Psychological Safety – The Foundation of High Performance Teams
We are often quick to want recognition and celebrate wins and achievements, but what happens when we fail? We lose a long-term client, miss a deadline or deliver poor work. Are we comfortable discussing and reflecting on these challenges with our teams or manager? Do we feel comfortable engaging in open, honest and productive conflict to support a culture of feedback, collaboration and support? If the answer is no, this could indicate that the team lacks psychological safety.
I am sure we can all relate to meetings, workshops, or retreats where we have been asked to participate in activities such as icebreakers or trust falls. At the time, it can seem silly, and we often don’t give them much thought. Little do we realise, that we have allowed ourselves to be open and vulnerable with others and free of judgement.
Promoting a psychologically safe environment changes employee perspectives. Employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, questioning, challenging, asking for help, and taking risks without fear of negative reactions, consequences or judgement. When employees feel accepted and respected, they are engaged and bring their best selves to work.
Teams and businesses thrive when they take risks, whether the risks pay off or not, there is still benefit as our momentum continues as we learn from our mistakes. This sets high performance teams apart and gives them a competitive advantage.
Psychological safety as a foundation of high performance teams is by no means a new idea. However, with new ways of working and many businesses experiencing high staff turnover rates and becoming more geographically dispersed, it is experiencing a resurgence in efforts to promote productivity and support people and cultural practices. Studies show that employees who feel their teams are safe are 76% more engaged, 50% more productive and 50% more likely to remain with the businesses.
Yet very few leaders often promote or demonstrate these behaviours to encourage a psychologically safe environment. In fact, over 20% of employees do not feel they can voice their ideas and opinions. An absence of psychological safety leaves creates dysfunctional teams. No team sets out to be just okay or average. So how can you help set your team apart?
Here are some tips to promote a psychologically safe culture in your teams:
- Focus on the journey, not the destination
If your team’s end results are undesirable or mistakes have been made, take the time to understand what happened and what could be done differently rather than highlighting the failure. Start to position failures as learning opportunities to problem solve as a team. Take the focus of individuals and focus on the mistakes themselves. It’s important to allow for reflection and to be able to discuss openly without fear. This will help develop stronger teams and aid in developing your employee’s leadership capabilities that will make them successful both now and in the future.
- Encourage risk-taking and experimentation
A big part of high performance teams is innovation and trying new things which can be a risk. This is not to say just try anything, but allowing your teams to make calculated risks is essential for their growth. This encourages your team to experiment, hypothesise and explore ideas, reminding them that mistakes are all part of the process.
- Encourage and demonstrate curiosity
As a leader, you should lead by example. Aid in sparking discussions by asking questions and allowing others to question you. Push the status quo by engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Without airing their opinions team members rarely buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
Maintaining and sustaining psychological safety requires a continuous effort, not just from you as a leader but the whole team. As your team likely grows, evolves and changes in the current workforce, so will your team environment. It takes time to build trust and create an open and safe environment where people feel comfortable, but it is worth the effort to tap into your team’s full potential.
Looking to set your team apart from the competition by promoting psychological safety? The team at TalentCode HR are always here to assist you. Feel free to call our team on 1300 559 585 for a discussion.