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  • Writer's pictureClare Kenny

Fostering psychological safety as a leader

Is your team psychologically safe?

What does that even mean?  Well in 2012 Google spend 2 years and enormous amounts of resources studying over 180 teams to figure out the answer to the question – What makes teams successful? 

They found that the most important factor (by far) of high performing teams is psychological safety.

A term coined by Harvard Professor Amy Edmonson Psychological safety is when team members feel safe taking risks and being vulnerable in front of each other without the fear of being embarrassed, ridiculed, or facing any other consequences. 

Teams with high psychological safety are likely to be more innovative, being more engaged, perform better and are also more likely to stick around!

So how can a leader foster psychological safety across their teams?

Set clear expectations

People feel engaged and supported when they are clear on what is expected of them.  Set explicit expectation for work and behaviour (such as email response times, or hybrid working) so everyone knows where they stand.

Model vulnerability

Psychologically safe teams feel comfortable being vulnerable and are not afraid when a mistake is made. Leaders can role model this by owning up to your own mistakes and being transparent about what you do and don’t know.

Embrace diverse perspectives

If you only hear positive feedback, or only hear perspectives that match yours, you probably have a lack of psychological safety on your team.  Create new ways to gather feedback and ideas.  Maybe some of your team are introverted or like more time to reflect – so instead of asking for immediate feedback in a meeting ask people to complete a written feedback form by the end of the week instead!

Transparent communications

Ambiguity and uncertainty breeds anxiety.  Clear, concise, and consistent communication with all team members helps them trust you and feel secure and settled.

Show appreciation

Giving authentic appreciation and recognition regularly. We often don’t take the time to give appreciation or positive feedback, but the positive impact it has is well worth the time.  Be positive, specific, and generous with feedback. Each time you as a leader show gratitude and acknowledgement, it becomes the norm across your team.

Get to know your team

Create space and opportunity to connect informally with people. Make an effort to know what’s motivates and inspires people.  The more we understand each other the better we are placed to get the best out of each other.

Is there anything else you’d add?

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