How Psychologically Safe is your team?
As this topic is highly relevant to many situations at the moment, I thought I would continue the discussion of psychological safety in August as well. A recent McKinsey study found that 89% of staff believe that Psychological Safety is essential in the workplace and the same study found that just 26% of managers create it.1 This highlights that there is a distinctive need for leaders to make a concerted effort to create it within organisations of all types and sizes.
Amy Edmonson, a U.S. based scholar of leadership, teaming and organizational learning popularised the term “Psychological Safety” and has been a pioneer in the field of understanding it. She defines psychological safety as a climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves. It is an environment where people feel comfortable sharing concerns or mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution. An essential finding in a number of studies she conducted was that teams who made more mistakes and actually felt safe to discuss them were more successful than others.
An attribute of fostering innovation in the workplace is creating an environment in which people feel comfortable to take risks. One of the concerns that many managers or leaders have is that psychological safety lowers performance, which is not the case. The image below is of a grid Edmonson created that plots psychological safety against standards in the workplace. On the X axis you have high and low psychological safety and across the Y axis high and low standards. The ideal is to have high psychological safety and high standards which is the high-performance zone. Workplaces with low psychological safety and low standards are in the apathy zone where people don’t care. High psychological safety and low standards is the comfort zone where people are not stretching themselves. Low psychological safety and high standards is where people are very stressed and anxious at work.
As a reflection point, which grid is your team sitting in?
What steps can you take to ensure that there is a high level of psychological safety so that people are free to be able to offer their views for team improvement.
1. Psychological safety, Emotional intelligence, and Leadership in a time of flux July 2020, McKinsey
2. Amy Edmonson, The Fearless Organization, 2019
The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth, Amy Edmonson, 2019
The Fearless Organization offers practical guidance for teams and organizations who are serious about success in the modern economy. With so much riding on innovation, creativity, and spark, it is essential to attract and retain quality talent—but what good does this talent do if no one is able to speak their mind? The traditional culture of "fitting in" and "going along" spells doom in the knowledge economy. Success requires a continuous influx of new ideas, new challenges, and critical thought, and the interpersonal climate must not suppress, silence, ridicule or intimidate. Not every idea is good, and yes there are stupid questions, and yes dissent can slow things down, but talking through these things is an essential part of the creative process. People must be allowed to voice half-finished thoughts, ask questions from left field, and brainstorm out loud; it creates a culture in which a minor flub or momentary lapse is no big deal, and where actual mistakes are owned and corrected, and where the next left-field idea could be the next big thing.
This book explores the culture of psychological safety and provides a blueprint for bringing it to life. The road is sometimes bumpy, but succinct and informative scenario-based explanations provide a clear path forward to constant learning and healthy innovation. Fertilize creativity, clarify goals, achieve accountability, redefine leadership, and much more. The Fearless Organization helps you bring about this most critical transformation.