Creating Psychological Safety in teams: Why it matters and how to achieve it
Psychological safety is crucial for building a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation in teams. This article explores what psychological safety is, why it matters, and practical steps leaders can take to create it in their teams.
As a leader, you want your team to feel safe and supported, both in their work and in their interactions with one another. A culture of psychological safety is essential for achieving this, as it creates an environment where team members feel free to express themselves, take risks, and learn from their experiences.
Let's start with the definition of the term.
What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. It is a key factor in building a culture of mutual trust and collaboration, as it creates an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and taking risks.
Why is Psychological Safety Important?
Psychological safety is crucial for improving team performance, promoting innovation, and increasing job satisfaction. When individuals feel safe to express themselves and take risks, they are more likely to contribute their best work and engage in constructive dialogue with others. This can lead to better problem-solving, improved decision-making, and a more positive work environment.
How to Create Psychological Safety in Teams
That being said, achieving psychological safety within a team is by no means easy and the process takes time. In working towards it, here are five practical steps leaders can take to create a culture of psychological safety in their teams:
Encourage open communication
As a leader, you can encourage open communication by creating an environment where team members feel safe to express themselves without fear of judgment or negative consequences. This means actively listening to what they have to say, acknowledging their input, and valuing their contributions.
As a leader, you should encourage dialogue, questions, and even disagreements, as long as they are respectful and constructive. The format might be a regularly scheduled team meeting where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and perspectives.
During these meetings, ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak and that everyone's input is heard and considered. A study from Google even found this particular team dynamic the most important one when it comes to creating high-performing teams (ranking higher than different skills and cultural diversity), so make sure that everyone feels heard.
Lead by example
Leaders who model vulnerability and openness can help create psychological safety in their teams. When leaders share their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and are honest about their own strengths and weaknesses, team members are more likely to feel comfortable doing the same.
A way to practice this is to start out team meetings by sharing a personal story or experience, or admitting when you don't have all the answers. This can help build trust and create a sense of connection among team members.
Emphasize learning and growth
A key benefit of psychological safety is that it encourages individuals to take risks and learn from mistakes. As a leader, it's important to emphasize that failure is not only acceptable but can also be an opportunity for growth and development.
Create an environment for team members to experiment, where they can take calculated risks, and learn from their experiences. You can celebrate failures by holding a "failure party" where team members share what they learned from their recent mistakes, and how they plan to apply those lessons in the future.
A culture of psychological safety can only exist in an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. As a leader, it's essential to create an inclusive culture that embraces diversity in all its forms, including race, gender, age, culture, and background.
Encourage team members to share their unique perspectives and experiences, and make sure that everyone's voice is heard and respected. For example, you can organize team-building activities that celebrate diversity, such as cultural potlucks or diversity training sessions.
Finally, it's important to provide support to team members who may be struggling with their mental health or experiencing stress or burnout. This can include offering resources such as counseling or coaching, flexible work arrangements, or simply being available to listen and offer guidance.
Aim towards scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with team members to check in on their well-being, and make sure that they have access to the resources they need to thrive at work.
To sum up, psychological safety in teams is crucial for building a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation.
By taking these practical steps, leaders can create a culture of psychological safety, where individuals feel safe to express themselves, take risks, and learn from their experiences. As a result of these efforts, team members will feel supported, valued, and empowered, which can lead to improved team performance, higher job satisfaction, and an overall positive work environment.