Back in 2009, one of the SaaS solutions that my company used declared bankruptcy and gave us 90 days to get off their platform. It meant setting up an internal platform and moving about 1,000 drop ship vendor connections…a close to impossible task. We got our heads together and came up with an accelerated plan using Scrum (pioneering Scrum in that company…but that is another story) to allow us to get to a minimal solution quickly.
My VP was very passionate about supporting our business partners through this. He used to use phrases like “Failure is not an option” and “we need to get it right the first time”. The effect of his presence was to shut down any risk conversations and the general fear that people would get fired if we failed. I remember those as some of my worst days of my corporate career.
That was the time I started thinking about what a safe environment could do to get the best from a team vs what we had.
It is an established fact that the ability to innovate and adapt is crucial for organizational success. As leaders, our primary role is to empower our teams to embrace challenges, think creatively, and collaborate effectively. This is where psychological safety comes into play.
What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety is the mental state of the team where everyone believes that it is safe to take risks, express thoughts and ideas, and admit mistakes without fear of negative consequences. It is the cornerstone of high-performing teams, allowing members to learn, grow, and contribute at their best.
Why does it Matter?
- Fosters Innovation and Creativity : When people feel safe to share their ideas without fear of ridicule or rejection, they are more likely to propose novel solutions to problems rather than being an echo chamber of accepted ideas. This environment of openness and exploration is a breeding ground for innovation. Google’s project Aristotle found that “Psychological Safety” was one of the 5 dynamics that separate successful teams from the rest
- Improves Collaboration and Communication : Psychologically safe teams foster open and honest communication. Team members listen to each other’s perspectives, engage in constructive debates, and collaborate effectively. This atmosphere builds trust and strengthens relationships, enabling teams to work together and achieve better results.
- Boosts Employee Engagement and Retention : Employees who feel valued and secure in their work environment are more likely to be engaged and committed to their organizations. They are less likely to experience stress, burnout or look for opportunities elsewhere, reducing turnover and associated costs.
- Accelerates Learning and Growth : In a psychologically safe environment, employees feel comfortable admitting mistakes and asking for help. This creates a culture of learning and continuous improvement. A study by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson explores the connection between psychological safety and learning behavior.
How do we go about doing that?
Here are some practical steps to help you get started:
- Know Yourself : Have good insight into your own psychological makeup. Do you feel secure expressing yourself or taking calculated risks? If you don’t feel safe, it is unlikely you can provide that for your team. Introspection about your own mental make up is great place to start.
- Lead by Example : Demonstrate vulnerability by admitting your own mistakes and asking for feedback. This will signal to your team that it is okay to be imperfect and encourage them to be open about their own challenges.
- Build Resilience : Build internal resilience so that the stress of your role is not passed onto your team. One of the most common reasons for lack of psychological safety within teams is the pressure that is being put on their leader. Practices like meditation and mindfulness help build centeredness and allow leaders to manage their stress and therefore their team’s.
- Provide Constructive Feedback : Offer feedback that focuses on the task, not the person, and provide guidance on how to improve. This approach promotes learning and growth without undermining individual self-confidence. Establishing a culture where mutual feedback is sought and valued is critical to psychological safety.
- Celebrate Wins and Failures : Recognize and celebrate team successes while also acknowledging failures as valuable opportunities to learn and grow. For example a failed proof of concept needs to get the same level of attention and accolades as a successful one. This balanced approach helps create a culture of taking risks and learning from them.
As leaders, we must recognize the importance of psychological safety and prioritize it within our teams. By fostering a culture of trust, openness, and continuous learning, we lay the groundwork for high performing teams and engaged team members.
This article is a repost from Author’s Linked Article. Link Here