Empowering a team goes beyond providing resources or setting clear goals. It’s about creating an environment where team members feel safe to voice their opinions, share ideas, and admit mistakes. Amy Edmondson is a key contributor of research on psychological safety and here are some actionable guidelines to achieve psychological safety within your team according to her research.
Psychological Safety as a Catalyst
Amy Edmondson’s groundbreaking research unveiled a simple yet profound truth: teams that operate in an environment of psychological safety tend to outperform those that don’t. Such teams are more innovative, cohesive, and proactive. As managers, fostering this sense of safety can be our most impactful strategy.
How to Achieve Psychological Safety
Set Clear Expectations
- Why: Clarity reduces ambiguity. When team members understand the challenges ahead, they can better prepare and collaborate.
- Action: Begin projects by outlining potential challenges and emphasizing the importance of each member’s input.
- Outcome: A team aligned in purpose and approach, leading to more efficient problem-solving.
Encourage Open Dialogue
- Why: Open communication fosters trust and collaboration. It ensures that potential issues are addressed before they escalate.
- Action: Dedicate segments in meetings for open discussions, prompting with questions to stimulate dialogue.
- Outcome: A proactive team that addresses challenges head-on, reducing project roadblocks.
Acknowledge and Learn from Mistakes
- Why: Mistakes are inevitable. Addressing them positively ensures continuous learning and reduces the fear of taking risks.
- Action: Treat errors as learning opportunities, discussing them constructively.
- Outcome: A resilient team that iterates and improves, leading to better project outcomes.
Lead by Example
- Why: Managers set the tone. By being vulnerable and open, managers can inspire similar behavior in their teams.
- Action: Share personal challenges and learnings, emphasizing the value of collective growth.
- Outcome: A transparent team culture where members feel safe to be genuine and open.
Provide Safe Avenues for Feedback
- Why: Anonymous feedback allows for honest opinions, ensuring that even the most reserved team members have a voice.
- Action: Implement an anonymous feedback system, addressing significant points constructively.
- Outcome: An inclusive environment where every team member feels heard and valued.
Invest in Team Development
- Why: Effective communication and collaboration are skills that can be honed. Investing in them ensures smoother team dynamics.
- Action: Organize workshops on topics like active listening and conflict resolution.
- Outcome: A cohesive team with strong interpersonal skills, leading to better collaboration and project execution.
Reinforce Psychological Safety in Policies
- Why: Policies that emphasize psychological safety reinforce its importance, making it a core part of the team’s ethos.
- Action: During performance reviews, focus on aspects like teamwork and adaptability, rewarding those who foster psychological safety.
- Outcome: A team culture that prioritizes psychological safety, leading to sustained team performance and well-being.
Creating a psychologically safe environment is a continuous journey, not a destination. The rewards, however, are manifold: from innovative solutions and efficient execution to enhanced team well-being. As managers, our role is pivotal in this journey, and the guidelines above can serve as our compass.