We’ve been talking a lot about Psychological Safety here in the Ziksana office. We were reflecting back on previous teams we’ve worked on and one story in particular popped up.
Our colleague described a team meeting where his manager was sharing an update on role changes within the organization and certain key players would start doing different jobs.
There was no context around the new roles, how the transition was going to work, and if they would stop their current project. So his team asked for clarity. His manager said; “I’m not sure. I just need you to do what I’m asking.”
This left the room feeling tense and no one asked any more questions. He felt that if he spoke up anymore regarding the situation he would be judged and potentially reprimanded for even probing the decision.
He no longer felt psychologically safe to be himself, share his concerns, or ask his questions.
What is Psychological Safety?
The term psychological safety is essentially, “a climate in which people are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves.” And in 1999 Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmonson wrote, “psychological safety is a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.”
When a team doesn’t have Psychological Safety there are some negative consequences, which include:
- Low levels of trust
- Fewer problems are addressed
- Members don’t speak up
- Fewer risks are taken
- Less creativity and innovation
- Strategic thinking is handicapped
Google studied 180 teams in two years and found that Psychological Safety was the most important group dynamic. The teams that had high levels of Psychological Safety were able to better leverage each other’s ideas, brought in more revenue, and were rated as effective twice as often by leadership.
Creating Psychological Safety within your team
Going back to our story, our colleague didn’t want himself or the team to continue to feel this tension and lack of safety.
He organized his and his team’s questions and concerns and presented them to leadership in a structured document He shared that they weren’t feeling like their concerns were being heard.
He reported that it felt risky and that he was taking a risk that was not encouraged and one thing he did was to state that we didn’t need a response right away, but that over time his team will need them to keep their motivation high. Thankfully, because of his efforts, leadership opened the door for more dialogue. His team was able to open up, ask more questions, and hence started to create more psychological safety.
At Ziksana, we want to ensure teams learn how to improve Psychological Safety and build trust amongst each other in order for performance to improve. Here is where you can start:
- Share & discuss research around psychological safety
- Get your team on the same page. Make sure everyone understands the definition and concept of psychological safety.
- Use a diagnostic tool or survey
- Measure the amount of psychological safety within your team. Assess team strengths and improvement areas. Be sure your team results from the survey or diagnostic remain anonymous. Need a diagnostic? Find out how to use ours.
- Outline behaviors to ‘start doing’
- As a group, come up with a list of positive team behaviors to embody. Decide on what observable behaviors everyone can start doing in the day-to-day to help build safety. Determine the behaviors your team may already be doing and should keep doing.
Remember that Psychological Safety is not something to just cognitively understand. You want your team to feel comfortable and safe to share issues and challenges with people and teams so that teams are giving their best.
If you are having open and honest conversations people will likely feel more psychologically safe, which will lead to more productivity and happiness in the long run.
Do you need help improving psychological safety within your team? Learn how we can help.
Feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts.