How to cultivate psychological safety

How do you build & cultivate psychological safety in a team? 

This is not an easy task and it will not be done overnight.
However, there are many things we can do to cultivate & build psychological safety.

In this post we’ll address the 4 top things you can do today!  

  1. As leaders, we need to be forthcoming about the challenges we face and be able to address them with employees openly.

    This allows us to be able to explain the challenges and encourage our employees to keep up the good work and push through it. A common understanding of the challenges we face will also open up for other great ideas. Remember, there is a reason you have the people you have in your organization. They are intelligent and full of great ideas!

  2. Active listening:
    Listening with intent and presence is important for leaders and team members alike.

    Listening with intent means that you focus on the person who is conveying the message, not on your response or reaction. You are curious and genuine in your approach. This is return will create and cultivate trust and psychological safety.

    Working on practicing active listening and continuously work on these skills is not a one-time thing, rather in it continuous and has to be practiced frequently.

    If you want to learn more about the art of active listening join our masterclass on enterprise agility.
  3. Next, we must acknowledge and talk about mistakes:
    If a mistake is made, acknowledge it, and talk about it openly, but remember to do so without focusing on the person who made the error or blaming them. When we experience failure we need to focus on the problem and process, and what went wrong. Rather than blaming people. Blaming people will not lead to anything good, instead, it will lead to an unsafe environment and employees.

    If you as a leader make a mistake, talk about it, make it human. By leading by example you will establish that same practice among your team.

    Instead of considering mistakes as something negative, work on turning this into a learning opportunity & experience. Without the mistake, you, your teams, and organization would never have had that exact opportunity to learn!
    Recognize their value as opportunities to learn and build upon.

  4. Lastly, encourage curiosity, encourage curiosity in the organization at all levels.

    Be genuinely curious about your people, who are they, what are their passions and interests?
    Creating a culture of curiosity will also in return not only spark a culture where coming up with new ideas are safe but also expected. It will spark innovation among your organization and excitement among your customers.

Want to learn more about enterprise agility?
Check out our course to learn more?

Psychological Safety

Do you wonder what makes the ideal high performing team? 

To many people’s surprise, what we’ve come to learn is that it that a teams collective intelligence is not correlated with the sum of its member’s individual intelligence. 

Collective intelligence is made up of three different elements: 

  • The first of these elements is social perceptiveness or social awareness:
    This is how perceptive or aware we are about other people and understanding why they behave and react the way they do. 
  • The second element is equality in conversational turn-taking:
    This is what we know as psychological safety. Equality in conversational turn-taking is ensuring that everyone is heard and has time to speak and that this time is shared equally. Also, it is essential that all members of the team feel like and experience they can voice their opinion and communicate their ideas without fear of judgment. 
  • The final element is gender diversity: 
    This is having equality in the ratio between genders. 

We also know psychological safety is important for team performance based on Google’s research study “Project Aristotle”. Google conducted this study to determine what makes up an effective team at Google. 

They spent 2 years observing 180 teams of 37.000 employees. What they learned from their study was that psychological safety was the most important thing needed to create high performing teams. 

Want to learn more about enterprise agility?
Check out our course to learn more?

But what is psychological safety exactly? 

Psychological safety allows teams to learn, grow, and perform, which is why it is critical for us to understand.

There is a great misconception that psychological safety is simply about being in your comfort zone, but it has nothing to do with being at home in your favorite spot on the couch with your favorite snack while talking to colleagues.

Instead, it’s a place where you have a strong sense of safety but also high-performance standards.

If you have low psychological safety and low-performance standards you end up with people who are mostly apathetic to their work. They end up in the apathy zone. If performance standards are increased many then think that people will be motivated to work harder. However, if you have low psychological safety coupled with high-performance standards this leads to anxiety. This is where people experience high amounts of stress.

However, if you have high psychological safety but low-performance standards the result will be that people enter into a comfort zone where the employee is comfortable but has low productivity because little is expected of them. Neither this is a place where people tend to be happy.

What you do want for your employees is for them to be in their learning zone; this is where employees experience high psychological comfort and high-performance standards. People tend to do better and be more productive when more is expected of them and they thrive in this learning zone.

So what we know about psychological safety is that it’s not about being comfortable, it’s about creating space for the behaviors that are necessary for complex, uncertain, and interdependent work, which is most modern work environments. 

We also know psychological safety exists at group level, which means it can be different from one team to another, even within the same organization.

This level of variation is why it is important to stay focused on cultivating psychological safety within each team. 

Lastly, we know that high psychological safety creates an environment that encourages learning behavior, and allows for people to be more creative in their work. People also have a higher tendency to report errors because they have less fear of reporting. And, of course, with more error reporting comes more opportunity for growth, learning, and quality improvements in implementation.

But how do we build this safe space for our employees? If you want to learn more about this check out our course.

Check out our course on enterprise agility to learn more?