A high-performing team is something that every organisation craves. Have you ever wondered what that one thing is that is common in every high-performing team? According to Google’s comprehensive research, it is psychological safety.
Allow us to elaborate. Psychological safety is about building an environment where people generally feel respected and comfortable enough to be themselves. The opposite of this culture is a scenario where, for example, junior members of the team give their opinions and they are ignored, talked over, or are criticised and humiliated for the ideas that they share.
Whenever we propose a new idea or challenge the decisions of others at work, we bear an interpersonal risk – the possibility of being penalised, humiliated, or discredited if we make an error. This kind of risk-taking is greater in complex environments where there is less certainty attached to ideas. It is also higher when the counterpart has a higher status or more perceived power than the risk-taker.
Today, apart from physical safety and security, employees share psychological needs – the maintenance of strong connection with others. When the culture of psychological safety is low, we avoid situations that could potentially result in loss of status or reduced career opportunities. It leads us to refrain from offering new insights and from admitting mistakes.
However, in psychologically safe environments, such interpersonal risks are low. It involves contexts in which we realise that we will not be judged or humiliated for our mistakes. In such a safe scenario, we naturally share new ideas and speak up on sensitive issues with ease.
To nurture a climate that tolerates mistakes and encourages people to take chances is critical. Employees should be expected to find creative solutions to handle disagreements, not just compromise. Peer feedback can take place in annual 360 reviews or biannually, but to indeed foster learning and development, such feedback sessions should happen more often. Moreover, making feedback tools accessible to employees would prove to be beneficial too.
When a leader is psychologically secure enough to recognise his or her weaknesses, admit mistakes, and act on them, the rest of the team follows. The purpose of vulnerability is to explain to your team what you expect of them and to be able to build trust. Another word for this is transparency. It’s an extremely important ability to admit when you’re wrong and apologise to clients and those with whom you work. When you share about these experiences, it won’t make you look weak, but it builds a strong base for psychological safety.
It’s a fact that when you appreciate employees for their work, they tend to be motivated and continue doing an excellent job. Hence, giving praise and recognition is critical. Public recognition can reinforce good behaviour and drive motivation, as employees are able to see how their actions impact the organisation as a whole.
Without the presence of a psychologically safe environment, employees may be reluctant to speak up, and the organisation may miss out on breakthrough ideas and the raising of red flags and valid concerns. By nurturing a culture of psychological safety that reduces interpersonal risks, the team will be able to enjoy better decisions, motivated members, innovative collaboration, and enhanced performance.
Wondering how you can incorporate this into your team? We have just the right activity for you.