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How To Build Psychological Safety On Your Team

Tips To Build Psychological Safety

One of the most interesting parts of Amy Edmondson’s research was a discovery she made about failure on high-performing teams.

She was researching medical teams at hospitals to discover what made the best performing teams. Her assumption was that the top medical teams would make the least amount of mistakes, but she found the exact opposite.

This wasn’t what she expected at all, so she started to dig deeper into what was going on.

It turns out, that in fact the best performing weren’t necessarily making more errors, it was just that they were talking about their errors more openly than other groups did.

What that means is what separated the best performing groups from the others was psychological safety and an environment where mistakes were discussed and learned from.

Here are a few ways you can practice psychological safety on your team.

  1. Be Inclusive

    A good way to build psychological safety on your team is to make everyone feel included and important.

    When you’re discussing something or planning a task, make sure to ask for everyone’s input. Leaving someone out will only hurt them and make them feel less “safe”.

  2. Encourage Failure

    This is a tough one, because no one likes to fail or see their team fail.

    The point is that you need to make people feel comfortable with the idea of making a mistake. Mistakes are inevitable, but they need to know that they won’t get in trouble if they do something wrong.

  3. Ask A Lot Of Questions

    Get people comfortable talking and thinking about new ways to work together by asking a lot of questions.

    Give them the autonomy they need by letting them think for themselves through the questions you ask them.

  4. Have “Anxiety Parties”

    This one is from an article from Google Ventures about how they had “anxiety parties” – group discussions about what they were feeling anxious about.

    From the article:

    In a quiet meeting room, we spent 10 minutes individually writing down our biggest anxieties on a private sheet of paper. For the next 2 minutes we ranked them in order of severity — which anxieties worried each of us the most? Then we began.

    For about an hour and a half we went around in a circle and in turn asked an anxiety question out loud. Then our colleagues would spend a few seconds scoring how much the issue troubled them from a zero (“It never even occurred to me that this was an issue”) to five (“I strongly believe you need to improve in this area”).

  5. Remove The Fear

    This is so important. You need to make sure everyone on the team isn’t scared to speak their mind or do things like take time off if they need it.

    You need to be explicit and let employees know that they are safe.

  6. Establish Accountability

    This is important to make sure that there is order and structure.

    Make sure that everyone on the team knows what the goals are and that everyone is working towards the same thing.

    Psychological safety isn’t about creating an environment where “anything goes”, it’s actually the complete opposite of that. People need to feel “safe” that they know where everyone stands.

  7. Admit To Your Own Mistakes

    Admitting your own mistakes will help get people comfortable admitting their failures. You need to be a good role model for employees to let them know it’s safe to talk about mistakes.

  8. Be Available

    Let your team know that you’re always there to help and they shouldn’t be scared to come to you with questions.

    Again, it’s important to give them autonomy, but make yourself available for questions and advice.

How Do You Make Your Team Feel Safe?