I have an awesome colleague named Lindsay and we trust each other. Something that helped us get to where we are is psychological safety. One of the ways that I know such a thing exists is because Lindsay felt comfortable telling me that my articles on this website are too long (she’s going to love this one!). I also know that I responded with authentic curiosity – safe teams replace blame with curiosity – and sought to understand where she was coming from. We decided to write an article about it. Here are five ways to build psychological safety on your team.
I believe that embracing vulnerability is a sign of confidence. Fast Company’s Gwen Moran agrees. Folks who share their fears, admit they don’t have all the answers and bring their humanity to work demonstrate strength, not weakness.
I’ve written on this topic before. When you show teammates that it’s cool to disagree with you – especially when you’re the boss – then folks will get more comfortable and you’ll be more likely to break biases, which will lead to better decisions. Speaking truth to power requires trust and safety and generates more diverse and resilient ideas, so think about how you’ll invest in these things on your team today.
Safety on a team can be eroded when failure is met with blame, criticism or punishment. As a leader of organizational learning and development I have a strong bias for treating failures as learning opportunities – Albert Einstein had this bias, too, and he did fine in work and life, right?! In fact, according to The Atlantic’s Isabel Fattal,when kids understand the imperfection of intellectual heroes like Einstein and embrace the transformational potential of failure, they are more likely to project success on their future.
Activate peer networks
Work can be a lonely place. When we feel alone it’s unlikely that we will be able to build trust with others or psychological safety on a team. At Vancity, the team that I manage oversees our enterprise coaching program as well as the community of practice that’s purposed with embedding coaching in our culture. Obviously, I’m delighted by the fact that peer coaching makes work less lonely and enhances trust amongst colleagues. Lindsay is an expert in building strong peer networks – in-person and online – that undoubtedly bring her joy and deepen her connection to our community of colleagues.
Ask for feedback
The neuroscience of feedback is clear: if you want to make more people comfortable with receiving feedback then you need to ask for it. Whether you’re a parent, colleague, manager, friend, or CEO, folks get more comfortable with criticism and praise when you open yourself up for both. You can enhance psychological safety on your team simply by asking “how did that go?” or “what is one thing I could improve on for next time?” after your next meeting or project review.
…and work with joy!
Safe teams are joyful teams and when folks show up delighted to contribute and open to fun then they will produce more value. The icing on the cake in terms of establishing psychological safety on your team is that, when it happens, you will unlock the potential of your team to work with joy.