ABC’s of Team Building – P is for Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is a belief among members of a team that each person can speak his or her own mind and make creative suggestions without being fearful of being shamed or even losing his or her job.  In this type of environment, each team member feels respected, accepted, and a valued part of the group.  High performing teams not only successfully work together but also trust each other.  The leader encourages each team member to share unconventional ideas and try new things even if he or she may make a mistake in the process.  Strategic thinking that is critical in today’s workplace can be hindered without psychological safety.

Here are a few ways to increase psychological safety within your own team:

  • When dealing with any sort of conflicts that arise between team members, approach the situation as a collaborator, not as an adversary. Try to help team members achieve a mutually desired outcome because true success usually results from a win-win outcome.
  • Remind all of the team members that they are all just human beings trying to achieve the same goals. They each just want to feel appreciated and respected, so they need to remember this even when they have disagreements.
  • When you know that you need to have a difficult conversation with someone on your team, try to think through what you are going to say beforehand. Also try to anticipate how your listener might respond to you.  Think through what the likely reactions of the team member will be and how you might respond.  If your listener becomes defensive, then your message might not be heard.  Try not to place blame but use curiosity to ask questions.  This will help the team member to focus on how he or she can work with you to find a solution to the issue at hand.
  • After having a difficult conversation, you should also ask the team member for feedback on the delivery of the message you were trying to give to him or her. If you discuss ways to come up with a solution together, this will increase the trust between you and the team member, as well as improve communication skills.

Strategic thinking is critical in today’s workplace but can be hindered without psychological safety.  It has been proven that team members will feel more motivated, open-minded, and even excited to tackle difficult problems.  Take some time to think about whether or not you need to improve the psychological safety within your own team.