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The Basics of Psychological Safety

What is it?

Psychological Safety represents the extent to which the team views the social climate as conducive to interpersonal risk; it is a measure of people’s willingness to trust others not to attempt to gain personal advantage at their expense.

Why is it important?

It creates a climate of openness that facilitates high performing teams. Research on teams shows that it’s not the teams that make the fewest errors that perform the best. It’s actually the teams that are the best at admitting to errors and discussing them more often that perform the best.

How do we know if we have it?

 Asking the following questions of the team can yield a sense of where the teams are.

  •     When someone makes a mistake in this team, it is often held against him or her (R).
  •     In this team, it is easy to discuss difficult issues and problems.
  •     In this team, people are sometimes rejected for being different (R).
  •     It is completely safe to take a risk on this team.
  •     It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help (R).
  •     Members of this team value and respect each other’s’ contributions.

Note: Items with an (R) are reverse coded if used on a survey.

Leading to create Psychological Safety

  • Be available and welcoming. Make a point to walk by and say hello every once and a while. Be sure to smile (with your eyes). And when someone approaches you with an issue or question, don’t make them feel like an interruption.
  • Get second opinions. We don’t have to do everything alone. Leaders need advice too. Ask for it. Show your employees you  value   their opinion.
  • Encourage collaboration. If you see two employees chatting (about work life or life life) don’t shoo them away from each other.  Be grateful they’re connecting. They will both be more creative and productive.
  • Engage in personal conversations. If you must get out of the office to do it, then get out of the office. Consider a monthly rotation schedule where you take employees to lunch. It’s amazing the barriers you can break down simply by getting outside of ground zero (just think about the Google manager).
  • Spread the love. Don’t play favorites. If you notice someone who isn’t contributing, ask them what they’re thinking. Try to make sure everyone is included. Be kind to everyone.