Teams with high levels of psychology safety outperform other teams. Safe environments reduce error, fuel creativity, reinforces shared team values, and improve employee engagement. Leaders can create psychologically safe environments for teams to thrive by: connecting, listening, admitting mistakes, and encouraging input from various perspectives.
Psychological Safety is Good for Business
High-performing teams feel psychologically safe. This means those teams are candid with each other. They take interpersonal risks. They speak up with questions, concerns, half-baked ideas, and bring up mistakes. This creates other benefits that extend to the entire organization:
- Error prevention: Teams report mistakes (and near misses) at greater frequency allowing them to correct, learn, and move forward.
- Fuels creativity and innovation: Ideas fly because people don’t have to bite their tongues and can share out of the box ideas.
- Improves inclusion: They are able to bring their full selves to work and share their varied experiences and POV (also important for creativity and innovation).
- Creates a learning culture: This is worth emulating. Learning cultures are more flexible, adaptable, and innovative—important features for teams and in today’s workplace.
- Decreases disengagement: People feel heard, valued, feel ready to take on challenges.
Tips to Create a Psychological Safe Environment for Teams
In their study of hundreds of different teams, MIT researchers discovered what these teams look and sound like:
- Each team member balances talking with listening.
- Team members make eye contact with each other and talk energetically with each other.
- Team members connect with each other and not just the leader.
- Water-cooler or hallway conversations carry over into the team meetings.
- Team members research ideas outside of the boundaries of the team and bring back the best ideas.
If you’re in the trenches right now, we know it can feel overwhelming to read these markers and wonder what actions to take to replicate them. Below are 7 tips on how to create a psychologically safe environment for teams:
- Make a connection. Listen intently. When a team is led by someone who seeks connection with his or her team members, profits and employee satisfaction go up.
- Encourage vulnerability. Vulnerability promotes trust and trust is an indicator of safety. As a leader, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” This sends the message that it’s ok to not have all the answers.
- Permit disagreement. Rather than tip toeing around issues, raise them when everyone is present. This stops people from having one conversation when leaders are in the room and one when the leader steps out.
- Appreciate feedback and invite outside perspectives. Actively and continually ask for ideas, observations, and questions so everyone can challenge prior beliefs and learn from each other.
- Embrace complexity. There is complexity and uncertainty in work and that should be reflected. Tell people to raise red flags and ask for help.
- Validate emotions. The most effective way to increase psychological safety, in every relationship in life, is to validate the emotions of the other person. The emotional well-being of each team member increases when they are validated in their own emotions.
- Have accountable and respectful dialogue. You don’t have to be agreeable. Be kind but also be candid, that way intelligent risks can occur.
Leaders want high-performing teams. The key? Create an environment that encourages psychological safety. To do that, focus on your relationships with each individual team member and the way (1) you communicate, and (2) the way team members communicate with one another. Encourage eye-contact, balance listening and talking, bring outside conversations back into the team, share where you have fallen short, and go outside for advice. The added bonus—you’ll reduce disengagement and reinforce shared values on your team that will also improve belonging, communication, and trust.
Curious about more ways to improve team dynamics? Contact us!