Leaders need to lead by example with intellectual humility and own that they can be wrong and don’t have all the answers. They have to be open to changing their mind, admitting when they do, and sharing stories of learning. Adopting the habit of consistently reinforcing that it’s okay to be wrong can be powerful for teams.
Using the “yes, and . . .” philosophy of improv comedy is also a helpful approach. In improv, when a group makes up a story, someone will say something like, “Look, it’s an alien.” The job of the team is not to say, “No, it’s not an alien, it’s a dog.” It’s to say, “Yes, and the alien looks like your dog.” The philosophy is to build on and twist the ideas of others rather than shutting them down. Listening to ideas and finding something in them reinforces the notion that even an idea that isn’t used is helpful to consider. That creates a culture where ideas are heard and valued.
Taking micro opportunities to include people and help them feel they belong sets a safe stage, too. For example, talking with a team member you’re friends with while the rest of your team is there sets up safety for that one person to speak their mind. But the other people might feel more like outsiders. Micro actions, like regularly meeting one-on-one, makes sure everyone feels like they’re on equal terms to share their thoughts.