‘This is a safe space’. What that generally means is that individuals can feel protected and safe from harm and that what they say will be treated as confidential. This has been seen as an essential component of a workplace in order to discuss sensitive issues and grow together.
However, genuine safety is not conducive to growth. This is because the safest course of action in any environment is not to take a risk. Sharing difficult feedback, a controversial opinion or a new idea is a form of risk which can leave people feeling unsafe for fear of ridicule, criticism or job insecurity. Safety isn’t quite what workplaces need.
Recognising this led to a new terminology; Brave Spaces.
A brave space is a place where individuals are encouraged to share their opinions and experiences, even if they are challenging or uncomfortable. Brave spaces promote open dialogue, challenge assumptions and foster growth, making them a valuable asset in the workplace.
There are a number of business and relational benefits to brave spaces in the workplace:
If you want to get a real sense for what it means to work in a brave space, look no further than this poem by Micky ScottBey Jones
Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know,
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our brave space together,
We will work in it side by side….
Incidentally, sharing this poem with your team can be an excellent talking point for what a brave space looks like, is for and to get their opinions on how it feels.
The key features of a brave space are:
Leaders and managers play a crucial role in cultivating brave spaces in the workplace. Here are some steps they can take to create and maintain brave spaces:
Model the behaviour – Leaders and managers should demonstrate the behaviour they want to encourage. This may include active listening, respect for diverse opinions, taking turns speaking and being willing to challenge and be challenged. Leaders who do not model these behaviours themselves may undermine brave spaces as participants sense hypocrisy.
Establish clear guidelines – Brave spaces may seem quite a new concept for teams and so it is important to help the group create a shared understanding of what to expect and how to behave. Leaders can facilitate ‘ground rules’ discussions to help groups agree on processes which help the conversations remain productive and respectful. This may include deciding how to manage time, challenge appropriately and signal when someone wants to speak.
Encourage active listening – Encourage employees to actively listen to each other and respect each other’s experiences and perspectives. Ensure nothing else is vying for people’s attention, model active listening and perhaps even invest in active listening training for your team.
Cultivate a culture of trust – Being brave requires a certain amount of vulnerability and therefore trust in both the process and the leader. Leaders and managers should work to create a culture of trust across the workplace by being transparent, accountable, reliable, empathetic and showing integrity.
Promote belonging – Encourage employees to celebrate and embrace the diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of all individuals in the group in order to help everyone feel like they belong.
Encourage constructive feedback – Invite people to give and receive feedback in a constructive and respectful manner. It may be helpful to model how to give feedback and refer back to any guidelines before giving feedback to help it be non-judgemental, purposeful, positively framed and constructive.
Provide training and resources – Offer training and resources to help employees understand the importance of brave spaces, how to participate effectively and how to facilitate the space so that group members can have more ownership of the spaces.
Brave spaces play an important role in promoting open dialogue, fostering inclusivity, and creating a more positive work environment. By encouraging employees to share their experiences and perspectives in a constructive way, brave spaces help break down barriers, promote growth and understanding, and create a more productive and innovative workplace.
If you want support in embedding brave spaces in your workplace then get in touch. The Self Leadership Initiative provides facilitation services, training and coaching to help leaders empower their teams.