Building Psychological Safety Within Your Team
While psychological safety may sound to some like a new, emotional term, it’s an essential element of team success.
The concept of psychological safety in the workplace was identified two decades ago by Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor, who defined it as:
The belief that one will not be punished or embarrassed for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.
Since that time, she and other researchers have found that psychological safety is a key factor in high-performing teams. And, when it comes to problem solving, the most effective teams have been shown to share two common traits: cognitive diversity and psychological safety.
It’s not always easy to create psychological safety within a group or a company at large. I’m sure you can recall a time in a previous role where you may have felt nervous to admit to a mistake or worried that it would not be well received if you critiqued or questioned a colleague’s idea.
If you want your team to succeed, however, you need to foster an environment where everyone feels that it’s okay to take a risk and that they are encouraged to share that potentially unpopular thought.
How can you create psychological safety in your company?
As a starting point, I recommend building psychological safety within your own team or department. As you work together, make it clear that you want to hear input from everyone and that you embrace all Emergenetics® Thinking and Behavioural Attributes, so you start to build an environment where team members feel invited to share agreement, hesitation or other ideas.
From the Analytical Attribute:
Let your team know that they are free to ask questions during meetings and conversations. When you are sharing information, try to be as accurate as possible and share your data sources to help those with an Analytical preference feel comfortable.
From the Structural preference:
Provide clear expectations for the group and set realistic objectives and commitments. Encourage team members to speak up if they feel something isn’t attainable in the timeframe that has been laid out or if they are concerned about the process.
From the Social perspective:
Let team members know that their opinions and thoughts are valued and demonstrate your interest in their wellbeing by asking about their lives. I also recommend sharing that their statements will be kept in confidence if that is what they wish.
From the Conceptual Attribute:
Connect your conversations back to the big picture and the vision for the group. Encourage team members to share their input and do not judge their ideas. Listen with an open mind and show appreciation for their thoughts.
From the lens of Expressiveness:
First-third: Encourage team members to take a few moments of silence to process the topic and offer an opportunity to share thoughts in writing or a one-on-one setting.
Third-third: Offer an opportunity for team members to voice their thoughts and feelings as a group and acknowledge that it’s ok if their ideas are not fully formed.
From the lens of Assertiveness:
First-third: Invite team members to share their opinion and let them know that you want to work toward team consensus.
Third-third: While you may not need to ask for other’s opinions, it’s important to acknowledge their insights and allow space for debate and discussion.
From the lens of Flexibility:
First-third: Reiterate what has been settled on, so the team has a focused direction.
Third-third: Share what is still open for discussion and encourage individuals to offer ideas.
When you demonstrate that you care about the needs of each Attribute and actively encourage others to share their feedback, concerns or unique ideas, you will establish an environment where your employees learn to appreciate differing perspectives rather than think of them as negative dissenting opinions.
Using an inclusive approach, you will create a positive team environment, and as an added bonus, you should also find that your group arrives at better decisions because you are utilising cognitive diversity.
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