For great teams add psychological safety

Top class performance happens when you provide the right conditions for your teams

For great teams add psychological safety

Three things to do this week to help your team thrive

Great teams are psychologically safe

You’ve heard about psychological safety? It’s the feeling you have when you’re working in a team and it’s OK to speak out, ask questions, offer a different opinion or try something a bit risky. Do you know how that feels?

Have you ever been in a team where you didn’t speak out because you knew it would backfire? Where you wanted to ask questions but worried about being labelled foolish? When you didn’t tell others your views or feelings because you weren’t part of the in-crowd? That is a psychologically unsafe team.

Is your team psychologically safe? Try this anonymous 2 minute quick quiz. Questions are taken from the original research by Amy C. Edmondson. Click here to do the survey. 

So what? Does it really matter?

So what? Does this even matter? Yes it does. According to research done by Amy C. Edmondson, it matters a lot. Psychologically safe teams perform well. Really well. So well, it makes you wonder why more of us don’t have teams like this. After all, how hard can it be to create the right conditions?

CLS recently delivered a taster workshop on Psychological Safety in Teams to look at these issues. We also invited our Learning & Development and HR audience to complete a quick quiz on psychological safety in their own team, using the questions devised by Amy Edmondson for her original research1. You would expect HR teams to be good places to work, wouldn’t you? Brimming with psychological safety?

According to the results of our survey, that isn’t always true. So if HR and L&D isn’t always a “safe” place to ask questions, raise ideas and challenge thinking, what are other teams like?

This year everything has been turned upside down.

There are new recruits who have never been to the office or met their manager face to face. People who have never worked from home are doing that now. We have tried to juggle homeworking, looking after children, little or no support from neighbours and family, reduced incomes, insecurity and a high degree of stress. Stress destroys well being. Stress is truly bad for productivity.

Managers are learning how to manage people they can’t see. They wonder how to trust their team to do their jobs at home. Meanwhile, individuals are being asked to stay logged on all the time, their screen time is monitored via apps and they feel that no one trusts them. How do you work well when you don’t feel trusted?

Leaders are struggling with leading when they can only be present online. Managing your business, your relationship with investors and shareholders and with your teams remotely require skills you are not always confident using.

It's different now

Now, more than ever, we need people to work well, to feel well and to have the confidence to help create the solutions every organisation needs, to find a way forward.

Whatever the future looks like, it will be different from the past. Let us help your teams and leaders create a good path to a future that works for your business, your organisation.

#1. Learn to listen well

Active listening is hard. It means you keep your lips sealed and don’t interrupt. It means you damp down the responses your mind is generating. Just listen, really, truly listen, to the person talking to you. When you listen, things change. The person talking feels heard, feels valued and relaxes. They will tell you things you might never hear if you don’t really listen. It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss, a direct report, a colleague or a friend, we all do better when someone is quiet and listens to us.

This 3 minute TEDx talk by Katie Owens, gives simple guidelines to listening well. It isn’t easy to get right, but it will make a huge difference when you do.

When you listen, many positive results occur.

  • Stress levels often decrease when someone realises you are really listening to them.
  • You will understand your colleague better and have more understanding on how to support them.
  • You create a space for a new discussion and encourage people to trust you.

#2. Drop blame and fault

Things go wrong. It could be a genuine mistake, poor communication, lack of understanding; almost anything can cause a problem or a failure. Whatever does go wrong, it’s critical to focus on why it happened and how to prevent it happening again. Too often, people focus on who was to blame and that is not helpful. It creates a situation where you are looking backwards, instead of forwards to making it right next time. It also makes people feel uneasy. If she is being blamed today, will it be me tomorrow? Blame is about making someone feel badly. You end up with a person who is embarrassed, maybe humiliated and who won’t trust themselves to do good work next time.

Try saying, “OK, this didn’t work the way we wanted it to. What should we have done differently?

What can we change about the way we worked or the process, so it doesn’t happen again?”

When you ask that, the review stops being about an individual and starts being about the process or activities, which is exactly where it needs to be. This short article from Investors in People explains what a “no-blame” culture looks like and why it can be very productive.

#3. Encourage ideas

Have you ever offered an idea and before anyone can think it through, someone says “oh, that will never work”? So what happens next time? You have something that could be a great idea and you keep your mouth shut.

Psychologically safe teams are teams where it is OK to take a risk. That means people listen and generate ideas and are happy to just talk things through without criticism. You can encourage that by asking, “What ideas can we come up with on this? Let’s just throw some ideas out, it doesn’t matter if they seem silly. We can write them all down and look at them critically later on.”

When your team is in a place where it is OK to suggest different solutions, ideas and thinking, you are actively building psychologically safety. If you want to encourage your team to voice ideas, this short HBR article is useful.

What else?

These three steps will help you get started on improving the psychological safety of your team. There is more you can do. This video by Amy Edmondson gives useful examples and talks about her research.

Do take our 2 minute quiz to see how “safe” your team feels to you. Remember, your results and those of your colleagues, can be very different. It all depends on the individuals’ experiences within the team.

CLS delivers psychological safety virtual workshops on their own and as part of a package for management or leadership skills. Some clients think this topic is so important to their business success, they make it available to everyone in the company.

Can we help you develop your teams? If you need teams who are safe to perform, be agile, be productive, be creative, be successful, we can help with that. Please get in touch to discuss.

1 To read the original research by Amy C. Edmondson, click here

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